One-size-fits-all — a description that applies to rain ponchos, winter hats, and headphones. But professional development? There’s no singular way to properly classify professional development as the subject is complex and varies by team, company, and industry.

Developing a professional development plan that best benefits your employees requires an awareness of your organization and its unique needs. So where do employers get it wrong? Read on to explore how some companies fail when it comes to approaching these plans that are critical to the long-term success of the organization.

Providing a Customized Approach to Management
According to Harvard Business Review, a 2016 Gallup poll of millennials found that almost 90 percent of respondents valued “career growth and development opportunities,” but less than 40 percent felt strongly that they had “learned something new on the job in the past 30 days.” That same poll found that managers are critical to the experiences that younger employees have at work, accounting for “at least 70 percent of the variance in engagement scores.” One of the most critical responsibilities of managers is to help their direct reports develop professionally and set them up for long-term career growth. Knowing your employees means knowing what drives and inspires them. It means knowing what tools will help them succeed. Once you’ve identified these needs, you will be better equipped to approach the best professional development plan for your team.

Areas for Potential Failure in Leadership Development Training
Many leadership programs are designed to help develop the soft skills of leaders. These skills typically include (but are not limited to) communication, teamwork, decision-making, problem-solving, empowerment, and empathy. Unfortunately, these are the areas often overlooked when training employees in a one-size-fits-all approach.

Forbes highlighted a McKinsey & Company study that explored the four critical areas that have the potential to fail. These areas are:

• Context: “Assuming that a particular curriculum or leadership viewpoint fits for every company — regardless of size, culture, or current leadership structure — is often the first mistake.”
• Application: “Connect concepts to current events, and tie ideas to action, if you want a leadership program with real impact.”
• Culture: “No leadership training program can truly succeed unless the organization is willing to look beyond these seven words: ‘That’s the way we’ve always done things.'”
• Measuring results: “Without measurement tools in place, there’s no way to know the business impact of your leadership investment.”

What Companies Shouldn’t Do
While many companies feel that their approach is correct, their employee engagement rate might prove otherwise. Training is often seen as an arduous task that interrupts work and productivity. So what should you avoid?

• Basic and boring
Personalize your approach for your team. If management wants to help people excel, they need to make career development more personal, identifying individual people who want to learn new skills and then tailoring that approach accordingly.

• Shorter sessions over a longer period of time
Don’t wear out your team with endless hours of training. Break it up into smaller sessions where they can actually absorb the material. According to BBC, “It breaks up the information given into less intimidating bursts, it gets us back to our desks faster, but most importantly, it allows us to implement the skills we’ve learned. With time between sessions, workers can come back to the next one with questions about what has or hasn’t worked.”

• No follow-up
Training will go out the window without effective follow-up. How do you know if your team enjoyed it? What were their takeaways? Did they find it effective? Communication is key to developing a training program that is sufficient for both you and your time.

• Making time
Not having enough time is one of the easiest excuses to make in any situation and the workplace is no different. But excuses don’t allow for positive change. Find the time. Make the time. There are ways to carve out a few hours for the overall improvement of the company.

How to Fix It
It’s never too late to change your approach toward professional development and grab the reigns of your leadership role. If you see your company falling into any of these habits, recognizing the faults is the biggest step. Once you acknowledge what you are doing wrong, take the necessary steps to make positive changes and improvements.

For more tips and guidance on how to improve your team’s professional development plans to positively impact your company, read here.