When you purchase a car, it starts to depreciate the moment you drive it off the lot. The very next day, your brand new car is likely worth 20% less than the day before. In most cases, no matter how much maintenance you put into your new car, it’s still going to go down in value every day you own it. Eventually, the car wears out and you buy a new one.
Unfortunately, managers often view their “human resources” the same as new cars – as depreciable assets. People, unlike machines, don’t have to wear out and become less productive over the years. Most people have a natural desire to pick up new skills, knowledge, and experience and grow throughout our careers. People are like gardens – the more you water, feed, and nurture their growth and development, the more yield you’ll get from them.
Managers have the ability to promote and accelerate the development of their employees or they can retard it. It’s a choice.
Choice A: Help make my employees more skilled, smarter, and more productive so that my team or organization achieves amazing results.
Choice B: Ignore my employee’s development so that they become stagnant, productivity eventually suffers, and the good ones leave.
Why would any rational person choose B? Amazingly, many managers do. In their minds, they consciously or unconsciously will make that choice based on what they consider to be perfectly rational reasons. Believe me, I’ve heard them all. Each one of these excuses, errr…, “reasons”, all have some merit to them. After all, most managers don’t wake up in the morning developing ways to lower productivity and employee engagement.
Here are the ten most common excuses I’ve heard from managers for not investing in their employee’s development:
1. There’s not enough time. “Time” is just another word for “importance”. When someone does not have time for something, they are making a choice that they have more important things to do. If it’s important, you’ll find the time. Great leaders have the same 24 hours in a day that every other manager has – they just make better use of their time.
2. If I develop them too much, they’ll leave. Seriously?! You would rather keep your employees unskilled and stupid, so they’ll be unqualified to do anything else? There have been a number of studies showing that investing in your employee’s development actually helps retain them! If you don’t, the good ones with potential will leave.
3. They will want more money or a promotion. Well, if they are making a larger contribution to the bottom line, then they deserve to be paid more. However, in most cases, the opportunity to learn new skills and develop means more to employees than tangible monetary rewards.
4. It’s the employee’s job to development himself/herself, not mine. There is some truth to this belief – employees are primarily responsible for their own development. However, a great leader can accelerate that development by providing support, resources, time, and creating a developmental work environment. Again, why wouldn’t you, if only for pure selfish reasons, i.e., better productivity and results?
5. Development is only for high potentials and performance issues. That’s often where managers spend most of their time and development resources. However, if you do that, you’re most likely ignoring 70% of your employees, and not giving those solid “B” players the opportunity to become your next superstars.
6. My manager doesn’t develop me. Poor you. Now get over it. Working for a bad boss is no excuse to be a bad boss yourself.
7. We don’t have the budget. Development doesn’t always mean expensive training courses. People get the most development from new jobs, stretch assignments, and learning from other people, including coaching from their managers.
8. Customer needs take priority. I see this happen a lot, especially in IT organizations. When a crisis hits, it’s all hands on deck and training gets cancelled. It’s no doubt a tough staffing and scheduling challenge for managers. However, in order to provide great customer service, you have to have well trained, knowledgeable, and highly skilled employees. There have been studies that suggest that when companies put their employees in front of customers, customer satisfaction actually goes up.
9. I don’t know how to develop employees. Ah, that’s a legitimate reason and a relatively easy one to overcome. You can learn from others, articles, books, courses, and lots of practice. After all, you can’t expect your employees to take their development seriously if you don’t pay attention to your own development.
10. I don’t enjoy developing employees. This is the one reason that I just can’t relate to. To me, the greatest source of satisfaction and pride in being a leader is having the ability to make a difference in the careers and lives of the employees that you serve. Developing your employees is the fun part of being a manager – it sure beats disciplining and firing employees. If you can’t get satisfaction from this, then you’d be better off being an individual contributor, not a manager.
Do an honest self-assessment: are you using any of these lame excuses for not investing in the development of your employees?