Employee self development

An employee who continuously improves their job skills through self development is a valuable worker indeed

First published on Thursday, Jun 04, 2020

Last updated on Friday, Jun 07, 2024

Employees have a unique insight into the requirements of their own role — and when they direct their own development, with support from line managers, those needs are more likely to be addressed.

That’s why an increasing number of UK organisations are encouraging self development. 15% of companies planned to increase self-directed learning in 2015. And more than half reserved over 10% of their training budgets for self development (CIPD 2015).

The benefits of self development

It’s not surprising that self development is on the rise when you consider it can:

  • Improve employees’ skills and performance
  • Create an upwardly mobile workforce, enabling you to promote from within more often
  • Increase productivity, maximising the value of employees to your organisation
  • Help your organisation handle change more effectively, as employees are continuously updating their skills

Self development isn’t just beneficial for employers, either. It also helps employees to pursue their own career goals and interests, build confidence and be more autonomous.

Setting self-development goals

But how much autonomy should you allow employees in setting their development goals? If undertaken during working hours, or with financial support, it’s fair that self-development goals should be aligned with the needs of the employee’s job and your organisation.

Staff appraisal meetings are a great time to set goals for self-development. The employee and their manager can combine their insights on the development required.

You can also use personal development plans (PDPs) to record self-development needs, goals, actions and progress. PDPs can play a valuable role in the appraisal process, by ensuring useful goals are set and charting progress.

Identifying areas for employee self-development

The development activities your employees undertake will depend partly on the budget and time you provide for self development.

Activities can be diverse, covering any kind of personal development. They can include:

  • Formal learning, such as taking external training courses and educational qualifications, attending conferences, or e-learning
  • Work-based learning, such as undertaking special projects, shadowing colleague and taking on new duties
  • Self-directed learning, such as reading academic and industry texts
  • Professional activities such as training or mentoring others, being part of a professional body and networking with other professionals

Providing self-development incentives

Ultimately, however beneficial self-development might be for employees, it still takes initiative and motivation on their part. That’s why the ability to self-develop is a desirable skill in itself, which is sometimes called ‘learning agility.’

Employees can also be encouraged to self-develop and many organisations run employee incentive programmes with that purpose. Incentive programmes should be:

  • Effective: make sure you’re rewarding valuable outcomes, such as completion of agreed development goals.
  • Desirable: employees will only change their behaviour for rewards they actually want.
  • Fair: Incentives should be realistically achievable.

Employees who feel inspired and passionate about their work are more likely to self-develop. Employee engagement programmes can, therefore, foster self-development, while also offering wider value.

Thea Watson

Chief International Growth and Marketing Officer

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