Best Practices

Quick Tips to Support Your Staff’s Professional Growth:

Here are four actions you can take on a daily basis to encourage your staff’s professional growth:

1. Stay up to date on training opportunities offered at your organization so you can recommend relevant opportunities to your team.

2. Role model professional growth by dedicating time regularly to your own training and development.

3. Set aside time during team meetings for staff who have attended training or conferences to share what they learned with the team.

4. Share as much of your own career path with your team as you feel comfortable sharing.

1. Retention Discussion Guide

This tool helps you understand how individual staff members are feeling about their current job. This can help you better support the staff member—and spot potential retention risks. The more you know about why a staff member might consider leaving the organization, the more proactive and targeted you can be in your efforts to retain themand help them grow.

Manager Time Commitment

To implement: 30 minutes per staff member

Staff Time Commitment

To have the interview: 30 minutes

How to use this tool?

1. Identify which staff members you will have a retention interview with.

You can choose to host retention interviews with all of your team members, or with a subset of staff.
If you have many direct reports, we recommend prioritizing retention interviews with your top performers, especially if you are concerned they might be thinking about leaving the organization.


2. Schedule a 30-minute check-in with individual staff members to conduct the retention interview.

In the meeting invitation, let the staff member know:

a. You’d like to use the time to discuss what the staff member enjoys about their current role and how you and the organization can better support them

b. There’s no need to prepare anything formally in advance

c. The location (ideally, a quiet place)


3. Use the questions on the retention interview guide template (in additional resources) to guide your conversation

To start the conversation, explain:
a. You value the staff member's work and think they add a lot to the team. It's important to you to make sure they feel supported in their role and enjoy their work

b. You'd like to use the time today to hear how things are going and how you could better support them

c. You have a few questions to ask to kick things off


Don’t worry about asking every question included in the Retention Interview Guide—let the conversation flow naturally.

Jot down notes so you can remember details of the conversation later.

If your staff member shares feedback that you can respond to in the moment, feel free to do so. But it’s also perfectly fine to thank the staff member for their feedback and ideas and let them know that you need some time to think it over. This gives you a chance to reflect on the feedback and discuss it with others (such as your supervisor or HR) if needed.


To wrap up the conversation

a. Thank the team member for their time and feedback

b. Review any next steps you've committed to (such as tracking down an answer to a question, scheduling a follow-up conversation, or looking into a specific opportunity)


To take this concept one step further….
If you speak with one of your high-performing team members and they express interest in developing specific skills, consider having a follow-up conversation to build an individual development plan together. For a template to guide the conversation, see the Individual Development Plan Template (in additional resources).


Additional Resources - Retention Interview Guide

Additional Resources - Individual Development Plan Template

2. Stretch Opportunities Picklist

This tool will help you brainstorm opportunities to help your staff develop specific skills and “stretch” beyond their current capabilities. You can use this list as inspiration when you’re working with staff to build a customized individual development plan (IDP).

Manager Time Commitment

15 minutes to customize list 45 minutes per staff member to host IDP discussion

Staff Time Commitment

45 minutes to participate in IDP discussion

How to use this tool?

1. Download picklist of professional growth opportunities to customize.

Visit download an editable version of the picklist (also displayed on the following page). Delete any opportunities that aren’t available for your team.

The picklist is organized by competency and includes commonly available skill development ideas that will help you identify the specific opportunities available at your organization. 

Next, add specific opportunities available at your organization. For example, you can add formal training programs or workshops offered by your organization.

If you’re not sure what’s available, check with your HR department about formal classes or trainings held at the organization or in partnership with local schools. You might also ask about financial support for education or professional growth (e.g., funds to attend a conference or tuition support).

If possible, collect handouts or website links that describe the opportunities. You can keep these handy to share with staff.

When you’re looking for ways to expand and customize the picklist, don’t forget to consider informal opportunities that may be available. For example, are there specific taskforces or projects that a team member could participate in?

2. Work with individual team members to pick opportunities to include in their individual development plan.
Use your customized picklist together with the Individual Development Plan Template to help staff build a customized plan for their professional growth.

When selecting opportunities with staff, consider:

 Which opportunities would help a staff member build on existing strengths?

 Which opportunities would help a staff member build key skills required for success in a future role?

 Which opportunities fit well with a staff member’s interests?

 Which opportunities would fit well with a staff member’s existing commitments? In other words, what do they currently have the time and energy to work on?

Picklist of Professional Growth Options:

1. Building Relationships:

 Invite a peer in another department or an another team to go out for coffee to learn more about their role.

 Serve on a cross-departmental committee or task force.

 Serve as a mentor for a new hire or intern/volunteer (either through a formal mentoring program or informally).

2. Communication:

 Present a new initiative/project at a team meeting.

 Research a trend impacting the health care industry and share your findings at a team meeting.

 Lead a team meeting.

 Facilitate a book club session or Journal Club for peers.

 Write an article for publication (either for an internal publication such as a newsletter, or for an external publication).

 Participate in a public speaking workshop (consider both internal opportunities but also external opportunities, such as a local Toastmasters club).

3. Leadership:

 Conduct an informational interview with a leader to learn more about their role and the experiences they found most helpful to develop their leadership skills.

 Lead a training session on a particular skill or content area for peers.

 Participate on a council or committee in a leadership capacity.

 Act as a mentor for a peer who is struggling with a skill or competency you excel at.

 Identify a department/unit/team improvement opportunity and initiate a process improvement project.

4. Analytical Thinking:

 Identify pros and cons of possible options for a decision and present to your supervisor with a recommended course of action.

 Identify an improvement opportunity and conduct a root cause analysis to understand what’s driving the problem. Share your results with your supervisor.

5. Industry Knowledge:

 Sign up for a regular digest of health care news (such as the Advisory Board’s Daily Briefing email) to keep up with industry trends.

 Invite a more experienced colleague out for coffee and ask them to share how they stay up-to-date on industry trends.

 Attend a web-conference on a topic relevant to your work and discuss the content with your supervisor.

 Ask your supervisor for recommended books or articles to read.

 Attend an open board meeting.

6. Customer Service:

 Ask your supervisor to share your team’s HCAHPS patient satisfaction data or internal customer satisfaction data. Discuss the strengths and areas of opportunity identified in the data with your supervisor.

 Put yourself in the shoes of a typical patient or customer and walk through their typical interactions with your team. Look for improvement opportunities and share them with your supervisor.

 Shadow an experienced colleague rounding on patients or customers.

 Round on patients or customers and share collected feedback with your team.

Additional Resources - Picklist of professional growth options

3. Individual Development Plan

This tool helps you work with individual staff members to outline a plan for their continued growth and development. Building a development plan with staff shows them you’re invested in their career and encourages staff to feel a sense of ownership for their own growth.

Manager Time Commitment

To implement: 45 minutes per staff member To review progress and update plan: 30 minutes periodically (at least once per year) per staff member

Staff Time Commitment

To complete Individual Development Plan: 45 minutes To review progress and update plan: 30 minutes periodically (at least once per year)

How to use this tool?

1. Select staff members to complete an Individual Development Plan (IDP).

There are two schools of thought regarding who should complete an IDP:

1. One philosophy is every staff member should have an IDP to focus their (and their manager’s) efforts on specific development objectives.

2. Another philosophy is managers should reserve IDPs for staff who have a demonstrated interest in self-development. If you have five or fewer direct reports, we recommend completing an IDP with every staff member.

If you have more than five direct reports, we recommend prioritizing IDPs for staff who have at least six months of tenure and meet at least one of the following criteria:

 Staff who have expressed interest in growing

 Top-performing staff who have high potential to advance

 Top-performing staff who are a retention risk 

2. Schedule a 45-minute check-in with individual staff members to develop an IDP.

In the meeting invitation, let the staff member know:

 You’d like to use the time to discuss what the staff member enjoys about their current role and skills they’d like to further develop

 There’s no need to prepare anything formally in advance, but you’d like them to come with thoughts about specific strengths they’d like to use more often or skills they’d like to develop

 The location (ideally, a quiet place)

3. Complete the IDP template together during the one-on-one meeting.

Start the meeting by reiterating the purpose of the conversation: it’s a chance to discuss what the staff member enjoys about their current role (and would like to spend more time on) and skills they’d like to further develop.

Explain that an IDP can help both the staff member and you as their manager track progress against the staff member’s goals.

Discuss the different components to the IDP and work together to fill out each section.

Personal Development Objective: This is the goal(s) that the staff member wants to achieve.

To identify potential development objectives, ask the staff member:

• What do you enjoy most about your job today? Are there strengths you’d like to spend time further developing?

• Are there specific skills you’d like to develop that would make your current job easier?

• Are there specific skills you’d like to develop to prepare for a future role? Also think about the individual’s performance evaluation and common feedback from peers or others: What strengths does this staff member have? What areas can they further develop?

Examples of personal development objectives:

• Deepen understanding of the health care business

• Improve presentation skills

• Mentor less-experienced staff

Actions: These are the specific actions the staff member will take to reach their development objectives. The more specific the action step, the better! 

Timeline: Give each action a deadline. You can use specific dates (e.g., July 30) or more general milestones (e.g., “Complete by end of the second quarter” or “Before the end of the year”).

Resources/Support: Identify tools, trainings, or people who can help the staff member achieve their objective.

Metrics: For each of the action items, identify a way you can measure when the staff member has completed it. You might use a process-based metric (for example, completing a training class, or successfully leading two meetings) or an outcomes-based metric (for example, earning a specific score on a competency test).

4. Hold periodic check-ins with staff members to revisit and update IDPs.

Ideally, you should meet with staff to discuss progress on their IDP once a quarter or once every six months. You can set aside a few minutes at the end of a regular check-in to discuss the IDP.

At a minimum, meet with each staff member once per year to discuss progress and update the IDP.

When you check in with staff, ask if they have the resources and support they need to achieve their development goals. If not, what are the barriers? How can you solve or work around them? 

Review the objectives and actions to see if any need to be changed to reflect new priorities or opportunities.

Additional Resources - Individual Development Plan

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