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If you recognise there is a problem with traditional development worksheets, you’ll know that it’s time to find a new approach to people development.


Hands up if your talent development planning looks a little like this: Once a year you deliver a blank questionnaire to your managers and staff, and ask them to fill it out. From scratch, they have to jot down their answers to questions like “What are your aspirations?” “What do you want to develop?” and “How do you plan on developing this?” And then the forms get signed off and filed under “stuff HR told us we had to do”, never to be seen again.

Don’t feel (too) bad; there hasn’t really been another option for development plans. Perhaps your organisation has evolved from paper-based formats to software driven or online forms. But even if your system has changed, the concept hasn’t. The problem? Development processes that rely on Individual Development Plans (IDPs) are dated, and they no longer work.

Why Managers Don’t Like IPDs

For one, they’re uninspiring. Managers see the exercise as compliance driven; it’s just something they have to check off their list – and most managers are not prepared to make an effort to complete them constructively. Organisations are expecting managers to be people development experts, but they’re simply not skilled in that area.

Why Employees Don’t Like IPDs

Employees are not only bored by the task, they’re also not entirely equipped to complete the forms. It’s difficult to simply conjure up a list of things you’d like to develop, and solutions on how to do that, from thin air. How would employees know how to develop something they’re already not good at?

Why Organisations Don’t Like IPDs

Even if the forms are filled out, there’s no guarantee it will result in action. For starters, are the development actions compiled by the employee and manager actually practical and implementable in your business? Chances are your HR team will be left with pie-in-the-sky ideas for development that might not fit in with your budget, organisational goals, succession plans, or business strategy. And then, how do you track that the development they outline has started – and is progressing? Enter: another form in six months?

So, what’s better?

If the way in which talent development has always been done isn’t working, what’s the next option? Essentially, we need to remove the requirement for staff members to be people development experts. We can’t expect them to just fill in the gaps in their development journey, when they’ve been trained in accounts / project management / social media.

We need to be able to guide them through development discussions, with a set of carefully-constructed and personalised questions they can answer, based on actual challenges they may face in the office. We then need to provide pre-written but personalisable development advice, using their answers and data you should have about your employees. And since development isn’t a once-off task, we need to be able to continuously have development discussions, when new challenges or areas in need of development pop up.

A development guide, such as TalentTalker, is needed. One that allows managers to sit with their employees, and select a development context that pertains to that specific person (leadership, performance, inspiring). They they need to choose a conversation that talks to the employee’s specific needs (say, improving processes or delivering work on time), and have the talk with guiding questions. It ends in real suggested actions on how they can rethink their behaviour, and react differently next time.

It works, because if development is key in your business, you need to give the developers the tools to do it properly, or risk a future filled with underdeveloped staff and zero succession options. But at least you’ll have drawers filled with worksheets.