"Tracey’s Takeaways" is a new feature focusing on employee development, management issues, leadership and organizational culture.

As summer turns the corner, I like to take time to pause and reflect on the accomplishments of the year-to-date and make needed adjustments for the remainder of the year. It's also the time when I meet with my direct reports for our mid-year check-in. I have to confess that I can be a bit too focused on the work, however, and not enough on people in these check-in conversations. Does that ring true for you?

As you engage in your own mid-year musings, I encourage you to spend time not only thinking and asking about what you're checking off the to-do list, but also how you are developing yourself and your team.

Why is this important? Co-op employees want to learn and grow. Specifically, 89% of cooperative employees told us in a recent survey* that they value opportunities to participate in education and training.

Your personal engagement in your staff's development matters, too. When we asked about the level of engagement or support from their managers, 59% of co-op staff reported that their supervisors were "very" supportive and engaged and 37% said their supervisor was "somewhat" supportive and engaged. (In our survey, we described a supervisor being supportive and engaged as doing things like encouraging participation and making recommendations for professional development programs.)

Here are three things you can ask yourself to ensure that your mid-year reflections are people and development focused:

  1. In check-in conversations with my staff, am I asking questions that probe what they are learning and not just what they have gotten done?
  2. Am I showing my support for staff's professional development by:
    • Encouraging or even suggesting their participation in a specific education program?
    • Assigning a 'stretch' assignment to give an employee the chance to flex new skills?
    • Asking what they are reading, industry leaders they are following on social media, podcasts they are listening to, etc.?
    • And am I modeling the behavior that I want to see by making time for myself to participate in professional development activities?
  3. As budget season rolls around, is our co-op budgeting appropriately for staff professional development?** (68% of survey respondents tell us they set a staff education budget while about 30% handle education participation requests on a case-by-case basis)

*A big thank you to the more than 1,200 co-op staff and leaders who responded to our recent online survey about NRECA education programs conducted by our consulting firm, Tagoras.

**Our rate cards for NRECA conferences & meetings, on-site programs and executive education at our Madison, Wisconsin, location are a great resource to help you plan your co-op's 2019 professional development investment.

Tracey Steiner is NRECA's senior vice president for education and training. Her 25-year career at NRECA has spanned a variety of roles starting in communications and marketing positions then 15 years as an attorney focusing on cooperative governance and public policy issues before moving to Education & Training in 2012.