How to make personal development engaging – the Pure Planet way

I’ve done plenty of personal development type workshops, I’m sure you have too. You know the ones - you sit in a classroom all day, talking about your innermost feelings with the whole group who you may never have met before - or see again.

Then there’s the role play which everybody hates doing and, after a heavy lunch, you sleep through yet more theory before the next group exercise. A week later you have forgotten what was covered and… you get the picture!

So when we wanted to focus our teams on their own personal development at Pure Planet we wanted to do something that was very different.

Encouraging a love of learning

We’re a renewable energy company with an award winning ‘people first’ culture. We encourage a love of learning, we see it as a strength when our people enthusiastically seek out new information, topics and skills.

So, the stuffy old workshops had to go – truth is, they were never here in the first place.

Our philosophy when it comes to development is for our teams to self-manage or ‘navigate’ their learning – “It’s up to you” is the key message. For example, all of the team have access to an e-learning portal and are given a sum of money to spend on whatever learning activity they like. If they want to learn Spanish, then that’s fine.

But first we needed to encourage, support and help empower our people to discover what they want to be better at. 

Self-discovery - the basis of personal development

So back to making personal development engaging. We needed a session that would provide a solid foundation upon which to understand what each individual’s strengths, limitations and learning needs are. We wanted a session that was all about self-discovery and action planning.

We invited Liza Hughes of Whynot? Coaching to work with us. Her interpretation of Pure Planet's ethos and the brief was spot on. As a result, she was able to devise a session called Pure Me with some simple objectives.

·      Build deeper understanding of self-awareness and why it’s important to personal and career success

·      Learn more about strengths, limitations and potential development areas (Online questionnaire to be completed before session) 

·      Learn about what can be done to fill the gaps (how to apply tools and techniques) 

·      Recognising everyone has different needs and styles 

We also wanted to send a clear message that we support and encourage development. Everyone was invited (including the senior management team) to attend one of six sessions.  

So how did we make it different from the dull classroom-based sessions we all know so well?

Pure Me – navigating learning for life

We asked them to bring their walking boots and gave them all a packed lunch!

Following an initial hello in the office (no painful ice-breakers to grin and bear) Liza shared her thoughts on self-development and outlined the day.   

A minibus then collected everyone and took them out into the countryside near Bath. A walking guide, David Howell of Foot Trails, met us in a quintessential English village and the next 4 hours was spent completely immersed in the countryside walking through a beautiful landscape. During this time each person was asked questions to either self-reflect upon whilst they are walking or to discuss in a co-coaching way with a colleague.

Every exercise was done in pairs and during the day everybody talked to each other. The group were issued with a specially designed map by Liza which outlined the route but at each landmark along the way we described the exercise and gave learning points. Liza facilitated the group and David told them all about the local wildlife and fauna.

What did we cover along the way?

The programme is all about self-discovery. We wanted to encourage the team to think about what they want to be better at, to explore their curiosities, keep an open mind and to use their signature strengths – and we really wanted them to challenge the assumptions that may be limiting their thinking and self-belief.

So, we asked them to ask each other some questions, these are just a few…

What would you like to be better at?

What ways inspire you to learn?

Where and when do you do your best learning?

What personal beliefs stop you from being your best self?

How might your beliefs affect your confidence, natural strengths and abilities?

What are your top 5 signature strengths?

What are you most proud of?

The walk conveniently ended in a small village which has a community run pub. The final exercise of the day involved action planning in the pub garden with a well-deserved drink of choice.

Feedback on the programme

The feedback has been brilliant generating comments such as: 

Pure Me was so good and so different 

Pure Me was really useful and helpful

Pure Me was amazing

I have done lots of Pure Me type things before and I hated it, this one was really good …. really different and I learnt sooo much

Pure Me was the best team build I have been on

Pure Me was brilliant. It was great to think about my strengths

In conclusion

After 25 years of HR practice, I actually enjoyed a personal development session. It came from the realisation that people don’t engage over tedious theory delivered in stuffy rooms by ‘Death by Powerpoint’. They engage when, instead of development being delivered ‘at’ them, they themselves are integral to the process.

What’s more, they are genuinely in the driving seat – this process is about helping them discover what they are good at and what they want to improve on – and they take responsibility.

Perhaps this is another reason why Pure Planet has a 5 star rating on Glassdoor and were voted the Happiest Workplace in Bath last year. And we’ve only been around just over two years.

Author: Richard Roberts
Posted on: Monday 12th August 2019

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