Whose responsibility is personal development at work?

Written by Sarah Ross, Client Advisor

In the world of work today, new trends are emerging related to why employees are leaving or staying with an organization. This has grown into a larger discussion about key components necessary for finding and retaining top talent. While financial security, role alignment, and company culture are some of the contributing factors to employee retention, another component to this discussion is the importance of an employee’s personal development at work.

In a blog from Culture Amp, they define employee development as “…the practice of learning new skills and honing existing ones.” Professional growth and development is becoming more recognized as a necessary requirement for job offerings in today’s workplace. According to a study done by Gallup, almost 60% of millennials are looking for job openings that include development opportunities when searching for their role.

However, another component to this discussion is the debate of whose responsibility is personal development at work? Most experts in the talent management space agree that development opportunities don’t fall on just one person or group; it should be a shared responsibility between the organization, an employee’s manager, and the employee themselves. Let’s look at each of these groups individually.

Development opportunities at work: The main players

1. The organization

Organizational support is one of the most important components necessary for an employee’s personal development at work. This is evident as more companies are working to invest further in employee development. Research suggests that employees are much more likely to stay in their organization for longer periods of time if the company offers development opportunities at work. And the benefits extend past just retention as organizations that are investing in the growth of their internal talent are seeing more positive results on the business side as well.

For example, Amazon is an organization that has created countless employee training and development programs. One in particular relates to their Associate2Tech program where they work to train employees in the nontechnical space to more technical areas (like software engineering). Because of how highly they prioritize development programs such as Associate2Tech, they promote these programs in their recruitment process. In fact, between 2020-2021, they spent almost $70 million on various channels for their recruitment, including highlighting their professional development programs.

2. The manager

As the world of work has transitioned into this remote work reality, employee engagement has been challenging. One way that organizations have been navigating through this obstacle is by involving managers in their employee’s personal development.

A study done by Gallup found that employee engagement is very strongly connected to the effectiveness of the team leader/manager. Not only can managers help to coach and motivate their team members, but they also have a unique opportunity to identify other development opportunities for their direct reports.

According to a Harvard Business Review, managers need to have more impact on supporting employee development and more insight into the visibility of employee priorities. Managers should also support their direct reports with occasions to use what they have learned in these development opportunities at work. Instead of managers simply leading a team to reach certain business objectives, managers should be more involved with supporting the growth and development of their employees which in turn benefits all areas of the organization. It is important to note that training should also be provided proactively to managers for them to be able to effectively impact employee development within their organization as well.

3. The employee

While organizations and managers are vital components to creating and supporting development opportunities at work, individuals are equally responsible for their own growth and progress. It is important for individuals to take responsibility for their personal development goals and career objectives that they want to achieve for themselves. However, if there is no employee development presence within an organization, this will pose more barriers for individuals on their own growth journey. Creating a culture of personal development will help to inspire individual growth plans, to the point where it becomes a requirement for all employees at every level.

Personal development at work is everyone’s responsibility

It is important to acknowledge the various areas of an organization where employee development is important. However, it is also important to recognize the value that employee development can have not just to the particular employee, but to the organization as a whole. Employee development can greatly impact the talent within an organization in areas such as:

  • Filling skills gaps within a group
  • Preparing employees for succession planning and turnover
  • Expanding capabilities of the individuals
  • Assisting with career development

The subsequent positive impacts of personal development opportunities have the ability to cascade throughout the entire organization by enhancing productivity, increasing retention, boosting profits, and attracting top talent. While it is clear that employee development needs to be initiated from the top down as a business requirement, it also needs to be a commitment from all individuals and departments of the organization to reap the maximum benefits for all parties involved.


High-impact blended learning practices

Implement future-proof processes to help your people thrive.

Now that our businesses are recovering and we’re getting used to the hybrid world of work, it is more important than ever to reimagine how we develop our employees in this extremely competitive job market, all in order to increase retention, enhance productivity and engagement, and improve business outcomes.

In this guide, you’ll gain insights on:

  • Why employee development practices need to change
  • How to design effective, evidence-based learning programs
  • Keeping your employee development sustainable over time
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