The benefits of self development programs

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Self development is a program where an individual attains the required skills to help improve their quality of personal or work life. It covers areas such as time management, motivation, confidence, positive attitude. Management development programs on the other hand helps, managers or employees who have subordinates reporting to them to attain the necessary skills, to effectively and efficiently perform task that they have been assigned to perform. The program ranges from managership, effective communication, project management to mentoring and many more.

While these development programs maybe different and benefit different parties. There are some development programs that are similar and important to both an individual and manager such as goal setting, time management, effective communication, prioritisation and motivation. These development programs are interrelated and are critical in preparing and empowering individuals within the organisation to stay relevant and contribute effectively towards achieving organisational objectives.

Over the years organisations have been plagued with seeking development programs that would enhance its employee's skills and capabilities. The more relevant skills attained the more marketable the employee becomes, thus enhancing the organisation's competitiveness within its industry.

This paper illustrates the author's view on goal setting and the many similar self and management development programs that play a role in developing employees and managers holistically to encourage and motivate them to contribute positively to the organisational goals .

Goals setting are achievements that an individual, groups, team or organisation wishes to attain within a predefine time in the future. It provides direction, motivation, improves teamwork and individual performance. Rohn (1996) mentioned that a well define goal motivates both employees and managers to work harder towards achieving it. Hence to support comprehension and execution, the main goal is divided into three parts according to their tenor of achievement, long, medium and short term goals. The subdivision will help micro manage each activity that needs to be performed, to achieve the goal.

These smaller goals if not achieved will set a negative chain reaction towards attaining the overall goal. An example, if any short term goals are not achieved, it will first disrupt the completion of the medium term goal followed by the long term and eventually non achievement of the main goal. Whilst goal setting starts from top to bottom, the reverse approach is taken when executing activities to achieve them. Timelines not meet will lead to extensions of the already existing deadlines, increasing frustration, anxiety and may also develop fear among individuals in taking up new projects in the future

Rooker (2010) mentioned that many individuals fail to set goals because they do not realize the importance of goals, fear of failure, fear of rejection and not knowing the method of setting specific and attainable goals. This results in frustration, lack motivation and confidence because the individual does not know what needs to be done or how their performance is being measured thus affecting their contribution towards overall organisation goals. To avoid similar situations organisations are now attempting to understand the relationship and importance of individual goal setting and its positive benefits to the organisation as a whole.

On a high level goal setting starts from a vision, a mental picture of a state an individual wishes to be in, in the future. Based on the vision, appropriate goals which are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely (S.M.A.R.T) are developed. Each goal must be tagged with a timeline within which it must be achieved and it is pivotal that review periods are incorporated to allow the employees to take stock of their current status and reassess their plans to determine if the existing timelines set should be rescheduled or new action plan developed to address any limitation to the plan. Over and above this, the employee must identify capable and trustworthy individuals to be recruited as the employee's support group members. To provide feedback, inspiration, advice and motivation, the truth is something we dislike but needs to be heard for the betterment of ourselves Goldsmith (2007). While painful as it seems, the employee and manager must pay sufficient attention to areas of improvement in order to achieve the set goals. Finally contingency plans are critical in any activity. It prepares the employee to face any unforeseen issues that may rise to disruption planned activities.

Harvard Business School (2005) mentioned that organisation, manager and employee goals must be aligned. This will ensure goals attempted benefit the organization this will avoid wastage of organisational resources such money, time and effort if irrelevant goals are attempted. To avoid goal misalignment there must be interaction between the manager and employees. Where the manager explains that orgainisational goals, how manger's goals support the organisation goal and how the employee plays a role in supporting this overall activity.

Abisheganaden (2004), on many occasion goals set are not achieved, because employees are not emotionally attached to them. This is because the goals were developed and committed by their managers instead of the employees. To maintain commitment to goals both employee and manager must work together in the goal setting process. During this process emotional attachments where built. The manager leads the discussion and relays on inputs from the employee. At the end of the activity both parties agreed on timelines, approach of achieving the goal. This benefits the groups as every member will have to go through the same process of goals setting. Through this process employee, manager and organisational expectations are managed.

To maintain focus and motivation on goals set. Employees must be told how important their goals are and how it contributes to the overall organisation goals, Bruce and Pepitone (1998). It also affirms that the manager will provide support in attaining employee goals tough mentoring. By showing these links an employee will take pride of their goal and will be motivated more than ever in achieving them. An organisation where it's employees understand the value and benefits of goals have a higher probability of achievement compared to one that doesn't.

Bruce and Pepitone (1998), managers must explain to their employees rewards and recognition that will be attained once goals are achieved. As such goals submitted by an employee must be benchmarked by the manager in terms of relevance to the organisational goal. If it does not comply with the criteria set, the recommendation is retuned to the employee together with the proposed goals for reassessment. This process will ensure that only relevant goals are attempted. It will avoid comparison and frustration among team members if substandard and irrelevant goals achieved by employees are rewarded.

Smith, Jaffee-Gill and Segal (2008) indicated that while the goals employees and managers need to achieve is overwhelming, if not managed effectively will eventually cause stress among team or group members. The stress faced by each member maybe different. A manager maybe facing stress in ensuring all employees complete their task within agreed timeframe and the employee maybe stressed by the manager to meet the task deadlines. To manage stress both employees and managers must be trained to highlight their feelings of dissatisfaction about work which may include treatments received from the manager or employee, additional task assigned during projects and work pressure. It is best to discuss these issues at it's infancy, where it is easier to manage. Additionally managers must have good relationship with their employees where they are able to detect feelings of dissatisfaction among employee and quickly address them before it blows out of proportion.

Goals that have been set or agreed upon by employee and managers must be accepted with a positive attitude. Only with positive attitude will goals set be achieved. If the reverse attitude is practiced, chances of success is low, Rose (2008). Similarly manager must be developed to be positive that their team members are capable and will effectively contribute in achieving the goals that have been set. However if a manager perceives if any of the team members are incapable, it creates a negative perception of the employee. This forces the manager to constantly follow-up with employee on project status and outcome. Indirectly causing frustration among members for fear that the timelines set may not be met. This will eventually cause delays in timelines and cause dissatisfaction among good and bad performers within the team

To avoid this Wilson and Dobson (2008) stressed that prioritisation of goals are critical in completing task within agreed timelines. Employees and managers must be developed on prioritising task according to deadline and urgency. Through efficient prioritization goals set can be achieved. This will also develop a team which is tasks oriented, motivated and willing to take-up more challenging task. It also indirectly improves employee manager relationships.

Wilson and Dobson (2008) also mentioned that the planning and organising skill in goal attainment is important to both employees and managers. It starts by the manager identifying goals which an employee is familiar and comfortable. The goal is then executed by the employee and only upon successful completion more difficult and complex goals are subsequently assigned for execution. This approach is similar to the training a marathon runner undergoes before a major race. The training or completion of easier goals will motivate the employee to take-up a more complex and difficult goal next. More importantly it prepares the individual for the challenges that lay ahead such as how to handle pressure and setting expectations.

Juneja (2009) mentioned that communication development is required to enables employees and managers to articulate events or activities effectively. More importantly it develops them to be good listeners. Only through effective listening can an employee comprehend the facts and approach that being highlighted by the manager. A manager on the other hand must be trained to use emotional intelligence. Sirota (2010) concluded that a manager must be able to understand the situation an employee is in and thereafter practice good judgment to help the employee through this trying period. More importantly the manager must be honest in providing solution to problems raised no matter how difficult it may seem. A manager with emotional intelligence is able to sympathise with the employee on the issue raised and at the same time, with depth of knowledge persuade the employee to look at the problem from a different dimension for resolution. In such situation employees look up to a manager who has high emotional intelligence, to openly speak of problems faced and assistance required to help them look at the problem differently for a solution.

Shelmerdine (2009) added that both employee and managers must be developed to be effective time managers. This will support in tracking goal attainment progress, which is critical in ensuring timelines or deadlines agreed are not misses or delayed. While project timelines are developed by manager, it is subdivide into task that supports the entire project. Based on task that needs to be performed, both manager and employee agree on the task completion timelines. The employee manages the task timeline while the manager manages the project timeline. The timelines agreed must include review periods. This will ensure items that will be completed, comply with the expectation and requirements of the project. Through effective time management the team will be able to management projects better and like an accelerator in a car it also allows the employee to speed up progress if timelines are near with not much development and the reverse action is applied if the deadline is a distance away with a lot completed. Rose (2008) if progress of goals attainment by employee is within scheduled timelines, the manager must provide positive reinforcement to the employee to encourage this pattern of performance. Should there be a delay in goal completion then both employee and manager will need to analyse the reason for the delay and thereafter implement corrective action to correct the diversion from the initial timelines. This is achieved by communicating the discrepancies and working together to come up with solutions that quickly address issues that are faced.

Contingency plan development programs are also critical. It prepares both an employee and manager to face any unforeseen issues that may arise which may disrupt planned activities. This activity encourages the employee and managers to think ahead and play the "what if game" and where possible develop appropriate action plans to address potential issues. The plans developed by the employee and manager must be consistent and support each other. By the end of this activity a depository of action plans to address current and future challenges for the said goal has been developed and ready for execution when required. The major benefit of this activity is that, should a problem arise the employee or manager selects the appropriate action to resolve the said issue immediately instead of wasting valuable time during the project timeline to develop solutions to address them. This greater minimises the disappointment, frustration and late working each member of the team under goes when faced with a problem

Wilson and Dobson (2008) mentioned that feedbacks are important for both an employee and manager. A 360 degree feedback from the subordinate, coworker and superior must be obtained by the employee and manager. This feedback provides an independent view of their performance and area that would require attention or improvement. Hence feedback development programs are important. It develops employee and manager to effectively analyse feedbacks received, seek clarification if required and developed plans to address these shortcomings. Feedbacks received must be viewed positively with an open mind so that corrective action can be taken to further enhance the employee's and manager's goal setting skills.

Through effective goal setting an organisation is able to look within itself to identify employee and managers who displaces passion, commitment and innovation in achieving goals that had been set. These individuals may have the capability of leading the organisation tomorrow although they may not be ready as of now. Hence these individuals may be incorporated into a category called future talents. Where some may currently be performing task of their or the superiors, while others maybe at various stages of succession readiness, some maybe ready immediately, while others maybe ready within the next six to twelve months. The organisation may selectively invest on these employees in terms of areas for further improvement such as specific development programs, education or being seconded to other departments to help them understand the contribution and importance of each department within the organisation. This approach benefits the organization greatly as it ensures only capable employees, with the right attitude, who can lead the organisation into the future is promoted.

In conclusion goal setting is an important and powerful tool for employee, managers, and organisation. It ensures employees stay motivated and focused towards attainment of individual goals that is a part of the overall organisational goals. Whilst organisational goal achieving depends on the contribution by all employees, it also helps organisation standardise and segregate activities that need to be performed by each employee. The goal standardisation approach helps organisations offer better rewards, hence motivating them to subsequently set and achieve more difficult and complex goals. These efforts will make the organisation competitive within its industry thus sustaining its existence in years