Many companies make the mistake of focusing solely on professional development. Of course, these organizations are miles ahead of those with no learning and development initiatives in place. But they could be doing better.
To maximize employee success, design a personal development process that encourages workers to build career skills plus achieve their personal goals.
Designing a personal development process is simple. Here are some pointers to guide you:
Personal development starts at the top.
If you don’t already think of your company as a learning organization, it’s time to shift your mindset. The senior leadership team must set the right example by modeling the behaviors they want to see. For example, at The Predictive Index®, our executives talk about their personal development journeys openly and regularly—sometimes at all-company meetings.
When senior leaders communicate their goals, hold themselves accountable, and demonstrate how they’re developing, employees are more likely to follow suit. They’ll be inspired to double down on their self-improvement efforts because growth becomes part of the company culture.
Templates are your friend.
There are tons of free personal development templates available online. Managers should be encouraged to use whatever template they like best. We use two on the marketing team here at PI.
The first template is a comprehensive list of 22 questions designed to get employees thinking about different avenues for improving themselves professionally and personally. Questions include:
- What areas of the company do you feel less knowledgeable about?
- How can you adapt your behaviors to better support your team?
- List the core responsibilities of your role and rate yourself on each using a scale of 1-5.
- Are there any certifications or courses that would help you reach your career goals?
- What meet-up groups or local associations could you join to build your network?
- Do you have financial goals (e.g., buy a house, max out 401k contributions)?
- What activities outside work will improve your quality of life (e.g., running, attending church, meditating, playing in a band)?
During their initial personal development meetings, employees work down the list. After various possibilities have been explored, they identify at least one item from each section they’d like to tackle over the next year.
The second template is a simple one; it lists six aspects of life. Employees type at least one goal under each category name. Categories include:
- Health and fitness
Employees update this doc regularly and managers check it monthly to keep a pulse on how their people are progressing—and to hold them accountable.
You might be surprised to see categories like “relationships” and “fun” listed, but for some employees, these are areas in need of critical attention. I have a co-worker who schedules two coffee dates per month to ensure she’s staying connected to the people she cares about. And I have a goal to “invite friends to dinner” twice a month.
Free Resource: Access 50+ HR templates to streamline your HR processes.
Keep goals S.M.A.R.T.
Big goals are less intimidating when they’re broken up into chunks. After all, you wouldn’t go run a marathon with zero training—you’d start by running a mile, and then maybe a 5K. That’s because achieving small goals feels good, and it motivates you to keep going. Before you know it, you’ve crossed that big goal off your list.
Managers should encourage their people to write S.M.A.R.T. goals. The acronym stands for:
Let’s say you have an employee who wants to save $20K for a down payment on a house. Rather than scrimp and save every last penny—and be miserable—S.M.A.R.T. goals would help them save in a more reasonable way. For example, one component of the larger goal might be to stop buying lunch during the workweek for a savings of $2,500 by the end of the year.
Read Next: 3 Ways to Make Your HR Team More Productive
Tailor coaching to employee personality.
There are four key factors that determine employee workplace behavior:
Dominance: The drive to exert influence on people or events
Extraversion: The drive for social interaction with other people
Patience: The drive to have consistency and stability
Formality: The drive to conform to rules and structure
Everyone has some combination of all four drives. Employers who measure and analyze their employees’ behavioral data can tailor the way they coach, motivate, and delegate.
What does this look like in practice? Let’s say you have two employees with the same personal development goal: to get promoted to management. Employee A is highly dominant, while Employee B is not dominant at all. You might help Employee A work toward the goal by helping them find a cross-functional project they can lead. You might help Employee B work toward the goal by coaching them to speak up more during meetings to influence others.
The many benefits of putting a personal development process in place.
The 2019 People Manager Report found that employees who feel psychologically safe at work are less likely to quit. Meeting regularly to discuss personal development builds trust between employees and their managers—and that means less turnover. Also, having a solid personal development process in place is a tool to land top-tier, in-demand candidates who are motivated to grow and develop skills that will help them move up the ladder.
About the Author
Erin Balsa heads up content marketing at The Predictive Index, the leading talent optimization platform. When she’s not helping business leaders learn to harness the power of people data, she’s running after her two preschoolers. Find her on LinkedIn (where she’s lucky enough to be the only Erin Balsa) or on Twitter. @ErinBalsa