Parks and Recreation and The Secret to Employee Development

Most of us appreciate a smart, and deftly executed character arc. Where the character in focus doesn’t just grow according to the whims and fancies of the writer or the requirements of the plot, but instead goes down a path which is natural and helps them in becoming the best version of themselves. Case in point: April Ludgate from Parks and Recreation. From the snarky intern who couldn’t be bothered to do anything asked of her, to becoming Deputy Director of Animal Control and managing Andy’s burgeoning music career, she definitely came a long way. Her success was in no small measure due to the constant support and motivation provided by her boss, Leslie Knope; or the mentorship given by like-minded Ron Swanson. Who would’ve guessed that a positive work environment helps in individual growth as well?

April Ludgate and Leslie Knope in Parks and Rec. The magic of mentorship.
You can just tell April deeply, DEEPLY values Leslie’s mentorship.
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Individuals in an organisation are the most vital resource and must be valued, developed and retained. Each employee in their own way contributes towards the success or failure of an organisation. Whether you’re a conscientious worker like Ben Wyatt or a hustler/troublemaker like Tom Haverford, the environment you work in and the opportunities that it provides have an indelible impact on your growth and productivity. Businesses exist to grow and develop, and the same holds true for the employees. Organisations that pay attention to employee development are better prepared to achieve organisational development. It is important that plans are customised to address the gaps and draw upon the strengths of distinct individuals and groups, as it would contribute to making them more efficient and effective. Consistent up-skilling and development, then, forms the backbone of a lasting institution. Here are some of the ways this can be put into practice:

Appreciate Them. Simple as That

The simplest words of encouragement and appreciation can have a significant impact on any employee’s morale, self-esteem and internal drive. This aspect is best illustrated by Leslie’s plentiful, way-too descriptive and undeniably imaginative words of appreciation directed at her best friend Ann Perkins.

Leslie praising and appreciating Ann
The sheer positivity. It’s overpowering!
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Improve Cross-Functional Collaboration

Encouraging cross-functional collaboration can have a huge positive impact on your overall organisation. When every single team works in complete unison, it has overall benefits for the company. Each and every one of them is an important cog in the company’s machine, so they should be encouraged to work together as such. Establishing goal alignment, clear communication channels, project owners and escalation POCs can help create a solid foundation for collaboration across companies, both large and small. There was no insularity in Pawnee’s parks and recreation department, and while the collaboration might have been inspired by a certain level of nosiness on Leslie’s part, it helped the team reach and exceed their goals.

Encourage Both Mentoring and Coaching

Employees need to be mentored as well. They don’t want to be simply told what to do, but rather have someone who can guide them and ultimately make them capable of making important decisions on their own. This is true more so during the first 3-6 months when new employees are still developing their confidence and getting a firm grip on their deliverables. Not only can this kind of care inspire loyalty in employees and make them feel a connection to their jobs, but can also greatly improve their skills, which is essentially the primary reason behind coaching and mentoring. Providing support and sharing knowledge contributes greatly to employee growth and performance. Ron Swanson’s nonchalance might have influenced April to take some not-so-savoury decisions initially, but he helped her realise what it is she is good at and where her heart lies. She went on to grow from being his secretary to managing her own department.

Ron Swanson might not go down in history for his customer support skills, but he sure made for a supporting mentor!
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Help Your Employees With Personal Development

Personal development of employees is just as significant as the development of their technical skills. Improvement on the personal level has a direct impact on the professional level. Make efforts to accommodate employees’ personal commitments, honour their decision to take a break, support their desire to learn/attend relevant seminars or industry events, to name a few. The support of his colleagues inspired Tom Haverford through his several ups and downs including the highly questionable cash-negative business Rent-A-Swag, before he finally found success with his restaurants.

While every employee’s life may not be as colourful and dysfunctional as that of the characters of Parks and Recreation, all of them will relate to the advantages that an environment that enables constant development provides.

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