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A guide for effective development discussions

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Comprehensive feedback is important. Nevertheless, most employees hardly ever receive clear feedback in their day-to-day work. This is a big mistake - because managers can give employees feedback on their work, identify potential for improvement and drive the development of individual employees with a so-called development review.

In this way, a development review fulfills several functions at once: 

  • It enables targeted individual advancement of employees,
  • it promotes constructive exchange between managers and employees,
  • it enables reflection on working methods and identifies opportunities for optimization.

The development conversation - a definition

The development discussion is a special form of employee discussion between the manager and the employee. The focus of such a discussion is on two points: 

  1. The professional development of the employee within the last time,
  2. The further development of personal and professional potential.

But a development discussion does not end after one round of talks. It is much more the basis for further cooperation. What is addressed in a development discussion must be consistently pursued and implemented. This means that development discussions must be continued on an ongoing basis.

In concrete terms, this means that after the discussion is before the discussion. This is the only way to ensure constant further development of the employee concerned.

Why should companies hold promotion talks?

Promotion discussions are a good occasion for praising good performance. But they should also be used by managers to express criticism. If this is done in a factual and supportive manner, employees are usually willing to adjust their behavior accordingly.

After all, employees who receive praise as well as criticism are much more cooperative and open to change. In this way, a promotion discussion can lead to individual improvements for individual employees and benefits the company in equal measure.

In addition, by establishing personnel development discussions, companies demonstrate that they are acting in a particularly employee- and future-oriented manner. Companies that integrate development discussions into their employer branding show applicants that they are interested in long-term cooperation and the personal development of their employees.

This makes the company an attractive employer and leads to greater persuasiveness in the war for talent.

Advantages of a development interview for the company

A promotion interview brings benefits for both companies and employees. Companies can benefit from the following positive effects: 

  • Better working atmosphere: when employees feel that their opinion counts and that the company is open to their ideas and innovations, they feel valued. This appreciation automatically leads to a better working atmosphere. Employees' willingness to cooperate and perform increases.
  • Higher efficiency: When managers recognize and promote an employee's potential, his or her performance can be improved. The goal should always be to build on strengths and expand competencies. This is the key to permanently higher efficiency in the company.
  • Clear leadership and shaping: Through targeted support of employees by the boss and managers, a shaping of the employee can be achieved. Development prospects should be created, support offered and employees steered in a certain direction. This leads to targeted leadership and systematic development of employees, from which the company also benefits.

Conversations between employees and managers are designed to increase overall job satisfaction. This has a direct impact on the company's productivity. Thus, personnel development and the implementation of such discussions is an important building block for achieving all corporate goals.

That is why the development discussion is also one of the most important management tasks of bosses and supervisors.

Employee development reviews as a win-win for employees

In principle, the development discussion with a manager gives employees the opportunity to receive a concrete assessment of their performance and to find starting points that can be improved.

New and young employees who have received little or no feedback so far can benefit from this. If managers offer approaches to solutions and a concrete opportunity for improvement, employees can act appropriately.

Concrete tips and suggestions for change can include training, continuing education or seminars. All measures should always be in line with the employee's goals as well as the company's goals.

This means in detail: If an employee wants to develop further, it is the task of the manager to grant him this opportunity and to offer appropriate solutions. In doing so, a development opportunity should be found that explicitly fits the employee's job, workplace, and daily tasks and functions.

Thus, such discussions between the boss and the employee help in finding fault and are key to future development that is in the interest of both parties. It is therefore a win-win situation for each side.

How often should you have development conversations?

The exact rhythm of such discussions should be determined on an individual basis. Depending on the situation and measures, very different intervals may be appropriate. As a rule, the following intervals apply:

  • Long-term training and seminars: Renewed discussion after 6 or 12 months
  • Coaching, workshops and other short topics: Renewed discussion after a few months

As a rule, supervisors should give employees sufficient time to internalize what they have learned and implement it in their daily work. After all, development takes time and takes place in phases - external pressure can be a hindrance.

How should performance reviews work? - Guideline for effective employee reviews

The key to leadership is communication - and this should take place at different levels and in different forms. An employee development review should always have the following goals:

  1. Focus on an employee's career opportunities,
  2. Identify concrete development options.

To achieve this, detailed preparation is required. This preparation should be carried out both on the part of the employee and on the part of the company. A guideline is particularly useful for this.

Such a schedule enables employees to be given sufficient lead time and to prepare themselves perfectly.

Important: In the following, we offer a typical guideline that can provide important pointers for a concrete procedure.

However, our guide should not be used as a checklist that can be worked through point by point. Rather, it serves as a rough guide and assistance.

1. Preparation

In order to prepare for the interview in the best possible way, all parties involved should ask themselves certain questions. These help to gain a critical self-assessment and a good understanding of the current situation. The following questions can help here: 

  • How do I assess the performance I have achieved?
  • What are currently important tasks?
  • In which tasks has the best performance been achieved?
  • What contribution does the employee's work make to the company's success?
  • In which areas are there development opportunities?
  • To what extent can the responsible manager help with development?
  • What career should be pursued?

Our tip: Of course, such conversations should always be held in private, away from the team and colleagues. Disturbances caused by smartphones, telephones and the like should be avoided at all costs during the conversation.

In addition, a particularly open and trustworthy atmosphere can help to make the conversation effective.

2. During the conversation

During the conversation, it is not uncommon for completely unexpected turns to occur. Both parties should be prepared for this as well.

Managers and employees should always keep a cool head, remain calm and open-minded. Otherwise, the following points should be discussed during the conversation:

  • Current situation: first of all, the current situation should be addressed. For this purpose, managers can provide the employee with a checklist of all tasks and comment directly on them. The employee's current role and function should be taken into account and both positive and less pleasant aspects should be highlighted. In addition, this step is about identifying the employee's strengths and weaknesses.
  • Goals: To set precise goals, managers should know and discuss the values, interests and motivation of the employee in question. Then, it is important to agree on short-, medium- and long-term professional goals.
  • Options: When it comes to the employee's opportunities and options, managers and employees can conduct a current-target analysis and then identify suitable development opportunities. These should always be aligned with the specific goal and ideally fit the employee's upcoming tasks and projects.
  • Procedure: In the final step, it is important to record everything. In addition to an interview protocol, a concrete schedule can also help here. Fixed dates and times can be set. In addition, the manager's role in the process and what is expected of the employee concerned are specified in detail.

3. After the employee interview

The weeks following the appraisal interview are just as crucial. During these weeks, it is important to check whether the agreements discussed are being adhered to and whether the employee concerned is sticking to the agreed targets. Managers should take a close look and ask the employee again if necessary.

Equally important is the long-term motivation of employees. In other words, no pressure should be exerted, but rather reference should be made to prospects and opportunities for development.

What makes for good employee reviews? - Dos and Don'ts

In order for an appraisal interview to be successful, certain rules should be followed. Enclosed you will find checklists with the most important dos and don'ts:

Dos of an employee interview

  • Prepare the development discussion in a structured and careful manner,
  • set clearly formulated goals,
  • allow for sufficient time buffers,
  • respectful and appreciative communication,
  • focus on the employee's success, competencies and strengths,
  • listen attentively on a permanent basis,
  • create a pleasant environment,
  • pay attention to a positive tone,
  • Follow up the feedback meeting well,
  • mention possibilities for advancement,
  • ask open questions,
  • during the interview make a protocol with all details.

Don'ts of an employee interview

  • Going into the conversation spontaneously and unprepared,
  • disrespectful and impolite treatment of the interlocutor,
  • personal criticism and destructive feedback,
  • prescribing rules unilaterally,
  • not making clear statements,
  • not giving the person involved the opportunity to speak out
  • non-transparent statements,
  • conducting a monologue instead of a dialogue
  • not giving clear feedback,
  • the presence of other team colleagues (no privacy).

Conclusion: Opportunities for employers and employees

Employee appraisals are a welcome opportunity for employers and employees. They help employees to identify and fully exploit development potential. This gives employees the chance to pursue targeted training and tinker with their careers.

But companies also benefit from regular employee reviews. They have the opportunity to "shape" employees and at the same time can increase employee satisfaction. This increases the company's productivity and ensures a high level of employee loyalty in the long term.

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