Enabling Your People to ‘Own’ Their Development



Traditionally, people used to wait for managers and leaders to ‘prescribe’ learning interventions to them, which they would then pursue. Career development was a rigid, watertight process, which was rolled out from the top down with little or no exceptions. Even now, in a world where workers are much more empowered and autonomous, 74% of them still believe that the responsibility for professional development lies with managers. Considering most managers believe the opposite – that employees must take responsibility for their career development, this is a classic stalemate. Many people and organizations consequently fail at creating meaningful developmental experiences, with each one holding the other responsible. This affects the workforce experience (Wx) negatively and some people choose to move on to other organizations they think are more development- oriented.


However, the most critical stakeholder in the developmental journey are the people themselves. So, why not help them take charge of their respective journeys and steer them in the direction that they want to take?


There are steps that you can take to support your people in developing their careers and aligning their progression to their ambitions, passions, and in line with certain guiding principles:


1. Encourage listing down their career aspirations: As Lewis Carroll said, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” To prevent such a scenario, enable them to think about some of their short-term and long-term goals. What excites them? What do they foresee themselves doing in a few years? Are there any role models they dream of emulating?


2. Help in aligning their aspirations with their talents and competencies: Provide them with the tools to evaluate their talents and competencies through conversations with colleagues and the use of assessments (such as The TMA Method). Ensure that their talents and competencies are in line with the direction they envisage.


3. Enable ‘informational interviews’: Guide them to discussions with subject matter experts in different roles so that they can gather varied and diverse perspectives and take an informed decision about their developmental roadmap.


4. Encourage ‘advocacy’: Guide people to discuss their career plans and the support they require to execute it with their managers or other senior leaders in the organization. Make sure that they are able to clearly state the benefit for themselves and the organization through investment in their roadmap.


5. Help in creating a plan: Coach people to treat their development plans like a project with clear outcomes and deadlines and to hold themselves accountable to accomplish those. Encourage them to commit to the goals and milestones that form a part of the plan and motivate them to accomplish these with minimal delays.


Accomplishment is a function of the ability and the effort that people put in. Therefore, the ball is squarely in their respective courts and they can choose to blame the organization or people around for not being invested in their careers. However, the plain truth is that unless they invest in themselves, no one else probably will.


As author Debbie Miller says, “If you imagine less, less will be what you undoubtedly deserve.” So, are you ready to help your people in unlocking their aspirations?



Sumit Singla

Founder of eleventHR Consulting.

Sumit has been working in HR & HR consulting roles for 16+ years across sectors and verticals and specializes in organization design, wellbeing, storytelling & design thinking, and performance management. In his career with consulting firms such as Aon, Deloitte, and Accenture, he has successfully led programs aimed at total HR transformation for clients.

Recently, as Associate Director for India Consulting at Deloitte, he worked with clients on cultural transformation and HR process and policy design. He also organized and spoke at conferences and events about a variety of topics relevant to HR today.

Now self-employed, he works with clients across the globe on a variety of HR solution areas.

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