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What if an Employee Doesn't Want to Develop?

Every employee should have a development plan. A great manager is constantly reviewing and holding the employee accountable on that development plan.

What should a manager do if an employee says they don't want to develop? This doesn't happen often, but the answer is easy - regardless of what they want, they have to have a plan. How to convince them of this is a bit more complicated.

The first question the manager needs to ask is: why not? Here are a few of the more common reasons I've heard and how to respond.

I like what I'm doing and don't want to get promoted.

Some employees make the mistake of thinking that development means promotion and possibly managing people or projects. That isn't true. If an employee likes what they are doing, then development means getting better and more skilled at the current role. It is pretty rare for someone to be the best in a field, so there is always room to improve in a current role. Think of athletes. When they are on the top of their game, they still keep working.

I want to develop, but not in my current job.

Employees seem to think that companies only care about their development in a role for the company. To be honest, many companies think exactly like that. What makes you a great manager and differentiates you from others is that you want the person to develop at whatever skill makes them happy. You may not be able to spend company resources on development materials, but you can still hold them accountable and offer support. For example, if a server in a restaurant wants to get into marketing, you may not be able to pay for college classes, but you can offer them an opportunity to do a marketing campaign for you (paid of course) that they can use in a portfolio.

I've been doing this a long time - in fact, I train others. What can I learn?

This is a huge red flag to me. Everyone can get better at something. I don't care if you are the best in the world, you can get better. If you can't, then find a way to challenge yourself to make the system better. If an employee resists development from this, I tell them that mindset is unacceptable. If they really believe that, then they need to find a new position that does challenge them.

There may be other reasons, but they are probably simply minor twists on the three reasons above. Everyone, including the CEO, should have a development plan.

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