6 Ideas for a Successful Employee Development Program

EE Deve WEB SMLOne of the biggest contributors to poor employee engagement is the lack of a structured employee development program. Several sources suggest that about half of organizations have no employee development program. Some that do have such a program, describe it as broken, or outdated.

Just as with anything, creating an employee development plan involves strategy and prework. This prework begins long before anyone makes a hire, advertises an opening, writes a job description, or even before someone decides what positions the organization will fill. What ideas can an organization implement to ensure that an employee development program is successful?

Career Strategy Scenarios

Career DecisionThose on executive teams often have goals and ambitions to be the CEO of the organization. You may be such an individual. Once a speaker colleague was trying to decide what to speak about to a group. She made this comment, “I don’t know if these people even have dreams.” My head spun around about 3600. What? Everyone has dreams. But even some executives will sell their own teammates short thinking that they are the only one on the team with the CEO dream. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is dangerous territory. Why?

When considering that you are the only one with ambitious goals, you may well have slumped into complacency not to mention being a bone head. Sorry, it had to be said. This type of thinking tells me that both you and my colleague have no empathy for or are not reading the pulse of others, even the ones on your own team. Everyone has dreams of some sort. Maybe they aren’t the dream of becoming a CEO, but they may want to use their position to obtain other dreams. If you find yourself with these types of thoughts, here are some ideas to help get you back on track.

Has Your Strategic Plan Fallen Down the Rabbit Hole?

Alice in Rabbity Hole WEBAn executive coaching client suggested that “everything in her company is in disarray and nothing is getting accomplished.” As I began questioning her, it was easy to understand why. Current projects for this organization include:



  • Restructuring a large department while finding a new leader for it
  • Opening two new branches in different towns.
  • Acquiring another company
  • A major remodeling project at headquarters
  • Preparing for a major bi-annual meeting to be held in four months
  • Putting together a succession plan in anticipation of the CEO’s retirement in a few years

Not only are there several major projects in the works, the CEO often loses track of what he has told his team, who is to do what, and how much progress has been accomplished on each project. In fact, on one of the new branch openings, three people had three different opening dates as their goal.

Strategic Thinking and Common Sense – Both Sides of the Same Coin?

Common Sense Sign WEB

Strategic thinking, much less strategic planning, can be a foreign topic to many team members. Yes, even executives. This begs the question, how did these people ever get to be executives if they are not able to think strategically? That’s a good question, but one for another blog. This blog will help you determine if your team is thinking strategically and what to do if they aren’t.

Here is a hypothetical situation of what can happen. Let’s say an organization recently completed their two year strategic plan. Great start. Their plan calls for a large monetary goal to be reached in just two years. Setting an aggressive, yet reachable goal, is another good thing. The implantation of their plan, may be a little more elusive. Here are some reasons why this may be true.

  • Most of the team members are not strategic thinkers
  • There is no accountability
  • Talent management could use some tweaks

Let’s take a look at each of these factors and see what can be changed to implement a strategic plan.

The Disconnect Between Strategy and Implementation

Retreat WEBAhhh, the corporate retreat, a chance to get away from the office, do a few activates, and get to know our team members better. In many cases, an outside consultant or facilitator comes in and helps executives spark new ideas and conduct strategic planning. At the end of the retreat the executive team is all aflutter with those new ideas and secure in that finally plans have been made to fix some processes, that creative ideas for growth have been discovered, and the morale of every single person in the organization will be lifted to new heights. Now picture a camera moving through the empty, black, cold, silence of outer space. This, unfortunately, is the state of strategic planning just a few months after the retreat. Why is there such a dark chasm of disconnect between the strategic retreat and implementation?

There are plenty of models to follow for strategic planning and making change happen. There is enough information out there on strategic planning and its implementation that would probably circle the globe numerous times. However, there are some strategies that need to take place even before placing the reservations for your retreat.

What is Strategic Thinking and Why is It Important?

Strat Think Wom WEB 210When researching literature about strategic thinking, every author has his/her own definition for what constitutes strategic thinking. Indeed according to a report by the United States Army Research institute for the Behavior Sciences, the definition for strategic thinking has been changing through the decades to fit trends in business and management strategies. Modern literature offers a veritable smorgasbord of definitions. So how do people know if they are engaging in strategic thinking or not?

What Were You Thinking?

Thinking WEBMany of us may have heard this from a parent or even a boss. As we mature, our thinking changes – or at least it should. The same holds true for those who advance up the professional ladder. Of course, the objective is for us to be as mature a thinker as possible at any given age or stage in our careers. However, there is an art and a science to leadership thinking.

Thinking like a leader involves more than just the difference between strategic and non-strategic thinking. There are several layers, if you will, that build on having the ability to think in leadership thought patterns. I call them thought patterns as we all have established patterns in our lives from which we tend to operate on a daily basis. Some of us have the pattern of the Drama Queen Pattern, where everything is a four-alarm fire. Some of us have the Ostrich Pattern where we ignore, run, or hide from thinking about and facing challenges. There’s the Ignoring Pattern where we think that if we just ignore it, the challenge will soon go away. Finally, there’s the Blaming Pattern where we blame others for things that do or do not happen. Leaders do not operate – or think – from any of these foundations.

When you think like a leader, you build on patterns that you develop throughout your life. Some of those patterns are below.

Why You Need Two Plan Bs

2 Plan BsBusiness change is constant - that’s a given. Strategic planning and goal setting must also change with every curve the fickle finger of fate throws at your organization. Then, of course, in order to meet the challenges of change, your executive team and management staff must all be on the same page in order to effectively drive the change throughout the organization and meet your goals.

Recently I had the privilege of working with a small community bank whose executive team had worked diligently to make and begin implementing a two-year strategic plan. A monetary goal is set, and the mission statement is in place and it reflects their goal of helping those with banking needs who reside in their state. Like any consultant worth his/her salt, I set about launching a survey to see if everyone was on the same page with this mission and the monetary goal. When respondents would complete the survey, I then set up an interview with them to dig deeper into their answers.