Personal development goals for work


 — March 4th, 2021

Personal development goals for work

One of the popular trends in industry is that companies should make it a priority to support the personal growth of their workforce. The competitive labor market, the risk of churn, and the need to retain the knowledge of valued staff are all good reasons to support team members’ personal development goals, but the results can also be surprisingly good for business.

Perhaps one of the best examples comes from Google Inc. Early on in the company’s history, it made a pledge to allow staff 20 percent of their work time to set personal development goals and self-driven projects.

In Google’s case, given the nature of the business, most of those goals were focused on software applications. Gmail was the outcome of one such self-driven project created by a staffer in the company; a project which ultimately helped with wider strategic organizational objectives and achieved 1.25 billion users by July 2017.

This highlights the importance of giving employees control of their own key areas of development, whether professionally or personally. Empowering staff in goal setting ensures that they feel actively engaged and not simply another cog in the corporate machine. Numerous studies suggest that an individual sense of control within the workplace leads to a variety of positive factors, such as job satisfaction, better work performance, and greater commitment to the organization.

However, long-term personal development goals should not focus exclusively upon wider corporate objectives. Ideally, they should seek to foster professional development. That might be something as simple as learning about current thinking in management skills, to more subtle talents such as how to effectively read the body language of your colleagues.

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Personal Development in action


Employee well-being is closely aligned with personal productivity and performance in the workplace. Something as simple as providing a standing desk was found to have an impact on staff health and the inherent dangers of a sedentary existence.

Time management

There are only so many hours in any workday, thus to be efficient with the time available, developing skills in being able to plan and consciously control how that time is allocated can have a significant effect on personal productivity. This may be as simple as having a daily priority list of tasks or maintaining a ‘zero inbox’ system.


Inter-personal skills can be key to making a group of coworkers an effective and efficient team. This was recognized as far back as 1936 when Dale Carnegie penned the seminal title ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’.


Goal-setting can be a powerful motivational tool both individually and across teams. In Steven Covey’s book ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’, he makes the assertion that a key metric of any goals-oriented individual must be an understanding of the intended destination; ‘begin with the end in mind’.

Setting and achieving personal development goals isn’t just stimulating for the individual; by taking people outside their comfort zone, it creates an atmosphere where accepted convention can continuously be challenged and tested. This allows opportunities for reflection and helps inspire a critical analysis of accepted workplace norms – for the benefit of the whole organization.

And of course, from a personal perspective, participants regularly investing in their personal development, intellectually or physically, benefit from improved employability as they learn to critically analyze their work, those working with them, and, perhaps most crucially, themselves.

Examples of Personal Goals for Work

  • Self-mastery
  • Being grateful for where you are
  • Staying excited for what’s next
  • Celebrating differences
  • Using your team’s differences to your advantage
  • Managing conflicts effectively
  • Becoming a yes person
  • Saying no when necessary
  • Showing humility
  • Modeling a work-life balance
  • Under promise, over deliver
  • Finding your own answers
  • Asking for help
  • Offering help

Examples of development goals for work

  • Identifying and developing a new skill
  • Applying for a new role
  • Learning a new language
  • Making meaningful connections within your industry
  • Reading a new book every month
  • Saying yes to new opportunities
  • Developing healthy habits
  • Being productive with your time
  • Carrying out quarterly career self-reflection
  • Improving your communication skills
  • Embracing a new culture
  • Making new friends
  • Finding a mentor
  • Traveling abroad
  • Joining a club/volunteering

How do I set realistic goals for myself?

Your career goals should be specific

A problem with career goals is that they are often broad and make it difficult to aim towards something specific. Instead of saying that you would love a promotion at work, you should focus on the exact position you have in mind.

Taking the time to sit down and decide all the important details of what you want your career to look like, and what your day-to-day life will entail, will allow you to get much clearer about the particular goals you are working towards.

Your goals should be measurable

In order for a goal to be effective, there needs to exist measurable criteria to highlight the achievement. Without this measurement, it is difficult to determine if the goal was actually a success. If, for example, someone has the goal to increase their income, this is very ambiguous and there is no way to determine what exactly this would look like.

On the other hand, if someone says they want to increase their income by 20 percent, then they have a benchmark that allows them to easily track their progress.

Your goals should be challenging but attainable

When setting career goals, there should be a certain challenge involved and the need to raise the bar and work hard if you want to succeed. If a goal is too easy to reach then there is no room for growth. However, setting goals that are too far-fetched or unattainable will only lead to disappointment.

Set goals that are compatible with your skills and abilities and determine if your current circumstances allow you to pursue this goal. Ask yourself, are there any obstacles in your way? Is there anything you can do to overcome them? Are you willing to learn new skills to meet your goal?

Your goals should motivate you

People too often set career goals that sound good or that they think they should be striving for, instead of goals that truly matter to them. Any goal should be important to you and something that would make you happy if you were to achieve it.

If you set certain goals because others expect you to, then you will lack the motivation to pursue them whole-heartedly. Examine what your priorities are in life and then set goals that align with this. Once you find a goal that is important to you for the right reasons, it will motivate you to keep on pushing forward to achieve it.

Determine how you are going to achieve the goals

To achieve any goal, you must have a strong idea of what you have to do in order to reach it. You should ask questions such as:

  • What skills do you need to learn?
  • How long will it take?
  • How much will it cost?
  • Do you need to make any lifestyle changes?

Assess your commitment

After outlining your goals, you must now determine whether you are committed enough to see them through. This is particularly relevant if the goal you have in mind is a challenging one. You must decide if you are willing to dedicate the time and effort towards achieving it, or to learn any new skills that may be necessary. If you feel you will not be able to provide this level of commitment, then you must revise your goal and set one that you can be fully committed to.

Your goal should be time-bound

It’s very common for people to know what they want to achieve, but they simply do not have a timeline for when they want to achieve it. Not having a timeline in place can make goals less effective and lead to long-term procrastination. If you have no set date in mind, then what is there to motivate you to start working on your goals? Having a deadline holds you accountable. If you do not reach your goal by the date you had planned then it must be deemed a failure. With a deadline in place, it is also easy to break the goal down into smaller parts that need to be achieved every day, week, or month.

Put your career goals in writing

Putting your goals into writing will make them much more real and will inspire commitment and motivation. Having them displayed somewhere you can look at often, such as on your desk, is ideal. When writing out your goals it’s important to use positive language such as ‘I will’ and as opposed to ‘I might.’

It is also useful to visualize what it will look like when you achieve your goals. Research shows that visualization works as a strong motivator and makes people more likely to succeed with their goals.

What are performance goals examples?

Honing creativity – Creativity continues to be of importance to employers. Dedicating time to a new hobby, spending time away from technology, going for walks, or practicing pattern recognition are some examples of ways to improve creativity.

Becoming a complex problem-solver – This remains one of the skills that separate humans from robots. People can improve problem-solving skills through various techniques such as focusing on a solution rather than the problem.

Developing cognitive flexibility – Cognitive flexibility includes having the resilience and ability to cope in the face of unpredictable change. There are different approaches to developing cognitive flexibility such as self-awareness, exercise, and changing routines.

Possessing emotional intelligence - Emotional intelligence involves someone’s ability to process their emotions, in addition to the emotions of those around them. Some ways to improve emotional intelligence include practicing active listening, improving communication skills, and dedicating time to self-reflection.

Improving transdisciplinary skills – Having an understanding of how the various departments of a company align are becoming increasingly more important in business. Ways to improve transdisciplinary skills include organizing knowledge-sharing coffee dates, shadowing colleagues from different departments, and launching company learning events.

Embracing new media and virtual communication – Modern technology is continuously allowing the traditional notion of the workplace to evolve, with a constant increase in the number of remote workers, and the use of various communication apps such as Slack and Zoom. Therefore, it’s important workers familiarize themselves with the various tools and technology available to them within their organization.

Working towards cross-cultural fluency – In today’s globalized world, workers need the ability to communicate across different cultures in order to work collaboratively. Being familiar with one's own culture, along with being respectful and willing to learn about the cultures of others, will make communicating much easier.

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Importance of Personal Development Goals

Goal setting is a vital factor in the workplace. Having clear goals in place will motivate individuals to increase their efforts, provide them with stronger focus, and help them prioritize. If a person does not have a goal to aim for in their work, they will suffer from a lack of motivation and will struggle to achieve any growth in their career. However, with an end goal in sight, projects take on more clarity and meaning. To perform to their highest potential, people need to be striving towards something they feel is important, rewarding, or aligns with their personal values.

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