Personal growth also happens at work

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Henriëtte Klijnstra

29 March 2023 Clock 10 min

Personal development, working on yourself, personal growth – it doesn’t matter what you call it, as long as you take the time to do it. We explain how and why we do this at Voys in this blog post. We will look at the importance of feedback and making mistakes. We will also share some pointers on self development and describe which conditions within an organization are necessary to stimulate growth.

What motivates people the most at work? Nope, its not a bonus or salary increase. Personal growth, authentic relationships with colleagues and feeling safe and trusted all work better. Growth happens when you choose work that challenges you and pushes your boundaries and also through setting clear goals. Through learning and collecting feedback about your work from your colleagues, you can find out what you can improve.

Finding the time to think about it

Does personal development really have to happen during work time? You are there to do your work right? Not everyone sees the importance of personal development and growth. We found out that within Voys around 20% of colleagues don’t see the relevance. Taking a course or following a master class often is at the bottom of the to-do list. Helping customers and supporting colleagues comes first, which is noble, but learning to put yourself first can make a difference. And in time it’s even better for your customers or colleagues because colleagues that learn and grow are happy and motivated.

But how?

Alright, developing yourself, let’s do it! But how do you get started? First take a look at your strengths. Your strengths aren’t necessarily what you are good at, but rather the things that give you energy when you are doing them, instead of taking energy. It’s about getting in the flow and having the feeling that everything is going right. The flow happens when 3 things work together: your strengths, your value system, and your interests.

This visual is based on the Japanese concept of Ikigai, which means ‘reason for being’. However Ikigai focuses on 4 things: What you love, what the world needs, what you are good at, and what you can be paid for. For our founder Mark Vletter, thinking of what you are good at doesn’t go as deep as strengths, and he also found that there were many things he loves to do that he isn’t paid for, so he focuses instead on the 3 elements of flow.

Find your strengths

To find out your strengths, you can do a personality test. Voys founder Mark Vletter (who has a newsletter worth signing up for) found the Gallup StrengthsFinder test to be the most useful. The results give you the top 5 things that you are especially good at. But there are other types of personality tests you can do as well. After taking the test, Mark looked at which roles and tasks fit him best. The result? His work got better, and so did his ability to say ‘no’. When he was asked to do something that didn’t fit his strengths, he automatically said no.

Work on developing yourself in areas where your strengths lie and where you get energy from. That’s the one way to get the most out of yourself. Developing and growing traits that you are naturally good at provides much more focus and energy, and therefore happiness in your work.

Sometimes finding your strengths and deciding which traits you want to improve is hard to do by yourself, so at Voys we have a role called the Study Stimulator. This role not only helps you find the right courses that fit your strengths, but also organizes internal trainings. Some people would feel more comfortable talking about their career path and their future with someone more distanced from the organization, such as an external coach. We also offer the opportunity for those (confidential) conversations. This can lower the bar for colleagues to think about their future and be honest about what they do and don’t want in terms of their career.

Make a reflection and an ambition plan

To make your ideas and plans for growth more concrete, work them out in a reflection and ambition plan. A whopping 85% of our colleagues find this a handy tool to learn and to set goals for themselves. Write down where your focus will lie in the upcoming year and what you want to learn or achieve. You can also write down who you want to receive feedback from during the course of the year. Discussing this plan with your direct colleagues gives you insights into all of the possibilities and challenges. Halfway through the year take a moment to look at your plan and make any changes, and at the end of the year reflect on your progress.

Looking back at your work and growth in the past year sounds nice, but you can take self-reflection a step further by doing it it daily. Begin with a daily kick-off:

  • What is in my agenda?
  • What is on my to-do list?
  • Which project do I want to work on today?

At the end of the day do your own daily reflection:

  • What did you do today?
  • How long did it take you?
  • What did I get energy from and what took energy away?

Some of these questions seem obvious, because of course you look at your agenda to see the day’s plans. But by purposefully looking back and taking note of what you get energy from or what drains your energy, you are more able to actively discover what your strengths are and what your strengths are. Doing weekly and monthly evaluations stimulates you to stop doing the things you really don’t like or aren’t good at doing. This might sound like a lot or tedious. But checking in with yourself is something you should do, just like you would with any healthy relationship.This way to stop doing the things that don’t work faster. And that’s not failing, its necessary for doing your job well.

To do: compassion for yourself

We will say this again because we think its extra important: Be kind to yourself! You don’t need to be able to do everything, you don’t need to want to do everything, and stopping something is not failing.Sometimes in hard situations its good to let it float around in your mind. What would you say to a friend who made a mistake? Would you be as hard on them as you are on yourself? Do you also expect your friend to do everything perfect all the time?

Now that we know ourselves better and understand what we want, we can take the next step, which is becoming a better version of ourselves. And that happens with the help of feedback.

The importance of feedback

In the book we wrote called “only bosses” (keep a look out for the English translation, its on the way!), this sentence describes what we want to tell you:

“Feedback is super important to being able to grow and sucessfully work with each other.”

Feedback is essential for self development. At Voys we have integrated different forms of feedback into our work culture. One of these is role-feedback. It ensures that you get to know yourself well, it helps you discover what you do and don’t want, or that you look at your own strengths. By answering questions, you can also discover how you can grow even more. Which, like we said, is super important.

Ask for feedback

Giving yourself feedback about your own roles is one type of feedback. Asking others to give feedback is another type. This way others can also contribute to your professional growth. For example, ask your closest colleagues or someone who is more experienced in the role you have. Make the request for feedback as specific as possible to make sure that you get the most out of the answer. This could be feedback after a project has been finished, or about a skill you want to improve.

Mistakes are necessary

A couple years ago it was suddenly the thing to do: talk about the mistakes you made. Oftentimes the stories were told by very successful people, who obviously didn’t have any more problems from the mistake they once made. In the moment, making a mistake feels awful and not like a great life lesson. In spite of that, you need to embrace making mistakes. If you stop making mistakes, you stop learning.

Don’t keep mistakes to yourself, share them with each other. That is how you learn for them. At Voys we have a special internal chat channel ‘humble brags and epic failures’. We have made some epic mistakes, like missing 200 offer requests from potential customers because of a hole in the system that no one noticed.


No buts about it, Learning doesn’t need to be hard or complicated if you make it easy for yourself. These 4 things keep learning simple:

  1. Motivation
    If you really want it, things work out better.
  2. Time
    You need to (be able to) make time for it.
  3. Repetition
    Having a set moment for learning works really well. Make it a habit by always doing homework for the course you are taking during your train ride to the office, or spend 10 minutes on Duolingo when you wake up each morning.
  4. Set your own bar
    You set your own bar for getting things done. It works in other situations as well, if you don’t buy junk food, then you don’t have it to eat a lot of.

Look at your situation. Have you set things up for yourself in a way that will set you up for success?

Put your money where your mouth is

It’s easy enough to talk about the importance of personal development and continuous learning. But this also needs to be facilitated by your employer. At Voys we give each colleague 5 days a year to use if they are following a training or course. Each colleague also has a 1,500 euro study budget (based on a full time contract). There are some guidelines for spending your study budget and you need to state beforehand how using the money will help your personal and role development. So where a course in public speaking would fit, a course in knitting is not something for this study budget.

Next to time and money, there is another condition: attention. Without attention, not everyone remembers to use their available budget. We found that the biggest desire to follow a course comes when a colleague doesn’t understand something or has picked up a new role in the organization. Some things, like how to present something to external parties, is something you can learn from colleagues who have that experience. Making an overview of the skills people have and a knowledge bank of explanations also brings attention to learning.

Actively sharing your knowledge

Once you have followed a course, you need (yes need, its a requirement) to present what you have learned to your colleagues and write about it for the training database. These presentations are also a good motivator for other colleagues to find out how they can grow as well.
We use Pizza sessions and Snacktalks to share knowledge with each other. How you name these sessions doesn’t really matter, as long as you come together to share knowledge. The talks could be about projects you’re working on, new technical gadgets, or an interesting talk someone had with an external coach. Sharing knowledge also makes learning more normal.

Reset button

There’s also the possibility that this growth can lead you down a different path than originally planned for your career. This isn’t bad, but it isn’t what fits your role or function anymore. That’s why at Voys we have the reset button. And you guessed it, its a role within our organization. Together with the role holder, you go and look at the problems and why you no longer are happy or fit in your role(s). It could mean that there is a mutual decision for you to leave the company, but that always happens mutually. It could also be that there is another role that fits your better now, but that you first need to follow another course for it. And then you can develop yourself even further. Because growth is what it is all about.

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