One of the business executives’ many tasks includes making sure that the goals of the business are met. Before we get into how employee development fits into the picture, let’s talk a little bit about framing employee development plans with the help of SMART Goals.
SMART Learning Goals is a framework that helps evaluate the impact of goals. SMART is an abbreviation for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time Based. These are all attributes that a goal should have.
If the goal is specific, one can track it in the specification defined for the goal. The vaguer the goal is, the more room for error there is later on. For example, if the goal says that the firm should have an increased following on its social media platforms namely twitter, facebook and LinkedIn - the goal is specific enough to be able to check the three mentioned platforms which are stated in the goal. If it just says increased followership on social media platforms, an employee may make the error of trying to establish followership on irrelevant platforms.
This is vital to understand the impact of the goal. From our example above, increased followership could suggest an increase of 2 followers and the impact of the goal is completely defeated. If the goal was changed to Have at least 1500 followers on twitter, facebook and LinkedIn each, one can measure the activity.
This attribute helps make sure that a goal would be achieved in a quality manner. If the goals are so high that achieving the goal is not possible, it would feel like banging your head against the wall.
This can be demoralising, make it seem like an employee is not meeting task and could even negatively impact the appraisal cycle.
From the example above, if the goal is to get 10000 followers in a short period of time, it could feel unattainable.
Relevance is fairly self-explanatory. If the goal is not going to impact the business, why would you undertake it? If the goal is to increase social media followers and the business is a need-based business like a fuel-station or a public hospital, having more social media follower would change nothing.
This attribute is arguably the most important one. If a goal is to be achieved and there is no timeline attached given, there are virtually zero ways to measure it. If the firm is trying to increase social media followership by 1500 and it happens after 2 years, the goal may be relevant, attainable, measurable and specific but the impact of the goal would be either minimal or none at all.
So - a SMART goal from our example would be to gain 1500 followers on facebook, twitter, and linked each in a period of 1 month.
Now that you know what SMART Goals are, let us talk about goal timelines. Most businesses look at three different timelines for goals - short-term, medium-term, and long-term. Each business defines the timelines differently but the timeline I have mentioned is a generalisation.
Short-term goals are goals that can be achieved in less than a year. Usually, these are the many smaller steps that firm’s use to set up for long term goals. A good example would be to get 50 sales of a product in a year.
This time period usually is between one to three years. They could be goals that are extremely time-consuming or kinds of goals that would require for the company to expand before having the resources to attain that goal.
When I took a class on business studies, this time period was taught as goals that could take up to 12 years. Because of advancements in technology and the rapid changes in al industry, this goal has been redefined to be achieved in about 5 years. They are the most important goals because they focus on the company’s vision in the long term.
Employee Development plans in a different picture
Now that you understand the in’s and out’s of goal setting, let us bring in employee development. In most of the goals that we discussed, it focuses on the outside. What I mean by that is that it usually involves increasing sales, reaching out to an ‘n’ number of people or focusing on the advertising, public image etc. In trying to prove that the work is being done, most supervisors ignore long term goals and try to focus on short term goals.
The thing about employee development plans is that it has minimal short term impacts but the long term impacts are invaluable.
Many people also believe that employee development is subjective and not measurable, which ties into the SMART Goals aspect of it and has them believe that employee development a ‘hard’ goal to follow through.
In the last 5 years, the dramatic rise in the use of artificial intelligence and cloud computing has led to a huge divide in the skills that currently exist in the industry and what the industry needs. This has increased the need for employee development plans and now this supposed long-term goal is finding new ways to develop employees in a short and hurried manner.
The most fascinating thing behind this is that the newer short and hurried methods are not compromising on the quality! For example, Coursera offers online courses at cheap prices. These courses are highly industry-relevant and can be managed while working. So the initial thought that employee development was a hard to do task is now just an old wives tale.
Although technical skill development is very important, the rise in technology is pointing towards the fact that it is the soft skills that are going to be the top priority in the future since many tasks can now be done by computers. Just ask Google, right?
So what are these soft-skills that I am talking about?
Soft skills that support employee development
Many organisation across the globe are stating leadership as the #1 skill to have. Why? Because leadership is an umbrella term that encompasses most skills required for efficient working and makes sure accountability is high in the firm. The modern leadership concept also has been reformed to something known as servant leadership where the leadership method has been shifted from authoritative to auxiliary.
The leadership is helping develop the team members instead of stealing credit. The main goal of leadership has changed from getting the task done into making sure the task is done in a healthy manner and that the team members feel looked after.
This may seem irrelevant to a business environment but it is now more relevant than ever. Growing up I was always told that people should separate their personal lives and professional lives. In my opinion, this statement has never been true. Separating personal and professional suggests that one does not have an impact on the other which is a farce.
Since we do experience different things at different times, one should have some basic counselling skills that would help in supporting a team member or a coworker through times that they need support in. A safe and secured personal life would mean that an employee could focus much better on their professional life.
Having some training on counselling - especially at a leadership level.
This would be an obvious benefit to productivity. Better communicating employees would mean better productivity, less miscommunication and an overall cohesive team. It is very important for the future because now most tasks require efforts from more than one person because they have a wide array of considerations to be had before the task is completed.
I think one of the best examples from 2019 is when the clothing brand H&M released a kid’s hoodie with the word ‘monkey’ written on it and the model that was sporting this hoodie was of African descent. This was not only a PR nightmare for them, but it was also just extremely inconsiderate.
This could have been easily solved through communication. This is one of many examples of how miscommunication or no communication can lead to disastrous results.
This is a prime example of how personal life can have an impact on the professional life. Physically fit people have show levels of a higher concentration, more energy, higher immunity to diseases like the cold and flu and other factors that could impact someone at work. Physical Health may not be seen as a skill to be developed but it is something that should be actively promoted in the workplaces.
I know of companies giving out Fitbits and having rewards for people who walked the most steps in the week. This is an example of gamification at the workplace.
Employee Development plans have seen many shifts in the current industry due to technological innovations. This has pushed these development programs to be deployed quickly and give results. Modern development programs have focused on technical training but the trends in the market of artificial intelligence, machine learning and cloud computing point towards a need for higher social skills, people management skills as well as soft skills.
Goal setting has to be thought out very carefully and on the top of the list should be employee development because it has very high returns in the long term plan of the firm.
Leadership, counselling, communication and physical health top the charts for the skills that are needed for the future due to the other characteristics they help develop in people.
As the industries use more technology to complete repetitive tasks, the shift in skills required would be both highly technical as well as communication-based. These skills should be the focus of firms in upskilling their employees. Learning is a combined effort that requires a buy-in from all the parties involved, from the leadership to the base level.