Opinion piece - Taking charge of your development

Friday 07 December 2018

Opinion piece - Taking charge of your development
Writing for the Press and Journal, RGU's Susan MacLennan, discusses the importance of employees being proactive about their own development.

Feeling “stuck” in your current career is a common issue, but there are ways to get moving again.

Susan MacLennan is a senior organisational development specialist at Robert Gordon University with extensive experience in leadership and management development.

According to her, it has never been more important for employees to be proactive about their professional development.

“In today’s volatile and fast-paced business environment, it is crucial that people make the most of opportunities in order to stay current within their field,” she said.

“Staff costs are the largest cost that most employers will face, and well-trained, effective and happy people are any organisation’s greatest asset.

“To attract and retain the best and brightest talent, organisations need to be giving staff the opportunity to continuously learn.”

Susan believes that for the “millennial generation” this is a basic expectation.

“A report by PwC shows that professional development opportunities are the first benefit millennials look for from employers, followed by flexible working hours and cash bonuses,” she said.

“So, it’s hugely important for employers to have a development programme in place.

“When I’m putting together such a programme, I start by introducing the topic of self-awareness.

“Being self-aware and having an understanding of the impact you may have on others is crucial in order to form effective relationships at work.

“Added to this, mentoring and coaching are integral to all development programmes.

“Matching more experienced staff with those looking for support and advice is beneficial to both the mentor and the mentee.

“For the mentor it allows for the development of leadership and brings a sense of satisfaction from helping others.

“The mentee benefits from having someone who has ‘been there’ to learn from in terms of coping with change, career management and personal growth.”

For Susan, a common model for learning and development is the 70/20/10 model – with 70% of learning taking place on the job and 20% “near” the job, including coaching and mentoring, feedback and reading books and journals.

Only 10% of learning takes place off the job in formal classroom learning, online training courses and distance learning courses.

“The biggest piece of advice I can give is that it is imperative for you to take responsibility for your own career development,” said Susan.

Susan’s top tips for career development include:

  • Be proactive in seeking out relevant development opportunities.
  • Conduct a skills audit. For example, what are your strengths? What are the areas for improvement?
  • Have a clear vision or plan for the next three to five years to seek out development opportunities which will help you get there.
  • Be creative in your approach – job shadow, where possible, get involved in projects relating to your role.
  • Remember the 70-20-10 model. Not all development takes place in the classroom.
  • Have the right attitude, be flexible, adaptable and proactive.