Employee development planning is widely considered a vital part of business survival strategies. But whose responsibility is a career plan for development, the individual, the manager, or both?

 The perception of whose responsibility it is presents a constant struggle for employers and employees. Naturally, every person has a responsibility towards their own growth to actively engage in a career. Who better knows the aspirations, inspirations, and values of individuals than themselves?

“Sadly, the vast majority of employees do not take responsibility for their own development,” says Doreen Nixon, human resources director of Sandoz, the generic pharmaceuticals division of the Novartis Group.

Nixon elaborates, “In order for individuals to have realistic chances at maximising their potential and achieving their goals, they must first become crystal clear in what their needs and goals are, and design a detailed map on how to get there. If employees can’t match their own goals to the organisations needs, then frustration and low performance will result.”

No amount of direction, ambition, or planning by any employee can lead to success without the support and guidance from the manager and the organisation they work for. “Therefore, it’s the responsibility of the manager to understand each employee’s vision, to channel their inherent talents into realistic applications, and to find avenues that best capitalise on the individual’s abilities, strengths and passions in the context of the organisation’s best interests,” Nixon says.

Managers must also state clearly what they need from their employees. If managers share information about the organisation’s direction and can translate that direction into each individual’s expectations, then they provide a focused framework in which employees can best support the firm in achieving its goals.

Sandoz is a global leader in the rapidly growing generics industry. It develops and manufactures a wide range of composite medicines, ranging from complex delivery systems for standard generics through to modern biopharmaceutical medicines.

“Filling such an important role in global markets means Sandoz’s operations depend greatly on the capability, performance and dedication of each employee,” says Nixon. “That’s why we support each employee in advancing their development and career opportunities through creative initiatives, talent-review processes and learning programs.”

With the opportunities organisations provide for their workforce, employees ought to take charge of their own career development. Nixon points out, “They should share their future plans with a trusted manager or mentor within the company, let them know what areas they would like to improve on, and request support in the specific growth areas identified.”

Sandoz has a transparent talent development process which ensures its employees remain competitive in the marketplace. Nixon explains, “All of our learning and development activities take place in a local, regional or global context, and are supported by a strong collaboration in knowledge exchange and best practices within the Novartis group.”

Nixon points out most employees have the misconception that they have to be promoted in order to develop, “Employees need to understand they can also grow horizontally and still realise personal growth, just into a different direction. Career development is not only promotion, but also becoming an expert in any one field.”

Skill shortages in certain fields remain a challenge across all sectors in South Africa. “At Sandoz, we have a huge shortage of regulatory pharmacists who can compile dossiers for new product registrations at medical councils.” Nixon adds that professional product managers to launch new products, good CFO’s and qualified CAs are also hard to find.

Sharp employees know the key to long-term success is founded more in maintaining sharp skills than in demonstrating loyalty to the firm. “This is one of many organisational challenges,” agrees Nixon. “We often employ juniors and train them in the areas where we need development. But if any of the areas they operate in are dysfunctional, we stand the risk of losing them to a better offer from another company.”

Nixon says the best way to combat this is to deploy an effective retention strategy that keeps people engaged, “It’s not always about money, each employee is motivated differently. That’s why managers should have a close understanding of each employee’s personal preferences and needs.”

“A key element in building a winning culture is providing an environment where employees are recognised for their performances, and provided with continuous feedback from managers on where to improve,” concludes Nixon.

“At Sandoz, we foster a culture where employees feel an inherent responsibility to grow, and also contribute to the growth of their colleagues in alignment with the company’s values and behaviours.”