“The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.”
Harvey S. Firestone
Professional development is one of the most critical areas for an organizational leader to remain focused on. Education, training, and experience of the workforce are three key linchpins necessary to organizational success, sustainment, growth, and enduring succession.
Typically, we see organizations that have always done things a certain way and that has been good enough to keep them going. In the 21st century world, that most likely will not cut it for very long as the workforce is energized differently than past generations and some of their focus areas are personal growth, increased and diverse professional experience, being thoroughly and properly trained for the jobs they are expected to do as well as being prepared for challenging opportunities before they arise.
Add to this personal requirements list, the inherent desires of the organization that their core values, norms, vision, goals, and performance objectives be adhered to and accomplished and you have a recipe for a very complex environment that may be difficult to navigate without deliberate, intentional, and focused development activities. All employees come to the organization with a different bag of tricks. They also come with personal desires. The professional development equation must produce the sum to these numerous and wide-ranging variables.
My background has been focused in the recent past on helping organizations create and implement professional development programs. One of the toughest variables is identifying the “who to develop” in this equation. All employees cannot be developed to the same standards and levels due to cost and numerous other factors; however all employees do deserve consideration when development plans are being made and programs created. It is a great challenge to accomplish this task in our diverse and fast paced world. It can be difficult to get leadership buy-in for development programs that affect the entire workforce as targeted development is presently in vogue.
Recently I read an article in our South Dakota news about a local large multi-state corporation and their difficulty with finding quality employees from the millennial generation to work in their manufacturing facilities. Reportedly, they hired around 280 employees and retained only one of them over the course of a year at a training cost nearing $2 million dollars. As I read the article I recognized that their workforce problem could easily morph into a professional development situation for many organizations if in fact the millennial generation is lacking in their understanding and application of a work ethic.
We have heard many times that my generation, the “baby boomers” have spoiled our children by providing them everything they wanted with no responsibility or expectations attached. Supposedly, we gave them all trophies for participating so no one had their feelings hurt in a two-team contest, and now we can possibly add that we somehow forgot to teach them how and why to work as well. Having just retired from active military service as a senior leader, I can discount many of these “supposed failings” in most of the millennials I worked with and lead in peacetime and in war.
Tell me and I forget, Teach me and I remember, Involve me and I learn – Benjamin Franklin
I clearly see how the dynamics of the workforce have changed over the past few decades. Having spent many years in the 1990’s and early 2000’s teaching elementary and middle school, I recognized a serious thrust by many parents to reduce the academic expectations and rigor on their children and increase the sporting, technology, and esteem-building opportunities they were provided. Couple this to the movements by the department of education, supporting unions, and education-focused businesses to craft the “ideal” curriculum that would produce outstanding metrics of success first and possibly improved academic success second and maybe we have weakened the work ethic of our millennial generation to some degree.
Organizational professional development programs may have to consider this millennial situation as an expansion of their overall program. Most organizations expect those who come to their employment possess a desire to work and with well established practices of timeliness, dedication, and personal responsibility.
Most professional development programs I am experienced with do not start at this basic level but maybe in the future they will have to as the responsibility for providing the education, training, or experience necessary for individual success in an organization clearly falls to them.