Coaching for Professional Development: Managers Should Encourage, Foster, and Support Employees' Continual Development as a Way of Helping Them Master Changing Work and Keeping Morale High. Especially in an Economic Environment Where Resources Are Limited, Coaching and Focusing on Employees' Professional Development Will Help Keep Them Motivated and Productive

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Managers need to devise opportunities for employees, particularly professionals, to keep learning and growing, for five reasons. It:

1. Enables people to keep abreast of changes in technology and issues and factors that affect record-keeping

2. Brings in new ideas that modify and strengthen the RIM program

3. Promotes personal growth, a factor in employee job satisfaction, motivation, and incentive

4. Strengthens the basis for advancement and promotion to higher, more challenging positions

5. Serves as one basis for attracting applicants who will find the prospect of professional development appealing

Employee Development

Staff development is conspicuous by its absence (or by its very small presence) in many programs; managers do not recognize its need or assume that it is too time consuming and expensive.

It is a good, businesslike investment, particularly in programs where technology and other factors keep things in flux. Staff development does not have to be burdensome, expensive, or a serious time drain that detracts from work.

However, it should not be left to chance, intermittent, or regarded as a secondary afterthought in human resources policies. Consider the following approaches:

Establish expectations that people will take initiative to self-develop, through their own reading, discussions, professional engagement, and in other ways. This attitude is at the heart of a learning or resilient program.

Encourage professionals to become CRMs and to undertake educational activities to maintain their certification as part of their development plans. Consideration needs to be given for the time needed to become certified and to keep it current.

Develop a written program policy about development that sets expectations for what the program will do, and what employees are expected to do and to contribute. For example, the policy may describe how much time off for courses is allowed, cost of materials, dues for professional associations, conference travel, etc. If the program's resources permit only limited or modest financial support, the policy document needs to include appropriate wording as a way of keeping expectations realistic. The policy should also indicate the types of activities the program will not support.

Include professional development in staff members' annual work plans and use annual performance evaluations to assess progress and identify future needs and opportunities. Like other aspects of these work plans, development needs to be negotiated between manager and employee. However, including it sets expectations for both parties, specifies who is paying for what, explains how time off and other considerations will work, and provides an outcome measure for discussion during annual performance reviews.

Balance the program's priority needs. Balance should be maintained between expertise in priority areas, particularly those changing rapidly and in high demand by the parent organization, with individual development objectives, which may include strengthening interpersonal communication, project management, and other coping skills.

Share responsibilities for program-wide development initiatives with the people who will be most affected. Managers may decide to designate a committee or working group to develop professional development activities for the entire staff, within certain parameters, such as budget and time commitment, set by the manager. This approach helps ensure that the staff will be interested in the training, increases the likelihood of attendance and engagement, and enhances the prospects that the learning will be applied.

Get help from the organization's human resources (HR) office or department. The office may need some educating itself so that it fully understands RIM staff development needs. Some in-house trainers may be available to make presentations on HR issues, such as time management, ethics, and promotions. …