7min read; 1min skim
Who benefits from this article: If you’re an HR leader that’s looking for a fresh, data-driven approach to kickstarting (or retooling) your professional development program, then this article is for you.
In 2014, Jason Lange contributed his thoughts on Fast Company about what it takes to get employees to care about their professional development. While his entire article is worth the 5-min read, we’ll emphasize his thoughts on why people don’t care and his corresponding solutions.
1 common pitfall of professional development programs is they’re not personal.
Employees often view training as something that’s mandatory and irrelevant to their personal needs. This can happen when training just offers more of what they already know or when it doesn’t take their life stage into account. – Jason Lange, CEO/Co-Founder of BloomBoard
Lange provides 5 practical steps you can take, but there are 2 that stand out:
- Make professional growth personal.
- Create opportunities for mentorship.
And this is where we’d like to dive in just a bit deeper. We’ll outline practical steps for making professional growth personal and creating opportunities for mentorship.
How to make professional growth personal
3 questions to ask when building your Professional Development program.
- What soft skills do your employees possess that empower them to be effective?
- What values are motivating them to perform at their best each day?
- What personality traits are impacting their relationships at work?
Each of these attributes can be directly correlated to success. And it would be in your best interest to understand them for each of your employees as their careers develop within the organization. (Spoiler alert! You can easily answer all of these questions with the Clarity Assessment. Try it here for free!)
‘If you don’t measure it, you can’t improve it.’ – Peter F. Drucker
You may have a very clear vision of what your professional development program should look like for your people. (If not, here’s a solid resource from LinkedIn for inspiration.) But before you dive into the nuts and bolts of how it will benefit your people, take a moment to consider your audience and what they currently bring to the table.
The key to effective goal-setting is making goals personal. Any fitness expert will tell you that it’s not enough to want to “be healthier”; it’s much more effective to envision what that means to you individually, whether that’s fitting into your jeans or being fit enough to run a 5K. – Jason Lange
If you don’t measure it, you can’t improve it. So before you launch your professional development program, take a moment to set a baseline by measuring your employees’ motivations, abilities, and personality traits. It will then be much easier to connect the dots between who they are currently, and what they could become through your program.
How to create opportunities for mentorship
4 simple steps to kickstart your Professional Development program
- Measure everyone’s soft skills, professional values & personality traits.
You have a TON of options when it comes to assessments but do your homework. Not all assessments are created for the specific purpose of predicting success in a role. Our assessment, Clarity, is scientifically validated to do just that, and you can try it for free here.
- Use an aggregate report to inform your program’s core focus.
Rather than taking a blind guess at the skills your employees should learn through your program, consider their starting point on the aggregate and build a program that can deliver incremental value for the group.
The Aggregate Report provided by Clarity turns a ‘freakishly accurate’ description of an individual into priceless team insights about dominant strengths, values, and culture preferences – data that can help you make impactful tweaks to your professional development program.
- Use personalized reports to customize the plan for each team member.
Your leadership development program should simultaneously push participants to new heights as a group while also considering the individual needs and growth areas of each person in the program. To accomplish this at scale, make sure the assessment you subscribe to makes it easy for each participant to unpack their results and discuss with a trusted mentor or boss.
People really like learning from others, yet mentorship rarely happens organically. Our leaders pick specific high performers who are interested in mentoring another colleague. I formally ask each person to be a mentor for a particular person, or ask who he or she would work well with in a mentor/mentee relationship. – Jason Lange
In that vein, the Clarity report was specifically crafted so that anyone (without formal training) could walk through the report and action plan effectively. We use actionable language, not jargon, so anyone can easily understand and apply all feedback without needing someone else to explain it.
- Use what you know about your people to inspire them to care about their professional development.
Getting people to care about your program will be the last big hurdle for you before it’s officially set into motion. Understanding why people care about anything is a complex endeavor. Sales and marketing teams spend the majority of their resources trying to figure out their clients’ purchase decisions.
In this case, your people are your customer; your professional development program is your product; soft skills and values are your common ground.
Making a simple investment in your people at the individual level with an assessment (like Clarity) is a great way to show good faith towards your people that you have their best interests at heart. When you unveil the program, you can use data points about the group and at the individual level to show that your program was truly built to help each person take a step forward in their professional development.
If professional development is a priority for your company, you can either waste a lot of paper on meaningless certificates or use training to energize your workforce and improve your company in the long run. By personalizing your efforts and encouraging your team to be candid and proactive, your business can start singing a new tune. – Jason Lange
Avoid the fundamental mistake of building a professional development program that’s disconnected from your team members at a personal level. Make sure your initial step involves collecting data about their soft skills, professional values, and personality traits. Doing so will improve your chances of building a program that people will benefit from and actively participate in. Have a clear goal in mind for each of your team members, and empower team leaders to become strong mentors with personalized, jargon-free reports and action plans.
Try Clarity for Free here.