The manager who gives subordinates feedback without creating developmental action plans to help them improve their job performance, competencies or behaviors is like a physician who diagnoses a medical problem without prescribing a remedy or treatment.
In either case, nothing is likely to change.
You cannot expect people to modify their behavior or improve their competencies without help, and a developmental plan provides just that -- a structured approach to personal change.
Developmental plans also serve another function: they hold employees accountable. How can you measure improvement if you don't have a written plan that spells out what an individual is supposed to do? A good developmental plan should allow both supervisor and subordinate to easily monitor progress.
The process of creating a developmental plan poses three basic questions:
1. What do you know about the individual?
2. What do you know about the organization and where it is going?
3. How can you relate the individual to the organization so that both can attain their goals?
From the moment you begin creating the developmental plan with the individual, it should be a positive experience. The underlying question should not be "How can we fix you?" but rather "How can we help you realize more of your potential and attain more of your career goals?" Here are the basic steps involved in creating the plan.
Look toward the future. Ask the employee what he or she values most in a job and career. Go over the company's mission and values, and determine if the individual and the company fit together. Determine where the employee is in his or her career, and where he or she would like to go. Finally, review the competencies and skills that the company, department or team will most need going forward.
Evaluate the present and determine the gaps. Review the goals, standards and expectations of the person's current job. Look at the feedback you have given the employee, as well as any feedback from the individual's peers or subordinates. Then identify and discuss any gaps in the employee's job performance, competencies and behaviors.
Set goals. Establish realistic developmental goals in the context of the current job and future career goals. Set priorities by determining the performance, competency and behavior gaps most critical to the person's mastery of the current job. Finally, set priorities for the employee's future development by identifying those gaps most critical to attaining longer-range career goals.
Develop the plan. Identify action steps and timetables for expected improvement and assign priorities for each. Do the same for longer-range career goals. Identify the resources required for each action step, and then determine methods and timetables for following up and monitoring progress.
No one said that creating developmental action plans is easy. In fact, they require a lot of work, by both manager and employee. But if you develop them well, and use them to measure progress, the investment of time should pay for itself many times over.