Why it Pays to Support Employees’ Personal Development

"Supporting another's success won't ever dampen yours." –Unknown

A few months ago, I was able to use my personal development funds (allocated company funds provided to all Fierce employees) to participate in a meditation course that I've wanted to take for a number of years now.

While having access to these funds is, needless to say, awesome, it isn't the funds themselves that filled me with the most appreciation. It was the fact that the people I work with clearly support where I want to go in life.

Imagine one of your employees jamming out on a guitar, lifting weights at the gym, or, like myself, participating in a meditation course.

You may not make an immediate connection between these behaviors and revenue, results, or workplace culture. But can these types of activities influence business for the better?

You bet your britches they can.

Growth opportunities are an important factor in employee happiness and satisfaction. A 2011 APA survey reports that only 44% of employees are satisfied with the growth opportunities offered by their organization. When employees are happy, research shows they are more creative, energized, and successful, and it INCREASES PRODUCTIVITY BY 12%.

When employees know you care about their growth, they respond. It builds trust, commitment, and a host of other benefits that impact engagement, productivity, and the bottom line.

Personal and professional development go hand-in-hand—whether it's directly related to work or not, each impacts the other. The words "personal" and "professional" growth are often used when referring to separate types of growth, but they are interconnected. As Fierce Founder and CEO Susan Scott says, "Who we are is who we are, all over the place." No matter where you go, there you are, so it's important to integrate rather than separate the individual need for growth in our daily lives.

When you support employee growth, whether it's inside or outside of work, you are taking the whole-person approach to development. It communicates the message that you care about the individual beyond their role in the company—you value them as a human being.

Let's break it down. Here are some big benefits your organization stands to gain by supporting employee personal development:

Retention

The average length of time employees spend at an organization is about four years (this duration is lower for millennials), and turnover is expensive. Employees want to be part of an organization that facilitates their growth, and if it doesn't, they're likely to leave and take their talents elsewhere. A Better Buys survey of over 2,000 participants found RETENTION RATES ARE 34% HIGHER for employees with development opportunities. If you're on the fence about making monetary investments in employees' personal development, consider the potential ROI—According to Bersin by Deloitte, turnover costs associated with replacing a highly-trained employee can set a company back as much as twice that individual's annual salary.

Engagement

When people feel their circumstances align with their values (such as growth), they are happier and more engaged. Pursuing interests and goals related to learning, regardless of what they are, is individually nurturing and often builds skills that are translatable to the workplace.

Culture

Personal development supports a growth mindset and a whole-person approach to employee growth and engagement. When people are developing holistically, they bring more to the table. YOU ARE THE CULTURE, and it does not exist outside of you—this means that as people develop and grow, your workplace culture will, too.

Here are some ways you can provide development opportunities:

1. Offer personal development funds. Personal development funds allow employees to spend an allotted amount of money on any type of activity they choose—this could include anything from a music class to a pottery class or even a gym membership. At Fierce, every employee is given an annual personal development fund to use for any activity we feel will help us grow in the ways we want to. This incentive speaks volumes about Fierce culture and is a walk-the-talk way of promoting growth. If this kind of offer just isn't possible within the current confines of your company's budget, communicate the message anyway through conversation—let them know you want the best for them, and that you support where they're headed, no matter where that might be.

2. Allow flex time if possible. If an employee is taking on-campus courses or pursuing an interest that falls within normal work hours, consider offering flex time. Flex time requires employees to work the same number of hours and during days and times that function with their pursuits outside of work. Accountability is needed here—give trust and hold your employees "able." Level set and discuss how they can fulfill the responsibilities of their role and pursue other goals and interests in life at the same time. Either/or thinking is often the default for many, yet it's important for leaders to look for opportunities for "and" thinking. Ask: What is wanted here by all parties involved, and is there a way we can all say yes? Think in terms of possibility.

3. Offer tuition reimbursement. Tuition reimbursement is an exciting incentive for employees who are interested in ongoing formal education. Higher education, especially in the United States, can be an astronomical out of pocket expense. Tuition reimbursement offers incentive for employees to bring new knowledge and skills to the workplace when know they will be at least partially reimbursed for their investment of time and money.

4. Provide learning opportunities. Offer opportunities to educate employees on the latest advancements in training, technology, and industry. In addition to offering leadership development and training, stay up-to-date on unique opportunities such as local learning events and online courses. Offer to cover entry or sign-up fees if possible.

5. Offer participant-driven learning. Support autonomy and personal development by giving employees choices when it comes to what they're learning and how they're learning. While many instances of learning and training are top-down initiatives, it's important to take different learning preferences into consideration—provide options that allow employees to work at their own pace and support them in retaining and practicing what they've learned after they've learned it.

6. Ask! Have a conversation with employees individually. Ask them how they are wanting to develop, either at work or at home, and what would help them feel more supported. Ask directly, how can I support you? Depending on the answer they give you (and they may need some time to think about it), create some action items, if applicable.

It's important to let your employees know that you support their personal growth, and to follow through by offering real opportunities. This is the best way to walk-the-talk.

Occasionally we run into barriers, even when we have positive intentions. Check out our blog on growth barriers for HELPFUL TIPS. 

Last updated 9/10/2018

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