Preparing your career for tomorrow-an internal and external view

As the economy starts to move forward after having slowed to a snails’ pace we are starting to hear more and more about the need for development.  I hear this discussion in many forms.  Terms are used like those listed below:

  • building bench strength
  • developing next level leaders
  • building organizational depth

You may know of others, but they all relate to the same thing.  Organizations are like organisms and in order to develop and flourish they must grow and sometimes divide, just like cells do.

Monique Valcour wrote a compelling piece on HBR Blogs recently talking about how managers need to embrace their duty of developing others.  It is well worth the read.

US News had an article written by Robin Madell in January 2014 talking about the top 10 workplace trends for 2014.  Right there on the list is the need for employee development.

Workforce started a encourage accountability for development for development and the number of comments was a little less than I expected.  That provides a little fuel for my fire today.

In my post today I will explore the reasons that the employer should support development.  There are many, but I will also freely admit that many companies see human capital as a commodity and not a unique asset.  This type of thinking does not support development and instead will embrace and encourage a mentality that we can replace people just like we do any other expendable item we purchase.


As someone who has benefitted from employee development as well as being the one supporting the development of others it is hard for me to grasp the philosophy of employers not supporting development.  Here are some of the reasons I have found for employers not being supporters of developing their team members:

  • we do not have the time/money/resources to do this
  • even if we do develop them, they will just leave anyway
  • we can always find someone on the outside to do what this person does

Let’s talk a little about each one of these statements.  The first, the lack of time or resources, shows a great lack of understanding about what development entails.  Many leaders believe that development is all about training.  That is far from the truth.  Development entails experience (check with to learn more about Experience and Development).  Development also comes from feedback, personal reading and exchange.  Surely classroom training can be part of development, but if training is all that you provide or receive, your development will be shallow and not long-lasting.

The second phrase is one that really troubles me.  There are many employers who have a defeatist attitude that keeps them from ever investing in their human capital.  If you don’t invest in your people, they will surely leave.  Even if you do invest and they leave, the chances are good that they may return at some later date.  Getting these “boomerang” employees can be a great asset.  I worked for an engineering firm that had a number of “boomerang” employees and they had a chance to see that the grass is seldom greener on the other side of the fence.

Using an “external souring only” mentality when it comes to development will surely lead to problems.  While bringing in an occasional leader from another organization can be great for broadening culture and knowledge, only bringing in outsiders at certain levels promotes the perception of a “ceiling” that cannot be penetrated by insiders.  This perception will surely lead to higher turnover and lower engagement and employee satisfaction.  Trust me, I have had this conversation with firms you would know and those inside the firm are painfully aware of what their employer is doing.

Development is squarely in the court of the employer for many reasons.  This does not mean that the employee does not have some personal responsibility.  Far from it, the individual is truly also responsible for his/her development.  We will discuss that further in my next post.