Shortly after Mark Rohr joined Celanese we began to discuss our culture. We did surveys, sensing groups and had several global teams work on our vision, mission and values. Ultimately we had consensus and established an “enhanced” set of organizational values. As you walk through the offices and plant sites, you can see these colorful posters hanging on the walls. Our “Employee Growth” is defined as “Make Celanese a rewarding place to work with growth opportunities that allow employees to reach their fullest potential.” But what does that really mean anyway?

From my experience (as an employee and supervisor), here are the fundamental elements that lead to highly-effective employee growth.

  • Employees are our most valuable resource, and like any other asset, we need to invest in them to stay one step ahead of our competition.
  • The employee and supervisor have shared responsibilities in this process (meaning – it’s not 100% the bosses job). See Lori Johnston’s blog on the three levels of employee growth.
  • Supervisors need to take an active, on-going interest in each employee’s development.  Personally, my weekly calendar is divided into one-third operational / tactical stuff; one-third strategic; and one-third employee focused. Too many times, we get so caught up in the operational muck, the employee discussions fall off the plate.  Supervisors need to make the time.
  • Constant feedback and interaction is most important (not just once or twice a year when you complete the required templates).
  • Employees need to constantly assess – “What do I want to be when I grow up.” As the business evolves, and as our personal lives change, so do our aspirations.  Key here is being specific.  Not, “I want to move to a business,” but “I want to be a product line leader in Engineered Materials.”
  • Growth doesn’t have to mean promotion or money. Growth and development in our current role is required as well.  See the story below for more on that.
  • A well thought out employee development plan will lead to growth.

Once you get your mind around the foundational elements, the next step is an employee development plan. These are no different than strategies we do for our businesses.

Key questions for the employee include:

  • Where am I today?
  • Where do I want to be in X years?
  • What external forces are going to occur along the way that I need to consider?

Answers to these questions lead to a “gap analysis” and a list of actions to close those gaps.

There’s also an assessment of job performance, a discussion on what is required to continue to perform at an acceptable level within the role, combined with a discussion around potential. The employee and supervisor then lay out what actions can be taken today while in the current role, via special projects, extended responsibilities, etc., to gain additional experience, enhance behaviors; all designed to ultimately close gaps.  This approach helps us stay competitive in existing roles while at the same time expanding skill sets. When the conversation switches to career aspirations and future roles, the employee needs to articulate: “This is what I want to be when I grow up.” In that discussion, the employee should be specific.

An approach I start with is: “Let’s look at folks who have successfully held those jobs and let’s identify the key experiences, behaviors, and skills required to perform in that role from day 1.” These are the must haves. The second question is: “What can be developed within the role?” These discussions need to be open, honest and can often be tough. I’d love to be a defensive back for the Philadelphia Eagles, but at my size – it ain’t gonna happen.

Here’s a somewhat humorous (and true) story to demonstrate that growth is also required merely to stay competitive in current roles. A lady worked in a doctor’s office for 20 years as an office manager. She retired for approximately 10 years and did not keep up her skills. A decade later she got bored and decided to enter the work force again. On her first interview, the employer asked, “Do you do Windows?”  She responded, “I don’t do them at home, and I will not do them here either. I am an office manager, not a maid.” A cute story that we should relate to ourselves – skills and behaviors, even in current roles, need to be relevant and change over time.

The point of this blog: achieving your full potential starts with ongoing interaction between employee and supervisor, a robust development plan which requires commitment, dedicated time, and if done right, ultimately benefits the employee and the company.