Developmental Goals for Work

May 11 2023
6 min read
Developmental Goals for Work

Developmental goals for work can be set by individual employees on their own or by team leaders, ideally in cooperation with HR. No matter what the situation, it takes both dedicated people and organizations to constantly strive for improvement. Let’s look at some best practices to help ensure that employees keep reaching for the top. 

What Are Developmental Goals for Work?

Practically any target for improved performance in the workplace can be considered a developmental goal. Of course, every department needs to meet certain production quotas, schedules, standards, etc. But development goals are meant to push those objectives to a new level. Here are just a few areas that can be included in a development plan:  

  • Learning new skills
  • Switching to an agile methodology
  • Improving efficiency
  • Building cross-departmental cooperation
  • Implementing a feedback program
  • Establishing a growth mindset

Getting Organized for Growth

With so many options, it can be a challenge to narrow development goals down to a realistic selection. In light of this, HR staff, employees, and managers who are looking into developmental goals often want to know four things:

  1. What goals are the most important?
  2. When should I focus on a particular one?
  3. How should I organize my effort?
  4. Where can I get help?


Helpfully, there are a number of frameworks that support each of these potentially confusing issues.

Goal Identification

One way of making a decision is to look at all the available alternatives, and then use critical thinking to produce the most relevant list. With this approach in mind, the first step in realizing developmental goals is to see what’s out there.  

The Inner Development Goals (IDG) initiative is a program that seeks to support the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals concept. The UN framework relates to global management, whereas IDG is about what people can do on an individual level to contribute. But IDG also makes a great overview of skills that cover all the bases. 

IDG is based on the responses of over seven million people who were asked about the most important developmental issues of today. The results were organized into a framework of five categories and a set of corresponding skills (not every skill is listed):

  • Being – Relationship to Self: self-awareness, learning mindset, integrity
  • Thinking – Cognitive Skills: critical thinking, perspective, organizational skills
  • Relating – Caring for Others: humility, empathy, connectedness
  • Collaborating – Social Skills: Communication, collaboration, teamwork
  • Acting – Driving Change: innovation, optimism, perseverance

Employees and managers can start with a list of skills (or equivalents) based on IDG, and then prioritize them.


The next phase is to understand which skills are most applicable to an employee’s or team’s situation. The idea here is to make sure that a breadth of skills (according to the five IDG categories) are still part of the plan but are now more relevant. 

One method of determining priorities is to use the SWOT method. It’s actually a very popular tool used by businesses to figure out what strategies they should adopt. For developmental goals, the same concept can be applied. 

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. A way of applying SWOT to prioritization of team skills is to understand how the IDG list fits into each category. 

For example, your team might suffer from relatively poor collaboration because of communication issues (weakness) and be in close competition with a company that is more innovative (threat). So communication and creative thinking can go to the top of the list. Or you may have noticed that a learning mindset is one of your team’s greatest strengths, and wish to expand that ability to other departments, so it also becomes a priority. Any of the IDG skills that don’t stand out in any SWOT category can be put aside. 


To state the obvious, a major aspect of development goals is to actually set a goal. This does not mean a vague commitment to some future change. Setting precisely defined goals is a crucial step for getting things done. 

A framework that is used often by HR professionals to set goals is the SMART method. It acts both as a checklist for setting goals and organizing a process to complete them. Here’s how it works:

  • Specific – define the goal exactly, for instance, improving critical thinking skills.
  • Measureable – establish a system of measurement, for example, a graded critical thinking skill review by a team leader and department head (even “improved/not improved” can count as a measurement).
  • Attainable – what is the starting point for skill development? For instance, if the employee has shown acceptable critical thinking before, but just needs improvement, then the goal is more attainable than for an employee who is terrible at it. 
  • Relevant – ensure that critical thinking is a skill that is important to the team.
  • Time-based – set a schedule and start/end dates that make sense, for instance, completing a critical thinking coaching course within 3 months.


Many HR departments are already set up to handle a developmental goal program. Any company with a career management system will have the basic processes in place. You might also have to do some extra analysis for developmental goals, as described above. 

There are a few other steps to take to make sure that the process is as good as can be. These include:

  • Hiring the right expert – coach, mentor, or trainer – to support the skill being developed
  • Establishing accountability – making someone on the HR team, for example, responsible for checking on the progress of the employee (accountability can work wonders)
  • Using a personalized learning and development platform to create, deploy, and administer skill development programs  

Develop with Growthspace 

Building skills is the basis of any development effort. But, with such a large number of possibilities for developmental goals, it can be tough to implement L&D programs that match the skills that each employee wants to learn. 

GrowthSpace answers this challenge with the world’s leading platform for delivering customized development programs at scale. No matter how many of your employees want how many skills, GrowthSpace can help to automate program design, implementation, and management. Plus, HR practitioners can run all initiatives through GrowthSpace’s intuitive interface, due to the platform’s easy to use features.

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