Self-empowered development is a great way for organizations to engage employees in their own development — in a sense, it’s about employee-driven development. In an earlier blog post, I argued that employees need the right environment and tools in order for self-empowered development to work.

Five practices are key to success with self-empowered development:

  1. Distinguish between development and performance management
  2. Encourage people to establish their own development goals
  3. Clarify and articulate what’s most important
  4. Establish distinct roles (employee and manager)
  5. Provide easy access to tools and support

I detailed the first two practices in my earlier blog post — and the remaining three are explored below.

Clarify and Articulate What’s Most Important

While an employee’s goals should come from within, we would not deny that the context of a person’s current job — or a job he or she aspires to — is critical to setting high impact development goals. Key questions for employees to explore: What are the highest priority capabilities that will fuel success in your current job? Which will best prepare you for the job you want down the road? And what does that mean for your development goals?

There is a common rule in business (and other areas) that you may know called the 80-20 Rule, which states that, for many things, 80{093fb9589d1278da913b922b2fbd5a98fc198bff056bc99b4ed16a1fd6158231} of the effects come from 20{093fb9589d1278da913b922b2fbd5a98fc198bff056bc99b4ed16a1fd6158231} of the causes. This rule applies well to development. There are many capabilities that fuel what people do every day in their jobs, but 80{093fb9589d1278da913b922b2fbd5a98fc198bff056bc99b4ed16a1fd6158231} of their impact will come from 20{093fb9589d1278da913b922b2fbd5a98fc198bff056bc99b4ed16a1fd6158231} of those capabilities.

Which capabilities are in the top 20{093fb9589d1278da913b922b2fbd5a98fc198bff056bc99b4ed16a1fd6158231} — and thus will have the greatest impact on development — given all the unique factors that apply to any one individual? We know that people are most successful when their development plans focus on two to three goals or capabilities, so identifying what’s in that 20{093fb9589d1278da913b922b2fbd5a98fc198bff056bc99b4ed16a1fd6158231} is essential to a high impact development plan.

Employees are often unclear about organizational expectations and may simply not know which of their capabilities will drive the greatest success. They may have received mixed messages about what’s important or what has led others in the organization to achieve similar career goals, or they may not fully understand how their role contributes to the business. On the other hand, managers often don’t know where to start with employee development. They may not have the tools they need to help guide an employee to effective goals, and they often don’t know how an employee’s capabilities relate to other roles in the company.

Here, what we call “role profiles” provide a practical methodology to determine the critical elements of a role and convey that information clearly and pragmatically to the people who actually execute on strategy.

Role profiles are concise, one-page documents that describe:

  • Responsibilities and tasks that are most important to company strategy
  • Challenges that must be overcome to achieve outstanding results
  • Performance outcomes that provide a blueprint for success given the strategy and challenges
  • Technical and functional skills that are emerging in importance given changes in customer, market, or technology requirements
  • Behavioral competencies that are not just “soft skills” but definitional of high performers in the new or redefined role

With tools like role profiles, employees don’t have to try to identify their development goals from a completely blank page. With full transparency on what leads to high performance in various job roles and leadership levels, employees can direct their atten