Lifelong Learning and Personal Development

All of us, regardless of our role within our organisation, will have had some sort of performance management interview during our career where we are asked to set ourselves goals or targets for the future.  One of the problems with this element of performance management is that it can actually embed negative behaviours rather than providing the intended challenge and opportunities for personal and professional development.

One common response to the question is to suggest development in a wide and difficult to define area.  For example, improving my presentation skills, or improving my understanding of compliance issues.  Whilst these are laudable aims, they’re also a bit woolly.  Practising presentations endlessly is not necessarily going to make you (or them) any better or more effective.  Reading up on compliance issues generally may not actually help you identify those that are most relevant or pose the biggest risks to your firm.  Instead, it would be more effective to identify the specific elements that are causing you the most problems or are of the greatest importance.  For example, focusing on avoiding using too much jargon in presentations, or looking at ways to improve how you deal with awkward responses during question and answer sessions.  By focussing on something specific, you’ll be able to see and demonstrate much clearer progress towards achieving your goal.

When you have been in a role for a while, it can be tempting to focus on what you already do well and concentrate on honing your skills further.  After all, it’s reassuring and comforting to be able to demonstrate your prowess.  On the other hand, it can also make you complacent and can hinder you in the longer-term.  When developing your skills, it’s good to reinforce those that you already have, but it’s even better to identify areas and items where you are not yet fully skilled, and that require you to stretch yourself and your thinking.  For example, if you handle a range of different types of business, but have less exposure to some types than others, these may be where you’ll gain the most from further training.

Finally, a classic approach to learning is to wait for specific opportunities to become available to you – such as a training course on a topic of interest.  Formal learning like this can be a really powerful tool to boost the knowledge of individuals within a firm – after all, that’s what we as learning and development teams spend a lot of our time devising and delivering.  However, it is not the only opportunity that learners have to develop their skills.  In fact, pretty much everything that they do in carrying out their normal role will provide a development opportunity for them – from dealing with clients to presenting in management meetings.

Learning is a skill that can be developed by individuals but needs to be embedded in the culture of organisations.  As the world around us continues to change, it is essential that individuals don’t just embrace the concept of lifelong learning to adapt their skills, but become intentional learners – actively seeking out and exploiting learning opportunities every day.

The Development Zone is a powerful toolkit that enables both individual learners and entire organisations to develop their learning skills and their technical knowledge.  The content catalogue contains an ever-growing range of courses covering key topics and techniques to enable you to become better and more knowledgeable learners and trainers.  The DevZone Academy also includes a range of topics to enable you to identify and use the full range of tools available within the Development Zone’s learning toolkit.

About the author

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of UKGI.

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