Often in business, your employees can get bogged down with being too focused solely on objectives linked directly to the company’s and delivering tangible work, without focussing on their own personal development. Skill areas such as presenting to audiences, leadership, commercial acumen, influencing, management and analytical abilities are rarely set as defined objectives for employees, yet are absolutely crucial for the professional development of your workforce.
Of course, the achieving of material business-oriented objectives and deliverables can often lead to the development of the aforementioned skill areas as a happy by-product, but it is very important that you set aside separate discussions on how your employees will look to develop as professionals alongside conversations about what they deliver in their role.
By focussing on development, you’re likely to end up with a more satisfied, skilled and motivated workforce who could be more likely to stay with your business.
But how do you go about achieving this? Below we’ve outlined our top 7 tips to better support your employees’ personal development:
Focus on growth plans and growth time
Sitting down with your employees at the start of the year and mapping out what areas they want to develop in is the first step to take . Even if these areas are higher level, help them break down how to achieve them and set goals to aim for throughout the year. Once you’ve done this, it is important to show you’re serious about their development by making them allot a percentage of their time per week to focus on these development activities (e.g. 10% of their time).
Take an active interest
Once the targets have been set and time slots booked in to work towards hitting these personal development targets, make sure you’ve put in regular catch ups  to talk about how well it is all going. Are your employees having any difficulties with hitting the targets you jointly set? How can you support them to ensure they do achieve these and that their development doesn’t slip off the radar? Regular discussion (as you normally would to talk through material work objectives) keeps their development front of mind and shows that you are actively interested in it.
Establish feedback loops
In these catch ups, it is worth apportioning some time to revisit the personal development targets that have been set. Does the employee still feel they want to dedicate their development time to those areas they agreed with you at the beginning of the year? Showing you’ll take feedback on board and are willing to adapt their personal development plans is a great way to keep your employees enthused with the process.
Create a culture of learning
In an environment where everyone is on-board with focussing on personal development, your workforce should be more engaged and give it the time and attention it deserves. This is because they will recognise the importance of continual learning . You can help achieve this sort of culture and ethos through putting the topic in the spotlight and encouraging discussion internally about how colleagues are going about hitting their own development targets. Celebrating individual successes too is a great way of fostering such a culture.
Be fun and creative
Thinking beyond formal training and utilising different methods and tools to administer the learnings is a brilliant way to keep your employees engaged with their development. For example, using new technologies (VR headsets) and interactive exercises can really excite and inspire your workforce, allowing them to enjoy the learning experience .
Organising ‘lunch n learn’ knowledge-sharing sessions and setting up Microsoft ‘Teams’ sites to discuss certain topics can also be other different ways to build this culture of learning in new, engaging ways.
Coaching and mentoring
Getting your employees matched with mentors within the business can be a very effective way of accelerating their personal development and growth .
Anyone can be a mentor in the business and you shouldn’t necessarily restrict mentoring responsibilities to the most senior individuals within the company, however having a wealth of experience and a strong network can be very useful tools when it comes to giving advice out to mentees.
On the other side of the coin, becoming a mentor itself is a great development opportunity for individuals, so consider advising ‘becoming a mentor’ as a personal development objective for those employees for whom it is most appropriate.
Cross-departmental training and experience
Allowing employees from different departments to shadow each other and attend meetings they ordinarily would have no direct business interest in can also be great ways to give your employees more exposure . They’ll gain a better understanding of how the whole business works as an ecosystem, potentially build better working relationships across departments whilst also being able to offer a fresh pair of eyes and new ideas too.