How to Get Employees to Own Their Professional Development

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Implementing a successful learning and development program at an organization is no easy task. As anyone who has ever tried to do it will attest, L&D isn’t exactly seen as “part of the work day,” and as a result, it often falls low on an organization’s list of priorities.

This is quite a shame, considering that the potential for growth is a major motivator for employees, a lack of learning and career development opportunities is responsible for a whopping 26 percent of employees leaving their organizations.

Another challenge when it comes to learning and development is that it isn’t clear who ‘owns’ it. Does the responsibility of enhancing career opportunities fall on the shoulders of the CEOs? Management? HR? Employees themselves?

In reality, we have seen the best results when companies empower their employees by allowing them to take charge of their own learning and development.

Organizations don’t need to spend time trying to inspire their employees to care about learning and development with ‘ra-ra motivation’ tactics. Nor must they attempt to persuade employees that it’s good for them or in their best interest.

Here’s what organizations need to  do to successfully implement an employee driven L&D program :

Set a target number of hours all employees must spend on learning on development and set loose guidelines as to what constitutes learning. Establish a goal like requiring 65 hours per year of professional development and allow employees to complete their mandatory number of hours at their own pace with the content and experiences they see fit.

And while there do have to be some set guidelines as to what counts as learning and development so that people will take it seriously,organizations do not have to be so strict and specific in their definition.

Organizations should tell employees that they can read blogs, go to conferences, take classes, attend meetings and brown-bag lunches — however they want to use their time allotted for professional development is fine as long as they keep track of it and they put forth a sincere effort.

Or, you could provide guidance and help employees customize a learning and development plan that works for them as individuals. Imposing a uniform curriculum for everyone, or even for everyone in the same role or department, doesn’t work. But, when employees are trusted to understand what is best for their own professional development, they gain confidence in their own abilities and invest more into acquiring the knowledge and skills that will not only help their own careers, but the organization as a whole. Give them the tools and the support and let them run with it.

Here are the results we have seen when organizations allowed employees to look after their own career development:

1) Most people reached the goals they set at the beginning.

2) Rather than telling employees what to learn, they told us. This provided organizations with valuable insight about what they found important so we could provide more informed guidance and suggestions to others.

3) Employees actually grew their skillset and knowledge base. Organizations often get too caught up on creating professional development plans at the expense of getting things done.