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Get what you give. Why generosity matters at work.

Voco Team

Giving is good for us; the act of generosity has proven health benefits and satisfies our innate need for connection, community and acceptance. But, giving doesn’t just make us feel good, it has a big role to play in our personal growth and development too.

Professional development can feel like a selfish pursuit and one that’s far too easy to de-prioritise. Organisations have long grappled with the task of making professional development more appealing, impactful and far reaching. Could tapping into the power of generosity be the key to personal and professional growth? We think so.

The power of generosity

Human beings form connections through acts of kindness and generosity. The endorphin hit we experience when we make someone else feel good has been proven to lower blood-pressure and overall stress levels. Our sense of well-being often lies in how useful we can be to others, even if we don’t actively seek out opportunities to extend this beyond our immediate networks.

Generosity can also super charge our self-esteem and, in doing so, increase our capacity for personal growth. When we feel confident, we are more likely to be receptive to feedback, new information and actively participate in that which will increase our knowledge and understanding of a certain subject or skillset.

Being generous is not a one-way street. Listening to the perspectives of others, seeking their expertise and being curious to learn from colleagues is an act of generosity in itself. It makes people feel good and, when cultivated within a team setting, creates a culture of respect and collaboration that accelerates professional development and, by extension, productivity.

Given the opportunity, most of us are naturally prone to kindness. But, connecting generosity to professional development either at a personal or team level, isn’t always easy.

Why CSR isn’t the answer

For a while now, organisations have been considering the benefits of connecting professional development to their corporate social responsibility agenda. The formula is fairly simple; employees develop key skills by helping others and the time investment pays off because CSR targets are being met. Win-win, right? Yet, despite good intentions, most companies haven’t moved far past ‘painting a school as part of their annual team building offsite’. There is hope for improvement with the launch of a new app that seeks to help companies link L&D and CSR more effectively, but the efficacy of this well meaning approach still remains to be seen.

There is no doubt that involvement in community work is both rewarding and generous but it doesn’t necessarily provide a relevant learning experience. It can be a clunky connection that risks leaving both parties feeling like they haven’t quite got what they need. Because, in the first instance, professional development is personal and requires an obvious connection to our own, specific, challenges and goals.

The challenge

There is an increasing demand for personalised ‘micro learning’ experiences that makes social learning less appealing than ever. Why commit a whole day to a community project or development programme when you can get the information you need, when you need it, from your laptop, while you eat a sandwich at your desk?

Though there is a place for this new wave of learning, most of us are well aware that consuming content won’t, by some kind of transformative osmosis, provide real development. The onus remains on us to make changes happen by embedding what we have learnt into our daily lives.

While 70% of our professional development still takes place ‘on the job’ , it’s through interactions with others and the feedback (direct or indirect) we receive that we begin to understand our strengths and areas for improvement. Involving other people in our development seems only natural in this context but making this happen when we are time-poor is a challenge. Creating opportunities to share what we have learnt, as we learn it, with our colleagues could be the way to keep learning active, relevant and social.

The best way to learn

It has been said that the best way to learn something is to teach someone else. This makes sense; in order to pass knowledge on, we need to consolidate our understanding of a topic in order to accurately represent it. Many of us seem to have a natural inclination to share the benefits of our experience with others; it’s common that therapists, before they become qualified, were first the recipients of therapy themselves. This desire to share could also explain why so many people, disillusioned with corporate life, reinvent themselves as coaches.

But, for those of us who don’t want to make a huge career pivot, how can we actively participate in this type of development without sharing a 50 slide presentation with our colleagues every time we pick up a new skill? Because, let’s face it, no one benefits from that type of ‘sharing'.

Effective teaching requires engagement and active participation; giving someone information they are genuinely interested in and will find helpful. Only this way can the person sharing information experience the glow of true generosity. When this occurs, both the recipient of the information and the ‘teacher’ are connected through a mutual exchange of learning that will aid development on both sides.

The key is to find the right audience to share information with. A network of people who are keen to benefit from the development potential of generosity - both given and received.

Support networks

The best development programmes will always offer the opportunity to learn alongside peers. They create an environment where sharing challenges, knowledge, successes and failures aid the learning process for all involved.

But these programmes are time-bound, time consuming and exclusive. They are unable to effectively capitalise on the ‘on the job’ learning that is so crucial to real development. Building or becoming part of a network of like-minded people who share similar experiences and challenges is the first step to unlocking the learning potential of generosity. Keeping this network alive and relevant is the second, crucial step.

At Voco, we have a substantial and growing network of people who want to learn from their peers. The result is a collaborative community that elevates the potential of generosity to power the professional development of its members.

To find out more, book your free demo today.

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