Talent Management

Employee development levels according to the Hersey-Blanchard model

employee development levels

Every employee is different, so a leader’s approach should also be tailored to each individual. But how do you do it when you manage, let’s say, 30 employees? Below, we present 4 levels of employee development according to the Hersey-Blanchard model, as well as the tools to classify employees into the right group, adjust the way we act, and measure the effects of our efforts.

What is the Hersey-Blanchard model?

It is a situational leadership model developed by Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard that focuses heavily on individual team members’ abilities and willingness to act. The basic premise of the model is to adapt management style to a given situation based on the development level of an employee (referred to as “follower” in the model). 

The level of development consists of competencies (including knowledge, skills, experience) and commitment (motivation, perseverance).

Depending on what level of commitment and competence a person demonstrates, we can classify them into one of four groups.

R1: High commitment, low competence

The employee is motivated to perform the task, but cannot complete it due to insufficient competence or lack of confidence. Often seen in new employees who want to impress leaders.

R2: Low commitment, low competence

The employee has difficulty completing the task due to low competence and lack of motivation to perform.  Sometimes it is related to the awareness of how much there is still to learn in a given area.

R3: Low commitment, high competence

The employee is able to perform the task, but lacks motivation, is bored with the task, or does not feel confident enough and needs support from the leader.

R4: High commitment, high competence

The employee is able and willing to perform the task and take responsibility for it.

It is worth emphasizing that the level of development should always be assessed in the context of specific tasks assigned to the employee.

How do you determine employee development levels?

In order to determine the level of development of an employee, we need to answer the questions such as: to what extent the person is confident, motivated and committed to certain tasks. 

It largely depends on the situation in which the employee finds themselves. For this reason, the assessment should be based on the manager’s observation to a large extent. 

It is worth using additional tools for this purpose, such as periodic 90 Degree Appraisal of an employee (where the employee is only subject to the supervisor’s assessment) or 180 Degree Appraisal, which also takes into account the employee’s self-assessment.  

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Another way is to use engagement surveys or “pulse check” surveys, which are used to determine to what extent our employees are engaged in their duties at a given moment.

In the long run, it is also worth observing the changing performance in the organization, which, after all, is also affected by employee engagement.  

How do you adapt your leadership style in order to support employee development and enhance performance?

Once you’ve classified an employee into a given group, it’s time to adopt the right leadership style.

Employee development levelLeadership style
R1: high commitment, low competenceS1: instructing
R2: low commitment, low competenceS2: consulting / coaching
R3: low commitment, high competenceS3: supporting
R4:  high commitment, high competenceS4: delegating

S1: instructing

R1 employees, with high commitment and low competence, do not know how to carry out the task. Therefore, it is the task you should focus on. It may be necessary to provide detailed instructions for its execution, as well as to provide appropriate task-related support. What may turn out particularly beneficial for these employees is the provision of knowledge bases. This ensures a free flow of knowledge between employees. 

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S2: consulting / coaching

For employees from the R2 group, with low commitment and low competence. Here, we focus not only on the task but also on the relationships. Employees in this group, in addition to task-related support, need a boost to their motivation and self-confidence. 

S3: supporting

Applied in the case of employees with high competence and low commitment. With these employees, we focus on relationships more. It is good to be open to discussion and the employee’s ideas, as well as provide the opportunity to test these ideas, while gradually handing over responsibility. 

S4: delegating

For an employee who is highly competent and highly committed, it is often enough to indicate the goal we want to achieve, and then allow them to independently come up with a way to achieve it. At the same time, it is worth recognizing their achievements and emphasizing their contribution in, and importance to, the company. 

How do you measure the effects?

To assess whether our actions are effective, we need to measure the results. For this purpose, it is worth using, for example, periodic evaluations again and comparing them with the previous result. In addition, we can measure the productivity of the entire team and see how it changes over time by means of applying, for example, project-specific KPIs

Applying the Hersey-Blanchard model can be challenging. It requires time to get to know each team member and classify them into the right group. On the other hand, by identifying employee development levels and applying situational leadership, we can take better care of development, have more control over talent retention in the company as well as increase team effectiveness, which ensures a measurable effect.

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