Creating a Development-Focused Culture

Creating a Development-Focused Culture

By Dr. Merle Riepe, PhD
President, SOLVE

By Lauren Weivoda


As Baby Boomers retire, organizations are left wondering who will take their place. Identifying who has the potential to take, for example, the COO’s place in five years can be a daunting task, but it’s a very important one. When organizations don’t make a plan beforehand, they find themselves stuck when the COO decides to retire or, worse, leaves suddenly.


The first step toward transition is to identify the vision for the organization’s future. This serves as a guiding framework for planning future talent.


Then create a culture focused on employee development. When you build this, your employees will be better prepared to take the next step in their career and to help achieve the organization’s vision. Employees also appreciate companies that invest in their growth, so it’s a win-win.


Examine the gap between the talent you have and the talent you need. To identify the talent you need, determine which competencies are critical for your organization. Which competencies will move the organization forward and bolster the culture? Is strategic ability important? Is collaboration?


Identify the talent you have. Get to know your people and their strengths—as well as their opportunities for development. Consider using high-quality psychological and cognitive assessments, multi-rater feedback, and behavior-based interviews. Using multiple methods gives you a more complete and accurate view of your employees’ strengths and weaknesses. 


Provide feedback to your employees. Where do their strengths lie? What areas could they work on? Then help employees put together a development plan. Meet with them monthly to touch base on the plan and provide guidance and mentoring. You may also want to consider establishing coaching services. Coaching can facilitate self-awareness, behavior change, and skill-building.


Once you have started a development-focused culture, you can focus on the nuts and bolts of succession planning. Identify who is leaving and when, who (based on their assessment results as well as your knowledge of their skills and career interests) could step in for each individual (keeping in mind that it might be a different successor for each), and what will be needed to develop that potential successor to ensure their success when the time for transition comes. 


Remember that communication is imperative. Communicate the purpose behind development activities such as assessments, development plans, and coaching. Employees with this understanding will be more receptive. Also ensure that you fully communicate the organization’s vision for the future and employees’ place in it. Communicating this information will help employees better understand their path and build excitement around the vision.