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 body language of your colleagues.
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.
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.