When workers feel their workplace cares about their growth and development, they’re more likely to commit to their goals and the organization, as well as feel greater job satisfaction.

Growth is a significant part of human nature, and we have an intrinsic desire to continue to grow and develop throughout various aspects of our lives. In young children and adolescents, this growth is regular and consistent, therefore easily noticeable. As we age, we still have a desire for growth and development – but it may look a bit different. As adults, we spend a significant amount of time at work, and as such growth and development in our professional lives is important. If there aren’t opportunities for growth and development at work, many will choose to take another job if the opportunity arises. 

How do we recognize growth and development in the workplace?

Growth and development is present in a work environment where workers receive encouragement and support in the development of their interpersonal, emotional, and job skills. Such workplaces provide a range of internal and external opportunities for workers to build their repertoire of competencies. This will not only help with their current jobs, but will also prepare them for possible future positions. 

Why is Growth and Development Important?

When workers feel their workplace cares about their growth and development, they’re more likely to commit to their goals and the organization, as well as feel greater job satisfaction. This also directly enhances staff well-being. Providing access to opportunities to develop personal and interpersonal skills, aside from learning specific skills for their role, is an important component in promoting caring for oneself, strengthening relationships, and relating to others.

What happens when employees don’t have opportunities for growth and development?

Employees who are not challenged by their work will grow bored, their well-being will suffer, and their performance will drop. When staff don’t have opportunities to learn and improve their interpersonal and psychological skills, the result can be conflict, disengagement and distress.

An organization with good growth and development would be able to state that: 

  • workers receive feedback at work that helps them grow and develop; 
  • supervisors are open to worker ideas for taking on new opportunities and challenges; 
  • workers have opportunities to advance within their organization; 
  • the organization values workers’ ongoing growth and development; and, 
  • workers have the opportunity to develop their “people skills” at work. 

Supporting Growth and Development in the Workplace

Growth and development, even within the workplace, is a personal journey. There are a number of ways an organization can incorporate personal growth and development opportunities: 

1 Start with a plan.

Take the time to develop personal growth plans with each worker in the organization – both at the time of hire, as well as at a regular intervals (e.g., annually). This should be a collaborative process where workers are able to identify particular areas of passion within their work, set personal goals, and identify areas whether they would like to improve or expand their knowledge. 

2 Ask workers what they want or need.

Personal growth and development is dependent on workers’ personal goals and needs. Take the time to ask what type of opportunities are most important and meaningful.

3 Provide mentorship opportunities.

Those who are looking to move up within the organization will learn best from those already in those positions. Mentorship not only provides opportunity to determine whether or not they’re the right fit for that position (see Psychological Demands) but allows the opportunity to build the necessary skills. 

4 Training on ‘soft skills’.

Sometimes individuals may be lacking skills, simply because they aren’t aware of those skills as being directly related to their work. ‘Soft skills’ often relate to non-technical skills – such as emotional self-awareness, emotional control, awareness of others’ emotions, and effective communication. Some other soft skills may include things such as effective time management, task prioritization, and delegation. 

5 Provide feedback.

Those who are recognized and rewarded for their work are more likely to be motivated to continue to grow within the organization. Reward and recognition is not about monetary acknowledgement (assuming individuals are fairly remunerated for the work they do), but rather about acknowledgement and appreciation for one’s efforts. This tends to be more effective when individuals are recognized in a timely fashion, rather than at scheduled reviews. 

Some examples of opportunities for employee growth and development include:

  • Continuing education courses;
  • Tuition reimbursement;
  • Career development or counselling services;
  • Skills training provided in-house or through outside training centers;
  • Opportunities for promotion and internal career advancement;
  • Coaching, mentoring, and leadership development programs; and
  • Personal development; including skills such as emotional intelligence, communication, or physical health.

Final Thoughts on Growth and Development – Ongoing Improvement

Growth and development opportunities within the workplace are going to keep workers happier, healthier, and more committed to their work. So, think outside of the box when it comes to providing opportunities for growth and development within your organization. But don’t forget to ask for input from workers, and provide opportunities to create personalized plans for growth. 

Growth and Development is psychosocial factor 6 from the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety (PH&S) in the Workplace (CAN/CSA-Z1003-13/BNQ 9700-803/2013 – Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace). For more information, see also Guarding Minds at Work (Samra et al.).