Staff development: what does this really mean?

By Mike Klockenbrink

You need to develop your staff. The staff needs development. What do you want the staff to develop into? Who has time for all of this development?

Over the years this has become much clearer for me. I can break it down into just a few categories.

  • Hire the right person to begin with. Easily said, but not always easily done.
  • Have a clear job description and expectation for each person.
  • Utilize SMART criteria. I know this is overused, but it works.
  • Specific
  • Measureable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time sensitive

SMART plans or staff development plans are usually written during the time of annual performance reviews. Most of the time, the staff development plan is written by the employee’s supervisor. I believe this is where the employee should be doing their own staff planning and development.

As a leader, you should provide the vision and direction to guide your employee in the way you would like them to go. Give them a path to travel lined with opportunities and challenges.  The old cliché “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink” is very true. It’s really up to the employee to decide whether or not they want to develop themselves.

We call our employee reviews a Performance and Development Summary. We ask each employee to fill out their own performance and development summary. I have found that most employees are more difficult on themselves than I could ever be. This should be a time for each individual to reflect on the past six months and a time to grow forward over the next six months. Some key components in making this work would be to ask some of the following questions.

How did you perform over the past six months?

What are the top three goals you achieved? A time to celebrate.

What do you believe your strengths to be? Encourage.

What are the areas you need to improve in? Support.

What are the action steps you’re going to take to get there? This is where the SMART goals fit in.
Keep your staff development plan to less than a page. If you make it too long, it can lose its focus.

There’s a great quote I really resonate with from Andy Stanley “Direction, not intention, determines destination.” While each person may have the best intention of developing themselves, they need to be headed in the right direction or they’ll never reach their destination. Remember that this is their plan to develop themselves with your support and encouragement. When you put their future in their hands, it’s up to them.

Mike Klockenbrink is chief of staff at Lakeside Church, Folsom, CA.


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