When It Comes To People Development, Don't Wait!
“Use it or lose it.”
As a senior manager, I heard this phrase many times towards the end of a financial year. We’d been allocated funds for staff development months ago (it was never enough, but that’s a different blog) and for some unfathomable reason we’d allowed ourselves to be swamped by ‘busy’ work and hadn’t spent the money we’d been given.
Looking back now, I’m not sure anyone really explained to me why it was important to spend the money early. Maybe they didn’t need to. Maybe managers should understand and ignore the pressures and commit early rather than wait to see what - if anything - will break.
Sure there are likely to be needs as they get into the business end of the financial year, however, in order to hit the targets they’ve been set, they need to get their house in order as soon as they possibly can. Not only that, but most organisations almost always over-promise what they can deliver, which means less time later on.
It’s not like we don’t know what needs to be done. Most of the requirements for development are obvious and in front of senior manager’s eyes.
They can be found in official things like:
Annual appraisals (or monthly feedback if you’re on to it)
And less official (but often more telling) things like:
The number of unproductive meetings held
The amount of emails sent
The way people talk to each other
The amount of time taken to get to know each other
How often success is celebrated
The amount of time taken for innovation.
Staff development budgets exceed over $100bn every year, with one report stating that the average spend per staff member is over $1000. Yet there are still organisations that don’t take it seriously, then wonder why by the end of the financial year, they are nowhere near hitting their targets.
By spending the money up front not only do you ensure that staff have the skills required to achieve the goals for the year ahead, but also that it’s done before the following can happen:
There’s too much work and so development ceases to be a priority
There’s an operating cost squeeze, and the two things that positively impact staff morale - development and travel - are sacrificed, whilst dead duck projects are allowed to continue.
There are many who will say ‘all development is good development’ - but in my experience this is a false statement. The greatest value myself and my teams ever got came from programs that challenged our biases, behaviours or assumed skills. They gave us intellectual property that we could immediately apply as they were tailored to our team, in our industry at that point in time. Standard courses produce standard outcomes and who wants to be standard?!
Programs that provide people and teams with the following knowledge will pay for themselves across the year:
How people can be the best most productive version of themselves
How they can better communicate with those around them
How they can challenge poor performance or behaviours
How to build teams that know how to get the job done
How to positively affect the team and organisation culture
The technical skills to fill the gaps they have to be effective in their role.
By giving people this information as early as possible in the year there’s never a risk of losing the money dedicated to development and the culture will be better for it. Don’t wait until it’s too late!