Tips for Encouraging Personal Development

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Personal development is something that should be strongly encouraged from your employees; personal development is about improving not only life at work, but personal life, as well.

Personal development starts from within, but should be encouraged by employers, management, and Human Resources professionals to reinforce its positive effects. Those in HR may, in fact, be in the best position to set an example, inspire personal growth, and offer support to employees in achieving that growth.

Let’s look at a few tips for personal development, including how to help your employees achieve it, what an employer can do to help, and how an employee’s personal development benefits all parties.

Inspire Positivity

Negativity can be an incredible strain on the workplace. Negative employees bring everyone around them down with them.

Encourage employees to start each morning by choosing to be positive that day. Follow through with the attitude to match, and you’ll set yourself up for success throughout the day.

Anyone in a management position — from HR all the way to the CEO — who acts negatively plants a negative seed for themselves, and any that work for them. Working in a team setting with a negative attitude can bring everyone down; and in Human Resources, you may be looked at more closely than others to set a good example for how to approach the challenges of each day.

Employees often come to HR with issues, complaints, or the ever-dreaded paperwork. In the face of tasks that most employees won’t see as fun or exciting, the HR specialist can use these opportunities to lead by example. So, work hard to tackle each day with a positive attitude, even if you have to fake it ‘til you make it. Whether you realize it or not, your tone and manner has an impact on the employees you assist.

Promote Physical Health

Besides adopting a positive attitude, having a healthy diet and regular exercise routine can do wonders for a person’s personal development. Once the ideal routine is established, they’ll have more energy that can be used to kick butt[***] at their job.

The benefits of exercise are numerous — not least of which is that it actually helps with time management overall. If you (or any of your employees) are stuck on a project, go for a walk! Stepping away and getting your blood flowing boosts your brain activity and creativity.

If possible, see if your employer can offer a healthy incentive, (like a gym membership) for employees. They’ll be more likely to go if it’s in the building. No gym? No problem. Try offering yoga classes, which don’t require a lot of equipment. One of the best tips for encouraging personal development is to find a way to incentivize employees to pursue a greater standard for their physical health. If gym memberships and yoga classes aren’t an option, perhaps your employer will agree to a monetary or prize-based incentive program for employees who exercise regularly on their own time.

Model a Policy of Open Communication

Open communication is key for a positive workplace that encourages personal development. If something’s wrong, coworkers shouldn’t keep feelings pent up; instead, they should feel free to talk out issues with coworkers, with their supervisors, or (most commonly) with their trusted HR specialist. When an employee comes to you with an interpersonal issue, take the time to listen — this shows them not only that you care about their wellbeing, but also that open communication is welcomed in the workplace.

Another way to boost open communication is to encourage employees to include coworkers in their personal and professional development — bouncing ideas off each other is a great way to connect as a team. This helps remove barriers, and helps employees build a relationship with the people around them.

Kevin Daum shared in a recent Inc article that employees must “know their boundaries so they don’t step on others’ toes or create inefficiency through redundancy.” By making sure your employees know exactly what you expect from them (regarding skills and personal development), you’ll encourage more open communication.

Involve employees in their own personal development by asking them about their goals, and how they measure success. When discussing goals with employees, come up with 1-2 areas that need improvement at a time. Don’t overwhelm them with critique or ways to improve, or you might see more negative results than positive effects.

Encourage Creativity

According to a national survey conducted by the FCEDA (Fairfax County Economic Development Authority), “73 percent of U.S. workers consider themselves creative, but when it comes to creativity in the workplace, just 42 percent said their positions were creative.” So, encourage your employees to be creative in all aspects of their jobs. It might help them see your company as a truly unique place, and one they don’t want to leave anytime soon. Many managers don’t see the overt importance of self-expression to the overall goals of productivity and success for the company; so you may need to explain to your management team why this type of encouragement can allow employees to give their best to the company.

Teach that Failure is OK

If an employee is always looking to their superior for approval regarding every step of a project, he or she is less likely to take initiative. To promote employee learning and growth, create a safe way for the company to let employees fail. If employees have a chance to fail — and learn from that failure — they will feel more comfortable in the future taking initiative on their own.

The word “failure” stresses a lot of people out, but it really is okay to fail. Treat it as a learning experience, in which something positive can come as a result of every failed situation. Employers and HR specialists should use positive reinforcement to talk about why failure happens, and how to do better next time. After all, according to, “Failure is a redirection. It shows you where you shouldn't be.”

Get your management team on board with the goal of showing employees that failure is simply one more way of finding direction and moving forward. Empower employees to let failure fuel them to try harder at that project they didn’t get quite right the first time. Failure can help tremendously with leadership development, which can help employees move up in the workplace.

Unplug Whenever Possible

It’s natural to be attached to our devices, but work life balance often suffers in the name of staying connected.

Give employees permission to unplug from work when they’re not on company time. This could include encouraging managers to avoid contacting their employees outside of work hours. If your employer is reluctant to encourage the team to unplug from work outside of work hours, HR can act as an advocate for employees’ mental and emotional health, reminding management that the wellbeing of the employees directly impacts the wellbeing of the company.

Give Positive Feedback

Positive reinforcement goes a long way. If an employee is working on a skill of theirs, or getting better at a project they’ve been struggling with, share your positive feedback! Give them a positive pep talk about how great they’re doing, and to keep up the good work. Encourage their managers or supervisors to do the same; many managers take note of a job well done without actually verbalizing that to the employee who did the job. A simple word of thanks, encouragement, or acknowledgement can go a long way to motivate employees to continue delivering their best work.

Also, make sure your employees feel a sense of belonging in your company. According to the New York Times, only 45% of employees feel comfortable enough at work to truly be themselves.

Personal development is a goal that’s just as important for employees, as it is for their employers. A person who is constantly improving himself will have a positive effect on his work, his coworkers, and his company.

Try implementing one (or more) of these tips for encouraging personal development — employees, employers, and the company as a whole will run more efficiently, and you’ll likely see an increase in satisfied, dedicated, and happy employees.

Would you add to this list of tips for encouraging personal development? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!


About birddoghr

chris lennon

Chris Lennon is Vice President of Product Management at BirdDogHR. He is responsible for ensuring the BirdDogHR Talent Management System meets the needs and exceeds the expectations of our customers. He does this by working directly with customers and partners, identifying key market opportunities, developing product strategies and bringing exciting new products, features and partnerships to market.

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