Blog post author, Karen Seketa, is the Communications Director for IndySHRM.  When she is not working on IndySHRM brand initiatives, Karen works as the Director of Government Services at That’s Good HR, Inc.  Karen has over 20 years of staffing industry experience and many of those years include participation in one way or another with our local SHRM chapter.  Karen is a graduate of DePauw University and holds her SPHR and CSP certifications

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Let me start with a plug for our local SHRM organization, IndySHRM. If you are not yet a member and you are a local HR professional in any capacity at all, this is a network of people and resources that you need to engage. OK, end of commercial.

Recently I attended one of the several monthly program offerings that IndySHRM has on the agenda for 2011. The speaker, much to my excitement, was China Gorman. China was the COO for the Society of Human Resource Management for several years and is a known expert as a Global Business Leader. Her topic was focused on employee engagement and this was one of those sessions that really gets you thinking.

It seems that more often than not, I walk away from presentations like this one, where they showcase an awesome company (like Zappos) who do awesome things and you are all pumped up to do things exactly the same way….but then reality hits and you end up simply feeling deflated and defeated when you realize you do not yet have the same power and influence as, say Tony H., CEO of Zappos.

This time, however, China’s presentation really got me thinking about how folks like me can take the cool example of a company like Zappos and apply it in a realistic fashion to our business at hand.  The timing on this one was perfect, as we all know that this is the typical time of year for performance evaluations and the creation of development plans for the coming year.  There are all kinds of great studies, stats and stories about employee engagement from resources such as Gallup, BlessingWhite and as China suggested, Dilbert. The sheer amount of information out there on this topic is overwhelming and would intimidate even….well, me. You have to boil it down to what is most relevant to your customer needs and your employee needs and how to best engage your employee to meet and exceed those customer needs.

For example, for a small locally owned and operated Indianapolis staffing company like That’s Good HR, we have neither the time nor the financial resources to engage an outside consultant to help us work through all of the fine details of how to engage our small workforce. The cool part about being small, however, is that as long as you are keeping your finger on the pulse of what is going on around you with your staff and your customers, you likely have a good idea of where you stand and what needs to be done.

This is where the critical part comes in. Take this information that is at your fingertips and do nothing with it and you fail…you fall out of the boat, no life raft. Take this information and expand upon it in a useful forum with each staff member and custom design a development plan for each person based on this and you win. Sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Well, it is. A development plan does not have to be (and should not be) complicated. It can and should be 1 page, focused on the strengths and interests of the individual and how they can be best applied to the goals and the mission of the organization.

Development plans…what a concept. So often we stop with the performance evaluation. A look at the PAST, not the future. What you DID do right or wrong, not what you WANT to do better in the future. In my opinion, if you have to choose, dump the performance evaluation and create a development plan the incorporates the strengths demonstrated in the previous year.  Engage your employees by knowing them and listening to them well enough to be able to create opportunities for development that are custom to them.  Give it a try and if I am wrong on this one, drop me a line and tell me about it.