By Andy Lothian, Chief Executive Officer, Insights Learning and Development
As HR leaders know all too well, you won’t find a résumé outlining a job candidate’s biggest achievements as “successfully working with people with wildly different personalities than their own” or “navigating difficult professional situations with strength and grace.” The working world just isn’t set up like that, which is understandable and unfortunate because it is these exact skills that enhance or diminish an organization’s collective value. While a candidate’s work experience and technical skills should be rightly featured in their résumé, it is not these competencies to which organizational growth is intrinsically tied.
I have founded my 30-year career on the notion that helping people develop individually is an enabler of companies being able to develop organizationally. Interpersonal skills drive real bottom-line results and a growing body of research supports this claim. A Korn Ferry study found that over a 30-month period, publicly traded companies employing professionals who exhibit higher levels of self-awareness enjoyed a higher rate of return than those who didn’t.
Although the connection is clear, sometimes even the most well-intentioned executives could be reminded that personal breakthroughs lead to business breakthroughs. Here are some tips HR leaders can use to help top management prioritize employee development.
1. People Development Isn’t an Add-On
While there are many crucial facets to growing a business, nothing would be possible without the right people. After all, it’s people who come up with the ideas that create business value. Creativity, initiative, and commitment are difficult to show on a balance sheet, but they’re among your company’s most critical components, and they all reside with your workforce. Because of this, developing your people can’t be an add-on if you want to propel your business forward; rather, it’s the fuel that keeps your business’s engine running.
Sometimes, executives resist investing in learning and development because they’re worried that they’ll spend vast amounts of money training and bettering people, and then those people might leave. But honestly, what’s worse: if they leave, or if you don’t invest in them and they stay? Investments in people development initiatives can be strategic investments like all other strategic business projects. Just as you have quarterly fiscal goals and sales goals, your company should have enterprisewide employee development and engagement goals, too.
2. Your Culture Is Quantifiable
A healthy organizational culture and positive working environment isn’t just a fluffy, feel-good concept but it is also a key to unlocking business success. In The Advantage, author Patrick Lencioni wrote, “The financial cost of having an unhealthy organization is undeniable: wasted resources and time, decreased productivity, increased employee turnover, and customer attrition. “ Similarly, The Center of Talent Innovation found that companies with an inclusive culture outperform the competition—capturing 48% market share, compared to 33%.
We must never underestimate what is possible when professionals find one or all of the following in their career: a place where they can be themselves, a role where they excel, and/or a group of people they can relate to. From my experience, when executives realize what’s at stake by not developing their people and their organization’s culture, the budget allocation conversations change in both profound and subtle ways.
3. Awareness Isn’t Just for You
The goal of learning and development programs isn’t to create an army of narcissists, each with stellar skills, but battling each other. It’s not just about building self-awareness, but building other-awareness. It’s about learning to appreciate others for their authentic selves and build ways to work with them. This is where results, even breakthroughs, happen.
As employees build self-awareness about their own strengths and weaknesses, they also build appreciation for the interpersonal preferences of others. Throughout this process, teams can not only click but can also kick into gear and accelerate. Recognizing and appreciating differences also allows managers to more quickly identify competency gaps in themselves and their teams which, in turn, promotes the skill development initiatives required to fill those gaps. So, encourage your employees to bring their “whole selves” to work and offer opportunities for them to understand their own interpersonal preferences more deeply.
As someone with the honor of holding dual roles as chief executive and head of people of a global learning and development organization, Insights, I have the joy of facilitating personal and business breakthroughs for our employees and clients. Through this, I’ve learned that investments in employee self-awareness and organizational culture deliver not only happier employees but also better financial results. It is critical that C-level executives in your organization acknowledge this connection in everything they do. After all, if it is your workforce that unlocks your organization’s potential, your business should focus intently on unlocking its workforce’s potential.
About the Author—Andy Lothian
Named the 2016 EY Entrepreneur for the Year for Scotland, CEO Andy Lothian is dedicated to the connection between personal development and business development.
Andy founded Insights Learning and Development with his father, Andi Lothian, more than 20 years ago and has turned a two-man operation into a successful global development company. In his dual roles as Insights’ chief executive and head of people (human resources and talent development function), Andy is passionately committed to enabling profound people development, whether for the organization’s clients or for employees.