by Keith E. Smith
If you Google the title of this article you will find a plethora of articles that have been written in an attempt to answer the question. Many of those articles offer information that, if applied, can certainly help you retain your most talented employees. However, there is something you can do that will have more impact than almost anything else, and that is becoming involved in the personal development of your people.
You may be thinking that personal development is just that, personal. You may ask, “Isn’t this something that should be left up to the individuals themselves?” Well, yes and no. It is certainly the responsibility of each person to adopt a mindset that makes them coachable, willing to learn, and change when necessary. But, as a leader, it is your responsibility to create an environment that encourages growth, both professionally and personally. I say both because, let’s face it, you cannot separate personal life from professional life. It is all life, no matter how many times we recite the mantra, “It’s not personal, it’s business.”
Your business is only as strong as the people working in it, and this is why you must provide more than just professional development. Professional development is great, and necessary, but it only addresses one area of a person’s life. In order to be fulfilled, a person needs to feel they are growing and progressing in all areas of their life. For example, if a person is happy with their work life, but feel as though their creativity has no outlet, then their overall happiness will suffer. If a person is succeeding at work, but feel like their personal relationships are in shambles, there is little chance they will experience the feeling of fulfillment. Now, I know you may be thinking, “How can I be responsible for the personal lives of everyone on my team?” Good news, you are not responsible for their personal lives. But, as a leader you are responsible for creating a workplace environment that encourages growth, and you do that by recognizing the fact that work is only one facet of a person’ life. People need to feel enriched, and have meaningful work outside of just their jobs.
When you help your staff develop outside of their jobs, they will not only be fulfilled personally, they will also be more successful and productive in their job roles. You will help them to become the person they know they are capable of becoming, but were not sure how to get there. By now, you may be wondering how assisting your people with their personal development will benefit you as a business owner. Here are just a few ways you and your business will benefit:
Loyalty: When your people realize that you care enough about them to invest in them personally, they will be more willing to do the same for you.
Self-motivated: Happy employees who feel fulfilled, and see that you are interested in their fulfillment, will not need to be externally motivated by managers. They will be internally driven to succeed, thus requiring less oversight, which allows you and your management team to focus on higher level tasks.
Productivity & Engagement: When you invest in the personal development of your team, you will notice that they become more engaged, and proactive in their roles. You will also notice they they do more, without being asked, and many will even do more than they are being paid to do.
Top Talent Retention: Some believe that by training and improving their people, that they run the risk of losing them to a competitor. That is a valid concern, but the truth of the matter is that it creates in them the desire to stay. Rare is the employer that takes a genuine interest in the personal development of their people, and your people know that. Besides, employees who are not happy, engaged and fulfilled are not going to be loyal to you or your company anyway.
How can you incorporate personal development into your company? There are many ways, and that may be the topic of another article, but here are a few examples:
Of course, there are many ways to make personal development a part of your company’s culture. The important thing to remember is that personal development and career development are not the same thing. You need to both, but recognize the differences. Know that work life and personal life is connected, not separate. Addressing all facets of your team’s lives will yield amazing benefits for everyone, including you and your business.