Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Why some leaders choose not to develop their people

I learned a long time ago that not all leaders are inclined to develop their staffs. They've told me a number of reasons over the years and I've inferred some other ones as well. Leaders who don't take active steps to develop their staffs might choose not to because:
  • They expect employees to come already equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to do the job.
  • The business is struggling financially and they think they can't afford it.
  • They are reluctant to interfere with the production schedule to do production capacity work.
  • They don't see the connection between developing staff and getting better business results, viewing development as an expense rather than an investment.
  • They expect the correct behaviors to be intuitive, or to be able to be "picked up" through the course of regular daily operations.
  • They don't know how to evaluate quality, or perhaps don't know what to look for in development resources. So when in doubt they save the cash and avoid the perceived risk.
  • The company is setting revenue and/or profit records, so they conclude that people are already doing what they need to do. They're "safe" from the need to develop staff.
  • It's not the right time because the company is smack in the middle of (fill in the blank _____) initiative.

The labor budget is (in most businesses) the largest single line item. How is it then, that it becomes so easy to consider staff development as a "we are the world" nice thing to do, rather than an essential leveraging of the largest resource in the company?

This is one of those "pay me now or pay me later" scenarios, particularly in the area of human relations skills. I can go on my merry way and put out the little fires along the way, not realizing that there's a line of flame running under the floorboards. If it breaks through I'll be in a conflagration before I know it - a mutiny or a union grievance or even a lawsuit could be in the offing.

If I'm a leader and I'm not growing myself I'm modeling stagnation. If I'm standing still I'm not avoiding risk - I'm inviting it, because the current of change will rush by me before I know what happened. And my business might grow beyond my own leadership competency level.

So when IS the right time to develop staff, and what are the right circumstances? My experience says that there is rarely a good one - it's something a leader has to choose because he or she sees something bigger and better in the future for the people and for the company. When there is a direct link between changed employee behavior and business results (including reduced distractions from solving people problems) the time is right.

1 comment:

Jeff said...

The issue is now made all the more difficult by virtue of . . . tax law!

One of the pesky tenets of the "is this person a contractor or an employee?" question that so many businesses now deal with is that training people makes them employees, often, even when neither party intended it so!

Adds a whole new twist to the "I expect them to come with the skills I need them to have" issue . . .

Jeff Yablon
President & CEO
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