Is Staff Development Draining Your Time?

These 5 red flags will tell you when it’s time to shift your focus

As a manager, your time is at a premium. One of your most important responsibilities is to develop your team members – but when you’re juggling  so many priorities, how do you find enough time to do this properly?

If you are like many managers, you probably find you spend more time with the staff who are struggling to achieve the required standards, than with those who consistently achieve and exceed expectations.

If this sounds like you, it may be time to re-think your approach.

You may think that you need to focus your attention on the lower performers. You feel it’s your responsibility to motivate, train, support and encourage them to improve their work outcomes. You hope that your efforts will lead them to at least meet the basic standard of their job description, with the idea that this will benefit the team as a whole.

Yes, you do need to spend time with the lower performers, as you do with all your staff, but you  also need to balance your time to achieve the best results. And in fact, the research shows that the most successful managers actually focus the majority of their employee development time and attention on the top performers.

Red Flags

Here are some red flags that will confirm that now is the time to place less attention on trying to develop an employee with performance issues. If any of the following apply, you may feel like you’ve been hitting your head against a brick wall. And, you may find it a relief to know that you’ll be on solid ground when you decide to change your approach:

  • The performance issue that’s of concern is a key part of the job
  • You have already tried to develop the person over an extended period of time but not seen significant improvements.
  • You inherited this staff member from a previous manager and you can see from their file notes that there were multiple attempts to develop and improve their performance in the past, with little to no improvement.
  • You do not have the time or access to the resources that are needed to develop this person’s skills
  • The person is not open to feedback about their performance

In some circumstances, in particular industries, or companies, there would be very few employees fitting this description because performance standards are key to retaining a role in the company. However in many workplaces there is reluctance to let someone go, for various reasons, and so as a manager you are required to manage each team member as best you can.

Prioritize your Time

Assuming you have no control over whether the under performers stay or go, I’m going to suggest your strategy needs to be: spend less time with them and turn your attention instead to the high performers. Yes, you still need to spend time with every employee, giving each person regular, honest, performance feedback and evaluations. But be careful to focus your energies where you will achieve the greatest  positive results.

High performing staff are usually the ones with the greatest potential for growth. They are the ones who are able to drive progress. One theme we are seeing in the labour market is that there is a shortage of really good people to fill leadership roles. It’s therefore important to you and your organization that you give the high-potential employees the opportunity to grow and develop.

This strategy will also help you to keep your star players. According to recent research 78% of employees base their decision to stay with or leave an employer upon whether or not they see a potential career path with the employer. You’ll find it beneficial to have regular career development conversations with these employees. Find out what their interests are in terms of future career growth. Discuss potential new challenges or projects that are on the horizon, and give them the opportunity to grow. People learn through experience so give them stretch assignments.

If you’re interested in developing your own skills as a manager and a leader of people, I’d be happy to talk with you about the assessments, training, coaching and development programs that I offer. Please book a no-cost, no-obligation, Strategy Session with me here.