How Serious Are You About Development? A Litmus Test

How Serious Are You?Is your organization serious about development?  I mean, REALLY serious?  Nearly every organization claims to be, but in my consulting practice, I frequently visit companies who merely pay lip service to training and development.

So, what’s the difference between a company that’s truly invested in their people and those which are not?  Well, I’ve got my criteria for determining that within a few hours.  Mind you, while only a subjective perspective, the correlation between my initial impressions and reality aren’t far off.

How can you determine how serious your company is?  Here are the questions I ask…and why I ask them:

  1. What’s your overarching development model and philosophy?

If you asked a CEO the purpose of their business, and they couldn’t articulate it on-the-spot, what would you instantly conclude?  So, why should your conclusions be any different for any internal business process or function?  A development function (whether an overarching OD focus or a specific training focus) without a model and philosophy is one that is only reactive and unlikely to be helping position the organization for the demands of the future.

  1. What percentage of your development is provided in “off-the-shelf” solutions?

If, in answer to this question, the language focuses on training and not development, I know we’ve got a problem.  Training almost always means classroom training.  Development may include classroom sessions, but focuses true learning on experiential or action learning, those skills and competencies learned through application.  Additionally, “off-the-shelf” resources, while many are founded on good principles, are usually too broad to provide real value toward addressing the idiosyncratic challenges of a particular industry and organization.

  1. How specifically do you measure the impact of your training and development?

If training satisfaction and smiley sheet course evaluations are the focus of measurement, clearly the organization is missing the boat.  They are pumping valuable, finite (or shrinking) development funds toward solutions without any sense of what impact and lasting value they are having for the organization.  Progressive organizations are as steadfastly interested in the ROI of their development efforts and they are in the ROI of their marketing investments.

  1. How invested is management in actively driving development?

By this, I really drive to understand a specific percentage of time managers and leaders spend on a week-in and week-out basis toward the development (the ACTIVE development) of their employees.  If that percentage is not at least 25%, as NASA likes to say, “Houston, we’ve got a problem….”  Only when leadership, from the top down, are actively involved in emphasizing and reinforcing development, in mentoring and coaching their people to higher levels of competence and knowledge, is an organization justified in being called a learning organization.

  1. What are the educational backgrounds of your organizational development professionals?

This is perhaps the most controversial question I could ask….and while there are certainly intelligent people without advanced degrees doing wonderful jobs, the commitment toward development is most apparent when one sees amongst the training and development staff Masters and Doctoral credentials in I/O psychology, organizational development, training and development, education, and other related disciplines.  Why is that important?  Because at that level: 1) they understand the value of development beyond a simplistic level, 2) they have been formally exposed to a variety of theoretical models from which to develop their own development philosophies, 3) they often have a better on-going grasp of both the trends in development and the research backgrounds, i.e., the ability to evaluate valid and reliable research, to understand

If you’re not already there, it’s about time your organization got serious about developing it’s employees.  Some companies are already there….are you keeping pace, or just treading water?  Because a tsunami of issues is right on the horizon….will you be ready, or simply swept away.

The choice is yours…….so make it!

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