Whose job is personal development?

Published: 25 Nov 2019 Average Rating: unrated Print

Author: Tim Cummins

One of the top employee complaints is 'My company fails to invest in its people.'

But today, what exactly does that mean and what's the right balance of responsibility for achieving personal development?

To begin, I think we must distinguish three quite different tiers of investment. Tier one is simply maintaining existing skills and knowledge, to be up to date with the latest thinking and methods. Tier two is upskilling – adding to existing capabilities through either broader or higher-level skills. And third is reskilling – becoming equipped to operate in a completely different field of activity.

I would argue that responsibility for tier-one skills lies to a large extent with the individual. So much learning material is now freely available, there are few good excuses not to remain current. And this is at least partly true for tier two, though certainly there are limits to how much upskilling an individual can achieve without some investment of time and money. Tier three is clearly different, both in scale and in the need to gain new credentials. Individuals typically need support to make such a switch.

Recent surveys suggest that there is a strong core of discontent among people who would like to reskill. They either don't like their current role, or they feel it offers few opportunities for progression. However, for a significant number, the issue is about investment in upskilling, in particular, to support career advancement.

Both represent reasonable expectations of an employer. But I'd suggest responsibility starts with the individual. As an employee, we must demonstrate that we merit investment, that it will result in both personal and business benefit. And to do that, we must show a hunger to learn and to apply that learning in our daily performance. With so much business-related information freely available – media, webinars, podcasts, MOOCs, resource libraries – there is no good excuse for failing to keep up to date. Much of that information then equips us to show real knowledge and expertise, to offer insights that others may not have. And it's by getting noticed that we gain investment.


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