Is a personal development budget a waste of money?
In most companies, yes. But at Goodlord? No.
But let’s back up. The competition for top talent in the tech world is fiercer than ever, which means companies are looking for new and interesting ways to attract star recruits. One perk that’s increasingly popular is the personal development budget - anything from a few hundred to a thousand pounds on top of an employee’s salary, which they can invest in their development. Some companies throw in a few training days, too.
More often than not this ends up being a total waste of time and money because one of three things happens:
- The budget is never spent because the employee is “too busy” to dedicate any time to training - on average, the uptake of personal development budgets is only 30%.
- The budget is spent on frivolous activities that might be fun but don’t actually result in any personal development (I’m looking at you, SXSW).
- Leaders don’t ensure their employees use their budget... or young, inexperienced managers who have learned by doing aren’t sure what’s the best course their employees should take.
What’s the reason these scenarios play out again and again? In some cases, employees feel guilty taking time out during their day to invest in themselves. It feels selfish - after all, you’re being paid to do your job and here you are watching youtube videos on how to use Excel more effectively. In start up culture, in particular, there can be a tendency to focus on the here and now. There's fewer people, an endless amount of things that need to get done.
Sometimes it’s purely a time management issue - the employee doesn’t know how to organise their time well enough to ensure that they are setting time aside for personal development. Lack of self awareness can also be a problem, with employees simply not appreciating the areas where they need development.
Ultimately, however, it’s a failure of management.
There is a famous (though likely apocryphal) conversation about staff development between a Chief Financial Officer and a Chief Executive Officer “What if we train them and they leave?” the CFO asks. “What if we don't and they stay?” the CEO replies. True or not, the conversation serves to highlight the value of developing staff... and the consequences of not doing so. Managers have a responsibility to provide the learning and development infrastructure for their employees to ensure that the people who stay are better today than they were yesterday.
We live this belief at Goodlord, where personal development is as important to us as increasing profits. In fact, we believe that the latter cannot happen without the former, so we proactively engage with our employees to make sure each one is investing in their own development.
We set company objectives on a quarterly basis which filter down into individual objectives. Each employee has an objective centered around their own progression in addition to those that are tied to the company’s goals. Employees work with their manager to arrive at a goal that will help them do their day job better or take them a step closer to reaching their long-term career goals.
Yes, that’s right - we don’t restrict employees to only development options that are immediately and directly beneficial to us as a company. Personal development goals are about just that - personal development, so their budget and time could be spent on role-related skills, transferable skills or opportunities to level up their skills through mentorship and learning from a network of peers.
Once the area of development is identified, employee and manager will agree on how to measure progress, including what good, better and out-of-this-world would look like. They also agree on a regular cadence for reviewing and assessing the employee’s progress. being made. Regular check-ins help the employee’s manager to determine if the employee is dedicating enough time and effort to their development. If not, they can intervene.
Sound time-consuming? That’s because it is. But if you believe that a manager’s primary function is to bring the best out of their team, can you think of a better way they could spend their time? I can’t.
Want to experience real personal development? Check out the jobs we have available.