Using Experience to Grow – The Key to Employee Development

In the 21st century organization people are undoubtedly the most valuable asset a company has. It is difficult to imagine an organizational or business process where people are not the determining factor of success. In order to stay competitive, an organization has to make sure its employees (especially key people) have the right level of competencies which are necessary for success in their positions.

Alongside the “usual” need for development, there is an additional requirement that has emerged in the past decades. Given that we live in times of fast changes, there is a constant demand for transformation and adaptation within the organizations as well. This makes the topic of employee development even more relevant.

So, how do we approach it? Over the years of working with hundreds of clients, Assessment Systems was able to single out what seem to be the golden rules when it comes to employee development:

It has to be an integrative process. In order to work, the development process has to incorporate several steps which aim to customize the process to the employee’s developmental needs. This means that the starting point should always be assessment, ideally of the employee’s reputation, personality, motivators and relevant competencies. This is the only way we can be sure that the development efforts are actually targeted at the challenges the employee needs to work on, but also the strategic self-awareness that is built on the assessment results feedback is a necessary starting point for development altogether. If the person is not aware what they should change and why, will they be able or willing to do it?

After we have made sure the employee understands his assessment results’ implications, the next step would be to create an Individual Development Plan (IDP). IDP can be thought of as a roadmap to the developmental goals employee wants to achieve, and it also pinpoints the types of training necessary for the person to be able to work on their weaknesses.

Insights have to be based on experience. Seeing and admitting our own weaknesses is not easy. While defense mechanisms are adaptive, they also create blind spots that can impede our relationships and performance at work. In order for the person to be able to really understand and acknowledge their development areas, a connection has to be created between how they see themselves and how others see them. This is why discussing examples of real situations and behaviors during feedback is essential, because than the consultant providing feedback can explain how a third party may perceive their behaviors in specific situations.

Moreover, using experiential learning may further help the cause. Experiential learning represents a cyclic process where knowledge is constructed on specific experiences which serve as a basis for observation and reflection. The observations are than transformed into more general conclusions from which implications for action can be derived. The final step of the cycle is to test the implications through experience.

Experiential learning has found its perfect application in trainings through experiential learning games. Experiential learning games are specifically designed to demand the use of certain skills and competencies which are essential in business, especially in management positions. While they are solving the tasks, competencies of the team and each individual can be assessed by the facilitator who provides feedback on their observations after the game is finished. The observations are further discussed with the participants in order for some general conclusions and implications to be derived. Finally, the participants are encouraged to test and adjust these implications by applying them in their work and work relationships.

Practice is key. In order to ensure lasting results of developmental activities, repeated effort is essential. This may be achieved through different approaches: Assessment Systems designs their trainings in a way that enables practicing application of the insights and implications that were gained throughout the training. Also, another method is individual coaching which ensures a more customized and intensive approach. Finally, follow up is always recommended, no matter what the development activities of choice were.

To summarize our take on development – although the goals cannot be attained overnight, and integrative and sophisticated programs are what it takes to get lasting results, it is definitely an effort worth making.

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