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Employee development: How to get employees and managers to own it

Hiring internally is six times more effective than any other recruitment method. So looking for ways to grow and develop people should be a business priority. Yet managers avoid the conversation. And employees don’t see why they should take the lead. So HR teams must convince them managers and that responsibility for employee development is theirs.

You can’t give ownership, they need to take it

Employees must identify the career path they want. And managers need to find ways to move them towards it. But managers may want to hold on to tasks. So HR must provide practical steps to help managers lead on career development and let go in the process. But you must explain the importance of professional development and share its benefits.


  • The barriers to effective employee development
  • The benefits of career progression
  • Ways to help managers take responsibility for employee development

Barriers to effective employee development

Many managers have heard the phrase: “The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.” (Henry Ford)

Yet many seem afraid to drive career progression. So employees end up stuck. Bored and frustrated, they look for another role. So it’s important to understand what prevents effective employee development. And provide advice on how to address these barriers.

Managers may feel threatened

Some managers think motivated employees are after their job. So they worry about their own future and ignore the needs of their team. But effective managers take responsibility for employee development. They look for ways to support progression and learn from their employees. So build manager confidence. And help them define their own development so they can do the same for others.

Employee development isn’t top priority

Career development’s rarely the burning issue of the day. Until someone resigns. Help managers talk about progression by making it part of check-ins and performance reviews. Managers must commit to understanding what matters to their employees. And then take steps to help them along that career path. It improves engagement and performance. And supports retention of talented individuals.

There's no room to progress

Not everyone’s looking for promotion. Some just want to develop a new skill, change a process, or work on a different project. So encourage managers to find out what employees truly want. And think broadly about solutions. Attend training, lead a meeting, present to the Board, work in a cross-functional team. Each offer different ways to meet an employee’s need for growth and development. And none of them require a new role.

The benefits of employee development

Career progression’s great for engagement. It makes people feel more connected to the business and increases retention. But that won’t change behaviours. Managers and employees need personal benefits to take responsibility for employee development.

Convincing managers to take ownership of employee development

Better performers. Take an interest in their development and employees feel valued. They want to deliver great work. And show why the business should invest in them further. So get managers to take time to understand employees career goals. And find ways to help them link that to business needs. As they present new opportunities, they’ll see happier employees who perform better and deliver more.

Personal opportunities. Great leaders develop their teams and themselves. They prepare for the future and grow individual skills. And they think about succession planning. They take responsibility for employee development so their team’s ready to take the next step. And they have someone to handover to when they get promoted.

Recognition. Employee development improves motivation. Engagement scores are higher, team collaboration grows. And the managers of those teams appear at the top of company reports. They're recognised for doing a great job. And are seen as leaders of the future. So get managers to see the benefits of developing their team. For individuals, for the business, and for themselves.

Convincing employees to drive their own careers

Build confidence. Bad experiences make employees nervous to share their career goals. So support them and reassure them their manager wants to help. Get managers to find regular opportunities where employees can grow. And track progress as projects and training are completed so employees can see themselves developing towards their goals.

Make work more interesting. Sometimes there isn't much scope to change a role. So employees feel stuck. But HR can help promote alternatives. Opportunities for volunteer projects. Roles in company social groups. And employees find an interest and get involved. So their skills build while they wait for a new project or promotion.

Get recognised. Employees who take responsibility for their own development show why they're great for the business. They demonstrate company values. Consistently achieve against targets. And come up with great ideas to move the company forward. And in turn their efforts are recognised through opportunities and promotions.

Helping managers take responsibility for employee development

Managers have a huge impact on employees so they need to take the lead and create a culture of communication. They must drive their own development and encourage the growth of others. And you also need managers who can happily step back. They see the opportunities in employees wanting more responsibility. And test their skills by allocating them new tasks.

Employees look externally when they don't get professional growth. So managers must be confident in understanding their team’s needs. And find ways to support them to develop new skills. But, much like a toddler learning to walk, you don’t just hand them the reins. Build trust as you go and release them in stages. Small projects, new tasks, higher profile clients. As they show their ability to perform, managers can give away more. And free up time to focus on their own development.

But not all managers are ready for this change. Some need help to start those conversations. So give them support with our latest best practice guide: How to be a better manager for your people. Get your free download below 👇