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Maximize Your Employees’ Potential With Personalized Performance Development Plans


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So you’ve just finished with performance and 360 degree reviews and you notice one of your employees is struggling. Though some employees may take constructive feedback as a great opportunity to implement new insights into their work style, others may instead become discouraged. After giving constructive feedback what more should you be doing to help them get back on track? 

As a manager your key responsibility is to help your employees grow and develop professionally. The cost of hiring, onboarding and training a new employee far outweighs the cost of simply taking time to coach and develop your existing team members. Not to mention the impact firing one employee can have on the team as a whole.

Great coaching always begins with a strong performance development plan. When you’re working with an employee who’s really struggling the most difficult question becomes where to start? It’s important not to overload them with too many improvements at once. This can lead to confusion or work to further discourage them. The best strategy is to pick a few areas to focus on first. So should you begin with the area where they’re struggling the most or the skills that are most relevant to their job description? The answer may surprise you.

It may sound counterintuitive, but what you should actually focus on are the areas where they show the most potential. Strengths based development is an HR movement that has been growing in popularity. According to a 2015 survey by Researcher and Applied Psychology expert Michelle McQuaid, 64% of employees believe they are more successful when building up their strengths as opposed to weaknesses. This can have a major impact on motivation as employees who have strengths discussions with their managers are 78% more likely to feel their work is appreciated and making a difference within the team.

Similarly, the survey found that managers who know their employees’ strengths are 71% more likely to have employees who are engaged and energized. When managers know their employees’ strengths they are in a better position to assign tasks that will motivate and incentivize them. This can have a major impact on employee turnover. According to a 2015 Gallup Survey, 93% of US adults who left their employer left to pursue a career change. If managers instead create more opportunities for career mobility within an organization they will be more likely to retain and grow a more talented workforce.

Follow these steps to help your employees personalize their own strengths based development plan:

Self Assessment

Everyone has their own skills, they just need to learn how to identify and develop them. After giving them the results of their 360 or performance review, first ask your employee to come up with a list of their interests. This should also include hobbies outside of the workplace. It’s important that they have time to think this over and aren’t influenced by others. While some HR experts may advise you to be involved in this step, as their manager, employees may be inclined to agree and take your advice simply to keep you happy.

They should then come up with a list of their skills. If they’re having trouble deciding where to begin, Impraise’s self assessment feature can be a useful tool to organize thoughts and get ideas for teamwork, leadership and company specific skills. However, their self assessment shouldn’t only focus on traditional workplace skills. Skills or habits that are perceived to be weaknesses can also be honed into strengths if directed in the right way. For example, daydreaming can lead employees to get distracted from their work easily but daydreamers also tend to have strong analytical skills which can be geared towards coming up with out of the box solutions.

The results of their review can also be a great resource to get better insights into what others perceive as their strengths in the workplace. At the same time, be sure to advise them not to let the perception of others influence them too much. If they’re good at inputting data but hate doing it, this is probably not a career path they want to pursue. Comparing the list of their interests and strengths will help them to come up with the workplace skills they are most interested in developing.

Set up a one-on-one

At this meeting you’ll go over the list together. Your job is to connect their skills and interests to your company’s objectives. If they have a knack for languages, they may be a great fit for a team tackling a new foreign market.

If they don’t already have some short and long term goals in mind help them to come up with some in the context of your company and team’s objectives. These goals should be challenging yet attainable, providing the right amount of motivation without the risk of getting lost along the way.

With your employee’s strengths, interests and goals in mind, offer suggestions for ways they can train, develop and improve their skills. This can include offering stretch assignments, giving them information about extra trainings they could attend or helping them to seek out mentors who can provide them with further guidance.

Help them come up with time frames and measurements for achieving these goals. Remember being too ambitious could lead to disillusionment, while leaving things too open may lead them to get side tracked. Maybe you set them a goal to write up two reports on consumer trends in new markets or to increase inbound leads by x%. As long as they are assignments that play to your employee’s strengths and are within reach you will see a significant change in motivation and engagement levels.

A useful method to make sure these goals will incentivize rather than discourage your employee is the SMART model. This includes making sure their goals are specific, measureable, attainable, relevant and time bound. Use this model as a check list.

By helping them to link their strengths and interests to attainable goals, employees will be able to take ownership of their own professional development plan.

Encourage through Feedback

After this meeting you want to keep encouraging your employee to continue on the development plan but also be careful not to put them under pressure to achieve results immediately. The best way to encourage them is through continuous feedback. When you see they’ve reached a milestone in their development, be sure to acknowledge their success. When you see them struggling, offer up some advice. It’s important that they know you’re taking a vested interest in their development but are encouraging, not demanding quick results.


Schedule another one-on-one to review their progress. This could be in two weeks or a month, the important thing is that it gives them enough time to meet some of the measurement targets. Hopefully at this point they’ve made some strides in the right direction. Now it’s time to check in and make sure they keep up the progress. Start off by telling them about the progress they’ve made. Knowing specifically what they’ve been doing right will help them to continue on the same path. Then tell them what they still need to improve and give them advice on how they can accomplish this.

Once they’ve developed their strengths, your employee will have the confidence and experience to begin developing other areas they may need more improvement on.

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