The Case for Holistic Employee Development

This hack summarizes the development paradigms and mechanisms that drive employee development in SKOPOS. At the core of it is initially the view that people in SKOPOS are not simply “employees” but rather partners collaborating towards a higher mission. From this view stems a set of key pillars that drive our development philosophy and methodologies.

Our argument is that these paradigms, as well as the associated implementation methodology and mechanisms, serve the developmental needs of individuals within organizations in manners that lead to the effective development of individuals and organizations as a whole.

employee development

Traditionally, employee development efforts have focused on serving those aspects of an employee’s skills, knowledge, and attitudes that directly impact his technical performance required by his role in the organization. Despite, the success of such an approach in improving performance, the success experienced is frequently incremental and unsustainable. In worse cases, organizations frequently lose many employees that have attended costly development programs to competitors.

What sort of employee development approach do organizations need to adopt to achieve significant and sustainable improvement to employee performance? Is there an approach that can provide such a result while simultaneously increasing the loyalty of employees towards the organization? What sort of concepts should be incorporated in the mechanisms required to implement such an approach?

To address the above problem and answer the questions raised, one core view regarding the relationship of an employee to his/her organization needs to exist. This view states that the employee-organization relationship is a partnership in which the employee is in some capacity collaborating through his/her involvement with the organization in achieving a higher mission that he believes is aligned to his individual life mission.

employee improvement

As such the individual’s involvement with his/her organization primarily stems from the belief that this involvement compliments all other aspects of his/her life that are working towards the individual’s life mission. To the organization, this assumption should form the core philosophy of how it deals with its employees. To the development mechanisms created by the organization, this assumption is the ultimate target that an employee should eventually understand and experience. If the development mechanisms are able to achieve such a target, our argument is that this will lead to more sustainable performance, increased employee engagement, as well as increased organizational loyalty.

To implement such an approach, organizations first need to adopt a more holistic view when considering the development domains of an individual that can be categorized into three general domains.

The first domain is what we have called the corporate MMC (Model/Mission/Culture) domain. Within this domain the development mechanisms seek to develop the ability of an individual to reflect, believe, and practically align/implement the corporate philosophy and its associated topics that include the corporate mission, corporate culture, the corporate view of clients and partners, and the corporate view of employees.

It is important to stress that the development mechanisms not merely communicate the company mission and values superficially (e.g., mentioning in passing during orientation),but to more importantly ensure that employees practically reflect their understanding of such topics within their work activities and also in their other life domains. To give an example, employees when introduced to the company mission need to be able to align it to their own life mission and understand the practical implications that such a mission has on their values, attitudes, and influences on other domains of their life (nuclear family, extended family, friends, and society).

The second domain is what we have called personal development. Within this domain, the development mechanisms support the individual’s challenges and opportunities within realms that include their spiritual beliefs, physical needs, family support, and community engagement. This second domain reinforces the message that their involvement in this organization is not merely a work relationship but a life relationship where the organization is sincerely concerned in ensuring that employees reach their potential in all life domains.

Mechanisms within this domain do not necessarily need to exist internally within the organization (creating space for a gym or contract a doctor for a weekly schedule), however it is possible that some of these mechanisms are outsourced to specialized entities and then offer employee privileges to access the services of those entities. Although many firms currently offer such benefits to employees, the difference in the proposed development approach is that employee’s engagement in this domain is proactively pursued and managed. This means that part of the employee’s development plan that is developed within the organization is a commitment to development objectives within these realms that are ultimately linked to his performance management.

As a practical example, if due to certain health reasons an employee has to commit to certain physical exercises, these physical exercises would be part of the employee’s development objectives within the realm of physical development that would be supported by the organization and committed to by the employee. Such a measure should be communicated to the employee as part of the organization’s philosophy that ensures having healthy employees that are able to maintain a sustainable level of work performance.

The third domain is the traditional technical development domain. Within this domain the focus is on developing the knowledge, skills, and behaviors required to accomplish the role being played by the employee. Most technical development efforts focus on the knowledge and skills whether through pursuing postgraduate degree and certifications or providing technical training workshops.

However the behavioral development aspect of a specific technical role needs to also stem from the organization’s vision, mission, and values. This means translating the corporate culture to a more practical level that is unique to every function. As a practical example if one of the company’s values is teamwork, the part of the behavioral development within the technical domain for the accounting function should address the type of behaviors that accountants are to perform to demonstrate teamwork. Such behaviors can include accessibility and exchange of information, empowering colleagues to perform multiple roles, friendly response to enquiries, and timely reporting.

The form of behaviors to implement a specific value within each department will be different and the emphasis on the importance of certain values will also differ by department. In all cases, however, developing the behavioral aspect of a technical role is crucial to increase the employee’s understanding and feeling of alignment towards the corporate mission and culture.