Segmenting Employees is the Key to Effective Talent Development

For most managers and supervisors, the link between an employee’s performance management and development is easy to understand on paper. Normally, the connection occurs naturally. During a performance appraisal (one of several you SHOULD be having throughout the year, right???), you and your employee work together to highlight strengths and determine where development is needed. This helps your employee meet the needs of their job. It’s where the connection between performance, training and development happens.

But while some managers can draw a diagram illustrating the textbook appraisal and its outcomes, in practice these managers do a poor job developing their employees. It’s not necessarily because they’re doing something wrong, but because the process is far harder than it looks. The key to solving roadblocks is to understand why they happen, realizing that it is a tough process and working on them to achieve better results.

It often happens because managers approach development discussions with a ‘one size fits all’ mentality. They assume that all employees think and respond in the same way, which makes the task harder than it needs to be. To overcome this they need to segment the employee population, just like a marketer would segment the customer population. Doing this will allow them to design a better approach, appropriate to the type of employee in each segment.

There are four key segments into which employees fall:

The experienced employee

Every employee has skills he or she wants to develop, but for the veteran employee there is less need for a formal discussion about them. Imagine trying to have a formal development discussion with someone who’s been at the company for ten years longer than you; it would feel a bit awkward. For the veteran employee, you shouldn’t be expected to come up with a development plan. Rather, you check in with them occasionally and ask, “Are you still happy and is there anything different you’d like to do?” It’s important to touch base, but there is no need to push this too hard or it may appear patronizing. Just test the waters on a regular basis and make sure the employee knows they haven’t been forgotten.

The new employee

When someone in HR or talent management describes the ‘perfect’ development discussion, they usually have this employee in mind. This employee is ideally placed to engage with their manager in detailed discussion about their ambitions, strengths and weaknesses and development potential at the company. Note that “new” doesn’t necessarily mean “young”. Age normally isn’t the sole factor with these employees unless they’ll be hitting retirement age within the next ten years.

The critical employee

For those employees with great potential, the development discussion takes on an even greater importance—you don’t want to lose these staff members. Extra time should be spent creating a detailed development plan with them and it should be revisited regularly—not just on an annual basis. Invest time in making sure potential superstar employees are happy and feel supported, or risk losing them to a competitor.

The problem employee 

This conversation must be managed in a very different way than the others. Where performance issues are a problem, there’s no point in sending them to training. It would be a waste of time and money. Instead, you need to invest your time in one-on-one coaching and work closely with them until progress is made. While you might be reluctant to spend that much of your precious time doing this, you owe it to the employee and the company to at least make an attempt. Besides, when it works, there’s no better feeling for a manager. And, if it doesn’t work, you can point to the steps you took to help the employee if termination becomes your only option.

When segmenting your staff, you may want to break this down even further depending on the makeup of your company. The important thing is to resist that ‘one size fits all’ attitude. It may be the clean, easy option, but sometimes the messier approach, where managers consciously segment the employee population, can save time and prove more effective and lucrative in the long run.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.