Why personal development matters

Luke Taylor and Sofia Caputo describe the inspiration behind our recent company-wide review

Personal development is, by its definition, personal. We came to that revelation after a recent period spent reflecting on our own development journeys. Our inspiration was Sofia’s recent personal journey and we wanted to use this to inspire others across the team. In essence, we wanted to bottle this energy and apply it across the business.

It was clear to us that personal development is something that’s very specific to an individual. We all have different interests, circumstances and inspiration. So we decided to do a pulse check across the company.

This exercise would give us the opportunity to really understand how we’re all growing as individuals. Similarly, it could provide Entec Si with a roadmap that would enable the right kind of structures and space to nurture continual personal development.

Developing during a pandemic

The backdrop to this has, of course, been the COVID-19 pandemic. The disruption caused by the event has meant that more traditional forms of learning have been sidelined. Alongside this, we’ve been acutely aware that many members of our team have had very different experiences throughout this episode. For example, some have been fully utilised for five days a week, whilst others have been on furlough. This range of experiences very much informed our approach to personal development.

About our process

After working up a set of key questions, we agreed that video calls were the best method to gather our information. We hoped that this medium would facilitate more open, natural discussion with our colleagues.

It was always our intention to gather a 360 degree view of the topic. Therefore this led us to approach a broad cross-section of the team. Whether new starters, long-serving staff, junior employees or senior leaders, we were interested in their perspective. We asked the group three specific questions:

  • What does personal development mean to you?
  • How will you achieve a personal development goal over the next month?
  • Tell us your top tip for personal development?

What did the team learn?

The outputs from the exercise made for fascinating viewing. What was really interesting was how each team member had all independently been assessing their own personal development. It seems that we were merely tapping into a process that was already taking place. Although every person’s journey is unique, there were some strikingly common responses to each question.

There was definitely a recognition that personal development is a softer skill, something that is different to professional development. The team saw personal development as a process that can be developed outside of the work environment. It very much serves a dual purpose that enriches the individual, but also benefits the business.

Planning (as you’d expect in a consultancy firm!) was very much a theme, and was evident in two ways. Short-term planning, simply looking ahead and planning in time during a week, was popular. On the other hand, we saw a strand of thinking that recognised that personal development is a lifelong journey that needs to factored in.

We also saw an understanding that personal development is not something that’s limited to work time. Learning new skills can happen anywhere, anytime, and this should be understood as being vital. Similarly the team was careful to point out that personal growth doesn’t just happen in front of a computer. As individuals we can use life experiences and other resources as tools for developing ourselves.

Personal interest was also a recurring theme. The team was clear that personal development works best when it’s driven by a person’s passion or inquisitiveness. This is very much at odds with a ‘one size fits all’, top down approach.

How can this help the business?

One of Entec Si’s core values is care, and this is especially true when it comes to our staff. This has been clear in the different initiatives we’ve provided over the years, from our Academy Practice to our Mental Wealth Working Group. Similarly, our recent personal development work has also had real, tangible impacts.

Within our recent operating model, we’ve put in place a support and learning function. The purpose of this is to look at our company-wide skill set and really drive forward personal development. In this way we’re embedding a positive cultural recognition of the need to continue growing our team’s knowledge and skills.

We’re also seeing the impacts of personal development on day-to-day basis. For example, junior consultant Ben Brown recently successfully managed a web project for a client. Key to this success was Ben’s knowledge of website accessibility, which he had gathered by reading around the topic in his own time. This knowledge ultimately led to us winning more work from this client.

What advice would we give other organisations?

As personal development is unique to each individual, then it’s also unique to each organisation. This means they need to try different approaches to find what suits. That said, there are some basic guidelines that we think are useful to other organisations looking to embed personal development:

  • Understand that your people are your greatest asset and invest in them
  • Actively engage with staff to find out what they are interested in
  • Provide the structure and space to encourage individual growth
  • Avoid a dictatorial approach to knowledge transfer
  • Recognise that skills come in all shapes and sizes, not just formal qualifications

The takeaway

We’ve both found this exercise immensely rewarding. It’s been truly inspirational to engage with colleagues and their excitement and energy has been infectious. We’re thrilled to see that we’re not only galvanising each other, but are having a positive impact on the organisation’s investment in personal development.

The job market has been changing in recent years, and the pandemic has only accelerated this. Organisations and employees are far more fluid in their approach to work now. This is evident not only in working patterns, but also in the way that individuals understand their careers. The days of working for one company are long gone.

This means that organisations must do more to not only attract talent, but also to retain it. Fundamental to this is the space for employees to grow their personal development. Organisations that recognise this and put it front and centre will be the ones that flourish and grow.

Luke and Sofia

Published: May 7, 2021

By Sofia Caputo

Assistant consultant

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