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What is personal development in the workplace? Can it make a difference in your professional life? What can you do to improve as a professional? How can you help your employees improve their skills?

If you’re often wondering about these questions then you’ve come to the right place to find the answers!

Personal development in the workplace is an ongoing process of investing effort and time to enhance your productivity and performance at work. 

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In today’s tough job market where you’re faced with cut-throat competition, constantly upgrading yourself is essential for your survival.

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Even employers realize the importance of professional growth of their employees and come up with new strategies to help employees boost their talent and skills. However, you’ve got to show commitment and take initiatives yourself in order to advance in your career.

Here we have compiled a list of ways for both employees and employers to achieve professional development.

What Employees Can Do to Improve as Professionals

1. Set Clear Goals for Yourself

Creating goals for yourself has many benefits both in your personal and professional lives. Get into the habit of doing a goal setting exercise every month or at the beginning of every quarter. Identify 2-3 areas where you need improvement the most and create actionable plans to achieve it.

Discuss your goals with your manager so that they may also be able to guide you. Many companies offer courses or training programs for their employees. If you proactively discuss your problem areas and personal development goals with them, your employers will be able to come up with more effective solutions.

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Moreover, this will highlight your commitment and seriousness towards your work.

It’s important to also set realistic timelines for achieving your milestones and keeping track of your progress.

2. Look for the Right Training Opportunities

Professional development is all about continuously improving your skills and knowledge. A lot of companies have internal training and development systems in place but to gain that extra competitive edge, you should look beyond it.

There are so many resources available out there such as books, journals, online courses that can open a whole new world of knowledge for you. Coursera, Udemy, edX are some of the best best websites for online learning.

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You can even look for learning material and resources specific to your field such as web development, coding, data integration etc. Many top notch universities of the world such as Harvard, Yale, MIT provide open online access to some of their courses.

So, the opportunities are endless. You just have to pick the ones that best suit your needs and can really make a difference in your career.

Importance of time management in the workplace

3. Get Better at Managing Your Time

Effective time management is an essential life skill. Facing deadlines, orders, and tasks is a norm at the every workplace. As the work piles up, everything starts demanding your attention.

In these situations, what matters is how good you are at keeping work organized, scheduling and prioritizing your tasks and delegating work. Moreover, you need to eliminate distracters and time killers from your work place.

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This includes unnecessary use of smart phones and social media, prolonged lunch or coffee breaks and calling meetings for simple things that could have been conveyed over an email.

4. Enhance Your Listening Skills

Listening skills are so important for effective communication at the workplace. You automatically create a good impression among co-workers and bosses if you have a listening ear.

The ability to carefully listen and take time to comprehend things can help you understand your assignments better. As a result, you will be able to deliver greater results and come up to the expectations of your management and clients.

Maintain eye contact when you’re in a one-on-one conversation with someone so that they know you are paying attention to what’s being said. Don’t interrupt before the other person is finished speaking. You can keep a note of your questions and ask them at the end.

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5. Build a Strong Rapport with Your Team Members and Co-Workers

Building and maintaining rapport in the workplace is one of the best tools for enhancing your effectiveness and cultivating a positive environment. It’s also vital for harnessing high performance teams and improving business results.

Work on creating strong interpersonal relationships with your co-workers based on trust, integrity and respect. Be friendly and helpful to others. Don’t limit your interaction to just every day work related things or to only your department’s members. Connect and engage with people more closely and get to know about them.

This will not only broaden your learning and perspective and help you in your work assignments but can benefit you at various stages of your professional life. Maintaining good professional relationships with people can help you even after you move from the company.

6. Work on Your Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the capacity to understand and manage your emotions without getting swamped by them.

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Reacting emotionally to challenges or unpleasant situations such as negative feedback, difficult team members, work overload etc. only makes situations worse. Moreover you might have to pay a heavy price for taking wrong decisions as a result of feeling emotionally charged.

You can learn tips to enhance emotional intelligence that can help you stay focused, take rational decisions and tackle problems under pressure.

Focus on solutions instead of problems

7. Have a Problem Solving Mindset

Like all other areas of life, you are bound to face challenges and failures at work and things will often not go as you planned or desire. Worrying, fearing, or complaining will never help. The only thing that will help is you doing something about it!

Having a problem solving mindset means you know how to effectively approach difficulties and failures at the workplace. You should always have an open mind that focuses on creativity and innovation.

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Whenever there is a problem, probe into it and find out what went wrong. Take responsibility if the issue arose at your end. Avoid wasting time on worrying about it or blaming others. Rather, desire to find most appropriate solution in order to fix the issue.

Another important thing to remember is that failures are inevitable. However, they should serve as learning opportunities for you. It’s how strongly you come out of them that shows your resilience and makes all the difference.

8. Step Up Your Soft Skills

Technical skills are no longer enough to survive in the competitive work environment that we have now. In fact employers have started putting a lot more emphasis on interpersonal or soft skills, making them equally important as formal education and training.

Business leaders and industry data all suggest that soft skills cannot be overlooked when hiring employees or even when promoting them on to higher levels.

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Effective communication, decision making, critical thinking, teamwork, adaptability, persuasive writing, all fall under the umbrella of essential soft skills that have now become the cornerstone of business productivity.

A lady giving a presentation at work

9. Improve Your Presentation Skills

People who don’t have jobs that require regular public speaking, networking and giving presentations often underestimate the importance of having excellent presentation skills. The truth is that these skills are crucial to your professional success.

You should really strive to master this skill as it can have a very positive impact on your career.

Effective presentation skills can increase your chances of gaining good employment as employers highly value this skill. Not only that, they can help you command attention and easily sell your ideas to anyone. That, in turn, means accelerated business growth.

Even for those who don’t have to give actual presentations as part of their jobs, presentation skills can help them in more ways than one. The ability to stand out in your job interviews, clearly put across your point in front of the management and leaving a good impression during a meeting are somehow all linked to your presentation skills.

Presentation skills come naturally to some but for most, becoming a great presenter requires time, effort and possibly some training. With continuous learning and practice, you will be able to get the hang of it.

10. Taking Regular Feedback

Feedback, both negative and positive, provides you with valuable information that can help in self assessment, making important decisions and creating personal development goals.

If you wish to continuously improve your professional skills and abilities, you must solicit performance feedback from your supervisor or manager as well as your team members.

Every month, sit with your supervisor to discuss your strengths, weaknesses and overall performance. It will help you gain useful insights as to what should be your focus areas for improvement and how you can get better at them.

11. Increase Your Knowledge of Industry, Competitors and Clients

You must have noticed people at your workplace who enjoy a better reputation and status than others? So what makes them stand out? Yes, effective communication and interpersonal skills do have a role but that’s not all.

It’s also because they’re always up to date with the latest market trends, what the competitors are doing, the needs of the customer and so much more.

Knowledge is power so when you’re working in a particular industry, you should try and expand your knowledge and understanding of it as much as you can. This will make you stay on top of your game as you can come with excellent ideas for what your company can do with its products and services.

Moreover people will pay more attention to you and value your opinion and suggestions. You will easily catch the eyes of your higher management which would obviously help you with your career progression.

12. Leverage Your Nonverbal Communication at Work

Non verbal communication makes up an important part of your overall communication skills. It includes everything that can be used as a means of communicating feelings without the use of words.

Body language (posture, movements, gestures), voice intonations, and eye contact all give unspoken signals while you interact with people at work. They go hand in hand with verbal communication. Therefore, you should work on giving nonverbal cues that convey confidence, credibility and professionalism.

Negative facial expressions like rolling eyes, scowling or pursed should always be avoided at work even when you’re feeling upset or angry. Always maintain an eye contact when speaking to people. Hold a slight smile and raise eyebrows occasionally to express interest.

Never get busy with your phones or other devices when in a meeting. Dress appropriately keeping the occasion and your overall corporate culture in mind.

13. Learn to Cope with Stress

Stress is the part and parcel of corporate life. But it shouldn’t overwhelm you.

A little bit of stress is in fact beneficial for you. It helps you stay focused, energetic, and able to meet new challenges in the workplace. However excessive stress can start affecting your performance at work, as well as, your personal life and health.

Learn ways to manage stress effectively. Reaching out to co-workers or supervisors, prioritizing work, delegating responsibilities and taking regular breaks can help you keep your stress levels in control.

What Employers Can Do For Employee Development

Measuring employee performance helps them understand their goals and targets

1. Provide Performance Metrics

Companies need to invest in detailed programs and systems that can help employees keep track of their performance. It’s important to set specific quantitative measures to help your employees understand where they need to be and what targets or goals need to be achieved.

This also helps in keeping employees motivated as they have a sense of direction and work seems more meaningful to them. Besides, it gives a sense of accomplishment as and when targets are met.

2. Offer Innovative Learning and Training Experiences

Employers who want to harness full potential of their employees and really upgrade their human capital realize the importance providing in-house and external training and development opportunities to their employees.

Trainings should be carefully devised based on employees’ individual needs in order for them to be impactful. Moreover, they should be innovative and entertaining to really keep employees engaged and interested. Destination trainings, interactive workshops, use of latest technology are good ways to develop powerful learning and training programs.

3. Mentor and Coach Your Employees

Mentoring and coaching are critical leadership and management competencies for organizations these days. It makes employees more valuable to your company by enhancing their professional as well as personal skills.

Coaching is usually a shorter process through which an employee or a group of employees learn a new skill such as using new communication software or making a sales call etc.

Mentoring, on the other hand, is a more long term and personalized affair. It involves a junior employee being attached to a more experienced senior employee for a few months to perhaps a year. The goal is to monitor employee progress and provide necessary guidance along the way. During this time, mentors and mentees work on a specific range of skills, both hard and soft.

4. Create Individual Growth Plans

Employee development plans cannot work on the principle of ‘one size fits all’. It’s important to sit with employees and discuss individual interests, needs and goals in order to make effective growth plans.

The personalized growth plan should serve as a roadmap for the employee, laying out measurable goals, realistic milestones and timeline to achieve each goal. Taking the time to have a detailed discussion with employees will make sure there is agreement between both parties. It will also increase the likelihood of the plans being effectively implemented.

Feedback should be specific and clear

5. Give Constructive Feedback

Employee feedback should be clear, concise and task focused. Vague comments like “Your work needs to be improved” or “Do it better next time” will be of no value to the employee. Rather it will lead to confusion and demotivation. So be very specific, tie feedback to data and give clear recommendations.

It’s also important to understand that feedback doesn’t mean criticizing or disapproving work. Rather it should be constructive in nature. Employees not only want to know if they are doing well or not but are also looking for suggestions on what needs to be improved and how.

When feedback is used as a tool for employee development and recognition, it can make a significant difference in employee development and morale.

6. Provide Necessary Cross Department Training

Many job roles require extensive understanding and knowledge of how other departments in the company work. For example an employee in the marketing department who’s working on launching a new product has to know what goes into developing a new product and what factors and timelines have to be kept in mind.

In such cases, it’s the responsibility of the company to give sufficient training to employees on how various departments function. This can be done by creating a rotation plan for them to spend some time in another department to gain an in depth understanding of its processes.

As a result, the employee will feel more confident in his role, take informed decisions and execute plans more effectively.

7. Provide Job Enrichment Opportunities

Job enrichment opportunities usually exist internally that benefit an employee’s current role, while creating additional ways to grow. For example, joining a CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) program, heading a company conference etc.

In addition to this, you can modify the employee’s role by giving them cross departmental responsibilities to expand their skill sets and present exciting new challenges for them.

8. Give Special Assignments

To break the day to day monotony of work for your employees, you can assign them additional assignments that are not entirely related to their routine responsibilities.

It opens new doors of learning and development for employees and also helps them to explore their interests.

However, it’s important to set realistic timelines to such assignments so that employees don’t feel over burdened and their daily tasks are not affected. 

9. Shadow Someone Else for a Day

From time to time, give your employees a chance to shadow a senior employee working in a different department for a day or a week, depending on the end goal.

It broadens their understanding of how things works at a macro level by giving them a glimpse of the bigger picture. It will also prepare them to take more challenging roles in the future.

10. Send Employees to Networking Events

Sending employees to attend trade fairs, conferences, workshops and exhibitions not only improves their confidence and communication skills but also introduces them to professional networks to build new contacts.

They serve as an excellent opportunity for employees to expand their horizon, build their professional image and gain greater knowledge of the industry.

Continuous personal development is the key to success for employees as well as organizations. It might seem like a lot of work but if you show commitment, the payoffs will be far greater!

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