Bob is a Senior Production Designer. He is one of those employees who shows up for work every day and gets right to it, staying focused and productive all day, delivering his work on time every time. Bob never complains and you almost have to force him to take time off. Bob can be easily overlooked purely due to his low maintenance stature and focused work ethic.
But here is another thing about Bob that I know. He aspires to create his own comic strip. This is a dream of his that he just has not found time to work on, but it is always there in the back of his head as he color corrects brochures and preps print ads for publication for our clients at Element Three. Creating this comic strip is the first thing listed on his Element Three development plan for a reason. It is important to him.
Every person who works for you has a story. Some aspire to climb that next big mountain (literally), others are focused on becoming debt-free this year, still others want to serve as a coach on their college field hockey team.
You might think none of these things have to do with what they do for you as their employer. I argue that these are the most important developmental opportunities that your company should be focusing on, dedicating time and resources to making sure your people can tell their own Bold Stories.
Now, I get that in a company of 62 people, knowing your people to this level is one thing. But for a company of 300 or 1,000, it seems an insurmountable goal. I beg to differ. Every employee has a manager or supervisor so every employee has someone in the company to connect with in this way. Employees leave managers because they do not feel valued or they are not doing interesting work. Building personal development plans that focus on your employees in this way addresses both of those key reasons for leaving.
Training = CYA by making sure you tell your people what they need to know to do their jobs accurately and efficiently (and, most importantly, legally). That is another blog post for another day.
Development is not all about the actual job that your employee does at your company. It is about what you can do to show your employees that you care about more than what they can do for you during regular business hours. Your people are already dedicating enough of their lives to serving your company and your customers. This is an opportunity for you to give them something back by sending them to a conference because it is FUN and gives them an opportunity to practice a skill that may or may not be related to their job. This gives them a chance to leave work early a few times a week to make it practice in time to develop their leadership skills as a coach even if they are not yet in a leadership role at your company.
Development is about the whole person and providing an outlet to just be better at whatever makes them feel better about themselves, because we all know that when a person feels valued and supported personally and professionally, they are more productive in the workplace. It is that simple. Return on investment shows up in all kinds of ways and if you just take the time to give a damn, you will be pleasantly surprised at the results.
Here is a test. Walk around your office right now. Stop at every desk and tell me just ONE THING that you know about that person that has nothing to do with their job. Make a list, give yourself a grade. Think about it, work on it and strive for an A+. Once you have accomplished that, you can move forward.
Next step: Make sure that there is dedicated time and resources on each person’s development plan that relates to something personal. A hobby, an interest, a need, a whim, a dream. It may or may not be in any way work-related – who cares? Support the person, care, give a damn. They will appreciate that you care and you will get your ROI.
Word of warning. Don’t fake it. That is so much worse than just not doing it at all because it is very difficult to come back from pretending to care and showing that you don’t. If you don’t have it in you to care that much, just make sure your business can take the hit of turnover, productivity loss, disengagement, and lack of trust because I promise it will come.
Here are some examples of how to make this real:
Kevin loves sports. He especially loves kickball. He is a natural coach and an awesome brand advocate for Element Three. So why not give him a role in the company that allows him to capitalize on all of those things? Focus on the design around the Element Three brand, both internally and externally. Be the head coach of the Awesome Comes Standard E3 kickball team (undefeated for three straight seasons). Help HR to evolve our internal onboarding process around a sports-related theme. Create cool stuff for our internal employee E3 app. You get the picture.
Andrew, who only sleeps a few hours a night, spends his waking hours honing his craft of amazing Instagram pictures. He also loves to share his talent by teaching others how to do this. The more people he touches with his passion, the more energy it brings him and when he comes to work at Element Three, he creates beautiful things.
So give Andrew the space to embrace his passion, whether that is flexibility around his schedule or allowing him time at work to focus on his hobby. Let him post awesome Element Three Instagram photos alongside all his personal work.
Bob Ewing dedicated time every single day for a full year to working on his craft of hand lettering. He got better and better at it every day. It is a passion and one he now shares with others through speaking engagements and training sessions. It is personally very important to him. So let him do it here. Support the time away when he travels to conferences and shares his story. Give him a ladder and a paint brush and a wall in the office to show his work. Everyone wins.
I could go on and on with a specific story about each person in the office. But instead check it out for yourself. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.