Image [cc] ISCTE

I was on a call recently where a bunch of HR Directors were discussing, among other things, training new employees and providing those newer to their job or profession the skills they need to be successful.  Someone asked the question, “Does anyone have training programs in place that address this?” and one of the first replies was “We have the expectation that one of the regular duties of our managers is to essentially ‘train’ their staffs.  It is part of their job as managers to continually develop the talent within their departments.”

Now, I know what you’re saying…in this new law firm reality, managers have to be more focused on more immediate needs like keeping expenses down and coming up with that next great and innovative idea.  True.  However, I would argue that if managers can take the time to develop solid relationships with their staff and have what the authors of a recent article called Managers: Your Development Power Players call development or career conversations, many staff members may be empowered to step up and contribute at a much higher level.

Although building the trust with employees takes time, it is the basis for having these kinds of conversations that will, ultimately, engage and retain the best talent.  The authors of the article break down the reasons this is important into the following four areas:

  1. A manager’s job is easier when their staff members are performing at their peak.
  2. Talented employees are engaged when they know their contributions are valued.
  3. Job satisfaction increases when employees see a future for themselves in the organization.
  4. Talented people want to work with other talented people.

What this all means is that managers need to take the time to have candid conversations with their staff members about their career goals and where those fit in within the organization.  They also need to give constant feedback, since employees can’t stretch themselves and really grow unless the know what skills are beneficial and what behaviors they may need to change.  Managers should also help employees articulate their professional goals and then connect them to the resources and individuals within the organization that can help them achieve those goals.

I don’t mean to put all of the pressure on managers here, since although they can provide the information and resources employees need to become really engaged and empowered, this is a two way street and the employee has the responsibility to do their homework on their end and want to stretch themselves and develop.  I think the closing line of the article sums it up perfectly by saying “…[i]f talent is the ultimate competitive edge, then preparing managers to build development dialogues needs to be a fundamental part of the overall learning strategy.”

Take the time to build the trust, start having career conversations, and truly embrace your role as an employee development partner.