4 Things Every Manager (and HR) Should Know about Developing Employees

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4 Things Every Manager (and HR) Should Know about Developing Employees

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Employee development is a crucial aspect of building a solid and successful team. As a manager, it’s your responsibility to provide the necessary support and resources to help your employees grow and reach their full potential.

In this blog post, team development expert David Berke explores key strategies for developing employees and maximizing your team’s professional growth.

Recommended training from HRDQ-U

Transforming Employee Development: A Manager’s Guide

Four Key Strategies to Effectively Develop Your Team

By implementing these approaches, you can foster a culture of continuous learning and development within your organization.

1. People have to choose to develop themselves

All development is fundamentally self-development. I can’t learn for you. You can’t learn for me. Yet, most people can’t figure out everything on their own. They need various types of support. That’s what a manager can and should do. Here are some ways to provide support. If the manager does these, he or she also will be helping his or her employees motivate themselves (because you can’t motivate someone either):

  • Demonstrating that  the manager believes that the development effort is important
  • Ensuring that the development goal is clear
  • Arranging for necessary resources
  • Providing feedback regularly about the process the employee is using to accomplish the goal
  • Helping the employee to manage potential obstacles in the workplace, such as a schedule

2. Attending a training class is likely not enough

If you want someone to be exposed to information, attending a class or watching something online could be enough.

However, if you want someone to remember what they saw, they must apply it. If you want someone to develop skills related to what they saw, they need to practice and get feedback. It’s a manager’s responsibility to make sure the employee has the opportunity to make the application and to get feedback. The manager doesn’t necessarily have to be present to oversee these things. But the manager is responsible for ensuring it happens and the results are tracked. That’s because the employee development process and the outcome of that process are a manager’s responsibilities.

 3. Create a learning environment, not a failure-free environment

Creating a safe environment for learning and growth is essential in any organization. However, it’s important to recognize that you can’t make failure entirely safe.

Here are some key points to consider:

  • Immunity from failure: Promising immunity from failure to encourage learning is unsustainable. If an individual consistently struggles to figure things out, it may be necessary to address the underlying issues rather than relying on promises of immunity.
  • Mistakes vs. failure: Fostering a more supportive culture is essential in workplaces where making mistakes is equated with failure. Mistakes are inevitable in the learning process, and employees should be encouraged to learn from them and grow.
  • Different tolerance levels: Organizations and managers may have varying tolerance levels for mistakes. It’s crucial to establish clear expectations from the beginning and communicate the tolerance levels within the organization.
  • Learning from mistakes: Instead of striving for a failure-free environment, emphasize that it’s safe to make mistakes as long as employees know from them and avoid repeating them. Clear expectations and a well-defined plan can help guide employees’ learning journey.
  • Regular check-ins and revisions: Managers and employees should regularly check in to assess the progress and status of the plan and make necessary revisions. Ensure that employees receive essential support and guidance throughout their development process.


By fostering a culture that values learning from mistakes, setting clear expectations, and maintaining open communication, managers can create an environment where employees feel safe to take risks, learn, and grow.

4. A development goal is not a plan

A manager and employee discuss what skill the employee needs or wants to develop; they agree on a goal often, and that’s where the conversation ends. The employee agrees to do something. The manager may say that they should check in periodically to see how things are going. There’s a good chance neither will occur unless there is a crisis related in some way to what the employee should have learned.

The fact is stopping with the goal only works if there is an obvious solution. The obvious solution is a workshop or class if someone wants to learn something, but a class or workshop is almost always an incomplete solution, and most managers know that from personal experience. Usually, successful development requires a combination of activities that will include one or more development assignments along with the workshop or class, or maybe no workshop at all. Sometimes, the manager’s assistance will be needed to set up those assignments and provide resources.

Pretending there is an easy answer when there isn’t is not helpful. If you have a goal to accomplish, you need to do more than hope you’ll figure out what to do and how to do it. You put together a plan. It can be detailed, or it can be simple. Yet, it should reflect the manager’s and the employee’s best estimate of what it takes to accomplish the goal.

Continuous growth: Unleashing the potential of your team

Employee development is an ongoing process that requires active participation from both managers and employees. Managers can effectively develop their employees by recognizing the importance of self-driven development, providing adequate support, and fostering a learning culture. Remember, development goes beyond goals; it requires well-designed plans and continuous evaluation. Invest in your employee’s growth, and you will reap the rewards of a highly skilled and motivated workforce.

Headshot of David Berke
David Berke

David Berke is a principal at Lorsch, Berke & Associates, LLC. David has more than 25 years of experience as a manager, individual contributor, and consultant in the fields of management, leadership, employee, and organization development. He was a senior faculty member at the Center for Creative Leadership for over a decade, and he has worked with global organizations across the United States, Europe, and Asia. An author and co-author of several books on succession planning and leadership development, his most recent publication is titled Supported Self-Development: How Managers Can Use the Skills They Already Have to Develop Their Employees.

Connect with David on LinkedIn.

Recommended Training from HRDQ-U
Transforming Employee Development: A Manager’s Guide

As a business leader or manager, discover valuable tips for employee development that can help to boost motivation and overall progress.

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