Why people aren’t taking up the offer of personal development in the workplace

Why people aren’t taking up the offer of personal development in the workplace

Driving performance, inspiring change and unlocking potential are fundamental aspects of workplace training and development. We are all on board with recognising that our people are our greatest asset within an organisation, yet so often we only scratch the surface when it comes to comprehending the complexities of personal development.

Half the story

Nobody would argue with the fact that the acquisition of skills and knowledge is integral to growth. There are dedicated budgets, departments and team leaders whose sole responsibility is focused on ensuring individual potential is optimised through continuous learning. 

Yet, so often we approach personal development focusing wholly on skills development, which misses some key opportunities. We bring our whole selves to work, not simply the rational aspects of our human make-up, and we are inherently emotional creatures shaped by our upbringings, by cultural conditioning and both nature and nurture. When we focus too much on technical skills we overlook the potential to build emotional intelligence, enable greater resilience and develop stronger relationships, which are all vital to business performance yet valuable in life per se.

Understanding the people behind the roles

If we’re looking to support people in their growth, it’s important we take time to get to know them. Our expectations of what ‘high performance’ looks like is often subjective and we make assumptions of others’ capabilities based on our own unique stories.

Only when we take the time to comprehend how other people arrive at their opinions and their self-perceptions, can we even begin to appreciate what comes easy to them and what they find challenging. We all have personal life scripts that we have developed over time, which inform our outlook, our belief systems and our natural strengths and weaknesses. 

Whose remit is this?

While it’s not the domain of the training and development team to delve into the complexities of each person’s emotional wellbeing, there is a place for addressing EQ as well as technical skills as both are part of the professional mix. It’s also important that we develop training programmes with non work related benefits so that employees see the full value of them.

Our capacity to ‘read’ people, to understand their tendencies, what drives them and what riles them, is fundamental in any training and development programme of work. By virtue of being human, we need to have the courage to genuinely see the whole person and not just a skill-set.

How do we achieve this?

Putting the personal back into personal development requires the ability to recognise that we are all left and right brain oriented, with rational competencies as well as emotional drivers, so this needs to be reflected in training and development programmes. It’s important we:

  • Gauge uptake and reflect on why some employees are reluctant to fully engage in training and development programmes – feedback is key to ensure there is good alignment and the content is relevant
  • Consider how programmes are labelled so that they are relatable. Often we fall into assuming they must be formal and only focus on the workplace. We might rephrase titles and include some humour, like “How to get on with your ‘in laws’ – developing rewarding relationships in and out of work”
  • Remember that tackling emotional themes isn’t a ‘soft’ issue and it has lasting tangible business benefits. Good communication, the ability to read others and the capacity for greater resilience are not ‘nice to have’ – they are essential
  • Don’t translate training and development as solely the domain of technical competencies. While mastering Excel and fine tuning project management are excellent skills, so is building emotional awareness

While many workplaces are driven by strategies underpinned with performance KPIs, it’s helpful to remember that human beings are complex creatures. The most effective training and development programmes acknowledge the emotional context of individuals as a foundation for learning and they address the whole person, not just within the realm of their professional role. The more we embrace the wider scope of personal development programmes, the more likely employees are to engage fully and feel genuinely supported to thrive.

For more information contact heather.wright@advance-performance.co.uk