Personal development group activities are a fun and effective way of encouraging employees to start improving themselves and become responsible for their own growth.
HR managers are always on the lookout for the most interesting activities and exercises they can use to engage their employees and spur an attitude of learning and development. In addition, it’s also a good way to boost your employees’ morale and keep them motivated.
Here’s a list of fun personal development group activities for your workplace. So let’s begin.
Best Personal Development Group Activities
1. Active Listening
In this activity, participants are to reflect on a question and come up with their own solutions while focusing on the principle of active listening. Participants are divided into groups of three who take turns to be the subject, the listener, and the observer.
Explain the roles to the respective group members. The ‘subject’ has to explore the problem or question from their personal perspective and fully express their thoughts and ideas about it. They also have to answer any questions coming from the ‘listener.’
Whereas, the “listener’s” role is to listen to the subject with full presence and attention, not offer advice or throw in their own opinions and ask questions to guide the subject.
Lastly, the observer has to silently observe the whole process, make notes of what they see and hear, and in the end, share the observations with others.
Every group goes through 3 equal rounds so that the roles are shuffled among the group members and everyone gets a chance to speak, to listen, and to observe. Give every group about an hour so that each round lasts for at least 20 minutes.
In the end, discuss with the participants how they felt and what they learned from playing each of the three roles. Furthermore, it highlights the importance of active listening during group discussions so as to improve interpersonal communication at the workplace.
2. Clear Communication
This activity tests the ability of coworkers to clearly express and communicate their ideas to others. It also gives participants an opportunity to review their communication skills and then look for ways to improve them.
To begin with the activity, you have to first come up with a list of topics or categories for which players can come up with a list of examples. An example of a category could be conflict management strategies. Write down these categories on separate chits of paper, fold them and shuffle them in a bowl.
Next, each participant comes and picks up one chit from the bowl. They will then have to make the rest of the participants guess the category. This will be done by giving the most relevant and clear examples of things that can fall into the respective categories. If a participant succeeds in making others guess the category through the examples they come up with, they earn a point.
Those who gain the most points demonstrate clearer communication. And those who score less can be made to work on their communication skills.
3. Personal SWOT Assessment
This one uses the famous SWOT model (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats/Barriers). Participants get to assess themselves, note down their key areas of improvement, and devise a personal action plan to better themselves.
In the first step, participants do a personal SWOT analysis, listing down their main strengths and weaknesses, opportunities, and barriers. Give about 20 minutes to the participants to complete this task.
Next, participants should reflect upon the areas that need development and improvement. Once they’ve listed down 3-5 such areas, they can rate themselves in each area on a scale of 0-10. The rating is based on where they stand currently and where they would like to be in the next 4-6 months.
Moreover, they will write down key actions both for the short term and long term in order to reach their targeted improvement goals. They will also note down the steps needed to overcome barriers and to harness more development opportunities. This activity should take about 30-45 minutes.
Participants should now be made into groups of three and share their reflections and plans with each other. There should be an open discussion among all group members so as to carefully review the plans and to make any value additions to them. The goal is to create the most concise, achievable, and beneficial personal success plans with the right level of difficulty.
The activity can then be reviewed every 2-3 weeks to check how each participant is performing, and their progress on the action plans so far. Group members discuss any challenges they’re facing so that they can also be brought up to the senior management and the HR. Hence, the organization will also be able to facilitate the employees in their growth and development.
4. Smelly Fish
If you’re planning to set a new training program in your organization or implementing an organization-wide change, this activity can come in handy. It will help you gather feedback, promote a culture of openness, and help employees face their fears and uncertainties.
Whoever is going to be part of the new program can participate in this activity. The purpose is to create openness within a group. The activity focuses on acknowledging, sharing, and addressing any anxieties, fears, and uncertainties – metaphorically referred to as the “smelly fish.”
Gather the participants and explain the activity and its purpose in the context of the new program or workshop. Then give them 10-15 minutes to write down any fear or anxiety that they may have regarding the new program but were hesitant to voice. Once everyone’s done, each participant can start sharing their thoughts one by one.
It’s important to keep in mind that the activity is designed to encourage openness. Therefore, no response should be met with unnecessary criticism or judgment. Alternatively, you may design the activity in a way that ensures that responses remain anonymous.
Discuss the various fears that participants have and the different ways by which they can be overcome or lessened. Everyone should know feeling anxious about the future is normal, but it shouldn’t be so overwhelming that it starts hindering your growth. Also, the first step to confronting your fears is to acknowledge them and then get your mind right.
In the end, you can also put up the notes on a wall as a kind of gallery. Participants can come back to them at a later stage and get a sense of motivation and achievement when they’ve overcome those worries and challenges.
5. Explore Your Values
This exercise lets participants explore their most important values. The best part is that participants get to follow their intuitive feelings instead of overthinking and coming up with values that are considered to be the “right” ones.
Hand out 12 post-its to each participant and ask them to write down the things in life that they value the most, one on each post-it. Some examples include family, friendships, love, honesty, justice, etc.
When everyone has their 12 post-its ready, give them a few minutes to spread them out and overview them. Now give them exactly 30 seconds to discard 4 of them that are least important to them. Be very particular about the time duration, and don’t allow for any delays or changes once the time is over.
Repeat the previous step, now giving 20 seconds to remove 3 more post-its. Finally, give them another 10 seconds to remove 2 more. In the end, each participant should be left with 3 of their most important values.
Then it’s time for them to do some reflection both individually and in pairs. First, give them 10 minutes to think individually and then form pairs to think about questions such as: What do they feel about the values they ended up with? How do these values show in their everyday lives? What steps can they take to live by them?
6. Feedback: Start, Stop, Continue
Providing effective feedback regularly is essential for creating productive work teams, better relationships, and constantly motivating employees to get better at what they do. It also allows employees to gain better awareness about their performance and know exactly where they need to work harder.
This exercise is based on giving feedback messages supported by the words: Start, Stop, and Continue. One of the goals of this exercise is also to nurture trust and openness among coworkers.
Make groups of 4-5 members. Group members should have spent significant time with each other and gone through different experiences working together. Each member should choose one member from the group that they will be giving feedback to.
Group members now start writing feedback for their selected member in the following format:
Something I would like you to START doing: _____________________________
Something I would like you to STOP doing: ______________________________
Something I would like you to CONTINUE doing: __________________________
Once all participants are done writing down the feedback messages, they also deliver it verbally and give the written note to its addressee. You can even modify the exercise a bit whereby each group member writes down a message for all other members in the group. In the end, every member will have a little collection of feedback received from everyone.
7. Feedback: Current Strongest Impression
The previous feedback exercise works best when working with participants who have considerable experience of working together. But when you have group members who are relatively new to each other and haven’t spent too much time, you can use this activity as an alternative option.
The format of the feedback message will be different. Instead of the ‘Start, Stop and Continue,’ you can use statements like: My strongest impression of you so far is…, Something I’m about curious about is…, What I would like to see more from you is…
8. The Tallest Tower
This activity focuses on working effectively in a team. You can make groups of 6-8 participants. Since this activity, doesn’t require technical or job-specific knowledge or experience, it’s best to form teams with members belonging to different departments and management levels.
This ensures that there’s a good mix of participants and employees get to interact and work with people they don’t interact with much on regular days.
Now comes the fun part. Provide each team with materials such as wooden blocks, cardboard, newspapers, etc. and ask them to build the tallest freestanding structure within the allotted time (60-90 minutes).
The activity not only serves as a great way to connect with coworkers and break barriers, but also motivates them to be effective team players and adopt a problem-solving mindset.
9. Lasting Impression Elevator Pitch
It’s so important to make a lasting impression the first time you’re meeting a potential business partner, client, or getting interviewed for your dream job. Being able to introduce yourself to others and explain to them what you do in an accurate, effective, and impressive manner can actually result in a career spurt.
An effective elevator pitch is a brief presentation that summarizes your background, achievements, and all that you do in as little time as possible while creating a lasting impression on the audience.
For this activity, you should gather all the participants and brief them about the usefulness of a good elevator pitch and why they should always be ready with it. Next, give each participant about 20-30 minutes to prepare their pitch. It should briefly sum up their competencies, qualifications, skills, interests, what they can do to solve specific problems, etc.
Now put the participants in groups of two or three and have each group member present their pitch while the others evaluate it. The evaluation criteria could include things like whether the presenter speaks well, is clear and easy to understand, and provides believable information. Additionally, they can give suggestions or recommendations for improvement.
In the end, all presenters receive feedback on their elevator pitches. They will be able to see where they lack and what they can do to get better so that they can make changes before presenting in front of the real world.
Even though the activity can help people working in all fields, it’s especially useful for those working in sales and marketing.
10. To Cope or to Collapse
Showing flexibility and adapting to changing roles and environments is a highly desirable personal quality. This activity is designed to test the participants’ ability to work under frequent changes. They work individually, in pairs and in teams during different sections of the activity.
To start the activity, ask participants to think of three people who, according to them, are great at handling major changes with composure and can easily manage constant turbulent conditions. These three role models could be public figures, friends, colleagues, family members, or even fictional characters. Participants don’t have to reveal the identity of their chosen figures.
Now you give the participants 3 minutes to identify the main factors that make each of their role models so flexible, adaptive, and agile. Some factors could be common to all. Participants should write down a list of factors on a piece of paper.
Once they’re done, ask them to select three other people. This time they have to be the ones who can’t cope with even the slightest of change and become agitated and rigid. Again, participants also have to write down about what makes these people show inflexibility and act so rigidly when faced with change.
Now distribute playing cards among the participants, giving each participant one card. Make sure you have an equal number of red and black cards. In case you have an odd number of participants, you may give one more card of either red or black color.
Participants are then asked to form pairs with each other. You can ask everyone to pair up with someone who has a different colored card than them. Give 3 minutes to all the pairs to discuss the flexibility (coping) and rigidity (collapsing) factors with each other.
At the end of the 3 minutes, blow a whistle to indicate participants that they have to say goodbye to their partners. Now they will have to form teams of 3-5 members who have playing cards of the same color.
Distribute chart paper and markers to each team. Give them 5-6 minutes to make a list of do’s and don’ts for increasing adaptability and thrive under continuous change. Team members can use both their own factors and anything new that they learned from their partners in the previous section of the activity.
In the end, all the teams put up their chart papers on a wall and participants review each chart paper to discover the most common do’s and don’ts, as well as, the unique ones.
Now you can conduct a de-briefing discussion with the participants on various findings of the activity. These will include things like which coping and collapsing factor appeared in most posters and why, what are some of the unique factors, which factors they neglect the most in their professional lives, which ones can help them the most, etc.
Finally, all participants come forward, one by one, and select one coping factor for immediate action. Once they select it, they also share their action plan as to how they will apply the factor in their day to day lives to increase their ability to flourish under turbulence.
11. Friendly Flyers
This activity not only stimulates a competitive spirit among coworkers but also helps them to get to know each other better. It also promotes relationship building.
You need to arrange the participants in as many pairs as possible and provide each pair with some paper and pens. Partners have to write down 3-4 personal characteristics or traits that define them best and then construct a paper plane using the same paper. Give all the pairs 15 minutes to complete this task.
Next, it’s time for a fun paper plane flying contest among the pairs. All the pairs fly their paper planes to see which plane goes the farthest. The plane that travels the longest distance will be the first one to be picked. The rest of the participants will then have to guess which pair the plane belongs to based on the characteristics written on the paper.
The correct answers are revealed after everyone makes their guesses. The same activity is repeated for all the other planes with the closest plane guessed last.
The exercise aims to build up communication skills among employees. While creating the paper planes, they get to learn about their partners one-on-one, and later during the guessing, they get to know more about the rest of the group.
If there aren’t enough participants available, the activity can be done individually as well. All the participants then guess the individual’s characteristics.
8 Effective Activities to Encourage Professional Development Among Employees
Let’s now look at some of the activities through which organizations can add to the growth and development of their employees.
1. In-House and Outside Employee Training
Conduct regular training needs assessment across all departments to identify specific training requirements of individual employees. The employees can then go through in-house training tailored to meet their individual requirements. Some requirements can be addressed as a group as well. Training could be on any particular business processes, software, and systems running in the organization or interpersonal skills.
For any advanced courses or technical certifications, employees can also be sent to professional training centers, colleges, or private trainers based on their needs.
It’s important to have all attendees report on what was learned and how it will be applied to everyday work. In addition, feedback should be collected from them to improve the effectiveness of such training programs.
2. Cross-Functional Training
Many job roles require knowledge of various business functions and close coordination among different departments. Therefore, all such employees should be given the opportunity to spend time and work in other departments so that they can have a broader picture of the way things work.
3. Form Matrix Teams
Matrix teams are cross-functional, problem-solving task forces that are required to work on special assignments or projects. By participating in such special projects, employees get a break from their monotonous job routines. Not just that, it’s a means to add to their learning and gives them a chance to explore new roles, skills, and talents.
4. On-the-Job Coaching and Feedback Counseling
Supervisors and coworkers can provide on-the-job training to employees who have been recently hired. They provide the newcomers with knowledge by answering questions, reviewing their projects, discussing progress, and providing general direction. This can go on for about 6-8 weeks, depending on the performance.
In the end, a two-way feedback is essential to determine how helpful was the training, what could be improved, and how the employee’s performance was throughout.
5. Job Enlargement or Enrichment
This involves the modification of an employee’s responsibilities in some way to meet a personal development objective. Job responsibilities are stretched in order to expand the employee’s role and capabilities.
In job enlargement, the employee is given additional tasks with the same level of authority and responsibility. Job enrichment entails assigning of some new tasks with an increased level of responsibility and skill.
6. Lateral Transfers
Here, an employee is transferred to another job at the same position level to enhance his knowledge and experience and prepare him for future role expansion. The employee develops an appreciation for new perspectives and how various groups and functions are interrelated within the organization.
7. Active Participation in Community and Social Affairs
All good organizations are aware of their corporate social responsibilities. They want to make their contribution to the community and society at large. For this they select certain employees to form specialized groups or teams that work on certain community projects.
This gives employees from different departments a chance to come together and get to know each other in a different way. It promotes relationship building, social skills, leadership abilities, and community awareness.
8. Serving as Conference Leaders, Trainers or Facilitators
A good way to boost employee motivation and self-confidence is by giving them the responsibility to host a conference or serve as a trainer. They will learn useful skills such as planning, organizing, and effective public speaking.
Teaching and training others is a great learning experience for the trainer himself. It clarifies their own concepts and extends their point of view.
This was our list of some of the best personal development group activities and exercises. By introducing such learning opportunities and activities in your organization, you can dramatically improve your employees’ productivity and overall organizational culture.