The 1 Thing We Require All Employees To Do To Promote Their Personal Development

I am a believer that an effective work environment should empower its employees to become better people — not just better “workers.”

However, a company can only push someone so far. At a certain point, it’s the decision of the employee whether they want to adopt the disciplines and invest the time required to continue improving. All the company can do is present the opportunities and see which employees take advantage on their own.

We have our own process for personal development at Morphic Therapeutic. But instead of mandating certain personal development practices, I have found greater success in making the first step mandatory, and everything that follows encouraged but optional.

The process goes like this:

Part 1 (Required)

One of the biggest challenges professionals face in their careers is an uncertainty about the future. We all have these general notions of what we want out of a career, but have a difficult time imagining the actionable steps that will move us from A to B.

Drawing a parallel here to the process of product development, it’s said 4 qualitative interviews provide 90% of the required information in order to begin. Before those interviews are completed, you lack the clarity to move forward.

I believe we, as humans, are no different.

The first part of Morphic’s personal development process is to interview three people that hold a position or job that you’d like to have in the future. These can be people within the company or at a separate company. What matters is that it forces you to declare a specific person, what they’re doing, and why you’re interested — which provides clarity around your own interests and career path.

Contrary to popular belief, most experts don’t have a causal model for their own success.

By interviewing someone who is where you want to be one day, you’re forced to declare a direction. This is provisional. It can be changed but you have a direction to start.

The interview process itself is very informal. Internally, I have created a handful of documents helping employees learn how to reach out to someone via email, ask for a cup of coffee or ten minutes to chat. I’ll even make introductions if needed. What’s important is that the conversation is approached from almost a journalistic perspective. We want employees asking people farther along than themselves, “What was your first job? And then when was your first promotion?”

By hearing someone else’s path, and seeing how each step connected to the next, they can start to imagine their own direction in life — and that’s extremely powerful.

Part 2 (Recommended, But Not Required)

The reason the first part of required but parts two and three are not is because what an employee ultimately chooses to do with the information they glean from interviewing others is truly up to them. All we can do is get them moving in the right direction. But true personal development has to be an intrinsic pursuit.

In this portion of the process, we encourage employees to define the skills they will need in order to move forward. If the purpose of interviewing is to gain clarity around a goal, then part two is about breaking down that goal into actionable steps.

What are the capabilities you already bring to the table? And how can you leverage those for the lifestyle or career aspiration you’re looking for?

This means synthesizing the work from Part 1 into a set of required skills.

One thing I like to remind employees of is that our workplace community, in sum total, contains people with many different experiences and skills. So pursuing personal development in isolation will probably not provide the same results that you would obtain by utilizing the larger Morphic community — in particular, your manager.

But why this part is highly recommended but not required is because it does require significant effort, reflection, and iteration. At the end of the day, an employee has to want it for themselves.

All you can (and should) do is facilitate the process.

Part 3 (Optional)

And finally, an employee that wants to become successful or achieve their ideal career path has to ask themselves, “How do I become a HiPO (high potential) employee in my chosen field?”

The biggest reason why this is optional is because achieving results quickly, in any industry or pursuit, requires tremendous motivation and exercising agency. Public research in personal development suggest that this part of the process is not “fun,” nor is that the intention. The intention is to progress, and the motivation for doing so comes from a personal vision of your future self.

As much as managers and company leaders believe they can force this process, the truth is you can’t. You can certainly get employees started. You can recommend reading materials, additional opportunities, even help them think through some of their individual questions. But you cannot force mastery.

Which means you are far better off creating a process that allows for those most motivated to reveal themselves on their own.