One thing all employees, and employers, can agree on: we’ve had a challenging few years in the workplace. Lockdowns, restrictions, Zoom fatigue, virtual working shifts – it’s no wonder most of us are exhausted by 2021.
But there’s one thing employers can do to make the transition into 2022 a little smoother, and that’s to place a focus on workplace self-development. In this article, we’ll cover a couple of reasons why that should be a priority for 2022 and a few practical ways to get started.
First, self-development enables employees to take back some creative control. In the last few years, one of the central elements we’ve lost – at least when it comes to our working lives – is the ability to make our own choices about certain aspects of our job.
Maybe we wanted to do a three-day week in the office, or we wanted to work according to a particular timetable or take a vacation abroad, remember those? at a particular time. But, for many of us, the pandemic removed the ability to choose.
Whether we liked it or not, we were all in the same position – for the last few years, our options have been limited. Whether 2022 brings similar limitations will remain to be seen, but employers can start to hand some of the power back to employees, step by step. Self-development is a great way to begin this process: by allowing employees to rediscover their own skillset and strengths, they can begin to reshape their careers for themselves.
Second, self-development can encourage employees to take real ownership of their role. Again, in a time that feels so unpredictable and uncertain, this can provide an important sense of support and stability. As employees move through their own self-development work, they’ll start to see their position with more clarity – and this will increase confidence and ownership. And this, in turn, will bring countless benefits, both to employees, who’ll feel more energised, authoritative and satisfied and to employers, who’ll benefit from increased delegation and trust.
Third, self-development should provide employees with a personal sense of meaning and fulfilment. This is, of course, a less ‘tangible’ metric, but it’s still of fundamental importance, especially when it comes to the post-pandemic years.
A lot has been written in 2021 about the ‘Great Resignation’, or the ‘Great Reshuffle’, as others are calling it, essentially, this picks up on the trend of movement and career change experienced by many employees. And one of the reasons for this ‘reshuffle’? Dissatisfaction and a loss of personal meaning and purpose. It’s clear, then, that giving employees a sense of their own development – and an opportunity to check in on all the progress they’ve made in previous years – can be of central importance in retaining and supporting employees.
So – with all of that said – how best should you go about bringing an element of self-development into your workplace? Here are just a couple of suggestions to get you started.
1. Reflective writing
Reflecting on progress, skills and challenges through writing tasks can be a great way to introduce employees to self-development in an approachable, accessible way. Perhaps allow employees to take some time on a quiet working afternoon to answer a few work-related development questions for themselves, try, for example: ‘how do you feel the last year at work has been for you?’ As an employer, there’s no need to collect or review the answers: this is just the first step to getting employees started.
2. Conversations and feedback
An element of self-development can also be brought into informal conversations between team members, peers and supervisors. Make it a practice to integrate some self-development questions into any regular check-in: instead of just asking how things have gone, ask how the individual feels about it, or whether they overcame any hurdles to achieve a particular result. The goal is not to script these conversations but to gradually, and informally, turn them towards the topic of personal and professional development.
3. Personal development plans
Finally, one of the more formal options for self-development strategies: the personal development plan. These plans come in a lot of formats and have a variety of uses, but they’re essentially designed to support individuals as they track their own personal development over time.
The start of a new year is a fantastic time to introduce employees to the idea of a personal development plan, and – as with all of these steps – the initiative will be most effective if the employer, or senior members of the team, also participates, creating their own personal development plans in the process. And, in the end, everyone benefits!
Eloise Skinner is an entrepreneur, author and teacher working in the field of education and social impact. She is the founder of The Purpose Workshop, a social impact consultancy, and One Typical Day, an edtech startup.
In this article, you learned that:
- Reflecting on progress, skills and challenges through writing tasks can be a great way to introduce employees to self-development
- An element of self-development can also be brought into informal conversations between team members, peers and supervisors
- A personal development plan is a more formal way to keep track of your self-development progress