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What Skills Should I Encourage People to Develop


A quick story - names are changed to protect the innocent. Fared was talking with one of his employees, Alisha, about her development plans for the year. Alisha was a great instructional designer (ID) and Fared wanted her to get some project leadership experience with the expectation that he could make her a lead instructional designer soon. Problem was, Alisha didn't want to be a lead instructional designer. She confided in Fared that she wanted to make a career change to be a recruiter. While she loved doing design, she found herself wanting a new challenge.

Fared's challenge: does he encourage her and help her develop her skills to be a recruiter? Or does he push her to do the project leadership training that would help the team. Put more simply, does Fared do what is best for Alisha or what is best for the company?

It should be noted that Fared is most likely doing a great job as a manager, because it takes psychological safety for an employee to be open about wanting a career change. Which is a good thing, because the ensuing conversation will need honesty and respect between the two.

First, Fared should thank Alisha for being honest with him. Then begin a genuine dialogue on what about being a recruiter is so attractive. The idea is to understand the clearly the root thoughts, because there may be some common ground.

Second, assuming Alisha is set on her career change, I would ask her to research what skills are needed to make a good recruiter. This serves two purposes: 1) it gets Alisha to start doing more research on the position, which may include information interviews; 2) it enables both to see if there are any overlapping skills.

For example, interviewing skills would be appropriate for both positions. Recruiters interview candidates and ID's interview SMEs. If there is enough overlap between skills, then Fared can justify the development as things that will make Alisha better at her current role while also preparing for a future role. A real win-win.

Third, if there are not enough overlapping skills, Fared should encourage and support Alisha to begin development to her desired future role. This can mean coaching, leading her through the development process, etc. However, Fared should also make it clear that the expectation is that her quality work continues and that he may not be able to use company funds for any training. That will be decided on a case-by-case basis, and he will make the final decision.

Many would argue that Fared is encouraging an employee to leave, and a good performer at that, so he is actually hurting himself and the company. However, having someone who is unhappy in a role (and will probably leave anyways) isn't good for the team. In addition, he has affirmed that Alisha was right in trusting him by his encouragement. This also gives him time to start planning for a replacement (either internally or externally). Last, the team will see that he truly has their best interests in mind, which will increase their engagement.

Always remember, you make decisions that are best in the long term. Short term answers almost always cause issues later on.

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