Career Development

10 Key Areas of Development for Employees (with Examples and Tips)

November 23, 2020

Even when you feel appreciated at work, there are key areas for professional development that can help you improve your personal productivity and attain valuable skills that can benefit you in all aspects of your career. Taking time for self-improvement can help you feel more confident in your contributions at work. Though it takes some effort to identify areas you could work on, development can be a worthwhile pursuit. In this article, we discuss key areas of employee development that can help increase productivity and improve office morale.

What are key areas of development for employees?

An area of development is a skill or attribute that benefits your professional life. As an employee, focusing on improvement in these development areas can help you become a more productive, empathetic and cooperative member of the team. Managers and employers can offer support for employee development beyond technical and academic skills, creating a culture that values self-improvement and allows for personal and professional growth in key areas.

Examples of areas of development for employees

As you analyze your professional behavior, consider if any of these 10 key areas of development will help you acquire valuable skills. We offer examples and tips to show that self-improvement is often making small changes that lead to big results.

  1. Goal-setting
  2. Communication
  3. Collaboration
  4. Listening
  5. Conflict resolution
  6. Adaptability
  7. Organization
  8. Accepting constructive feedback
  9. Integrity
  10. Productivity

1. Goal-setting

If you seek more direction in your professional career, setting goals may be a good first step to improve focus and work performance. Team projects often have broad and proximal goals and milestones to reach, but your own personal development is equally important to help you feel satisfaction and pride in your work.

Whether you prefer using an online application or you like to write in a notebook, setting goals for yourself is vital to advancing your development.

Goal-setting practices vary, but you can try these tips to help achieve your goals:

  • Divide long-term goals into smaller, more achievable parts.

  • Write down your goals in a journal, as a checklist, in a spreadsheet or an electronic document in your phone that you can refer to frequently.

  • Create a vision board with a visual representation of your goals.

2. Communication

Offices and teams comprise groups of people from varying backgrounds and experiences. That diversity can help bring fresh perspectives to a project, but it can emphasize how your communication style might be different from a coworker’s. Recognizing and working with others’ communication preferences is a great way to build positive relationships.

Try these tips to help improve team communication:

  • Create a balance between meetings, one-on-one conferences and electronic communication to accommodate preferences.

  • Establish a fixed appointment or routine that helps facilitate timely conversation.

  • Assign a rotating discussion leader for in-person meetings so all members of the team have a chance to lead and facilitate discussion.

Related: Four Types of Communication with Examples

3. Collaboration

Collaboration is a skill you learn at a young age when it is called cooperation or sharing. In the workplace, collaboration involves working with others from different backgrounds to achieve a common goal. Collaboration can inspire more productivity than when a person works alone.

Here are some tips to develop collaborative relationships:

  • Build camaraderie through brainstorming sessions, giving equal attention to all members’ ideas and input.

  • Participate in team-building activities or working retreats to learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses and build a culture of supporting one another.

  • In advance of a more involved project, work with various coworkers on smaller tasks to determine which partnerships will be effective for long-term success.

4. Listening

The qualities of a good listener are many, and they can be taught and developed with practice. In the workplace, good listeners are valuable for others seeking mentorship or career advice, for sharing ideas on how to complete projects and when getting to know coworkers personally for improved collaboration.

Here are some ways to be a good listener:

  • Make eye contact and avoid glancing at distractions, such as computers or cell phones.

  • Allow the other person time to think by not talking or interrupting during moments of silence.

  • Express emotion appropriate to the situation, such as empathy, happiness, congratulations or encouragement.

  • Ask thoughtful follow-up questions for clarification or to give the other person an opportunity to provide more detail.

Read more: Active Listening: Definition and Examples

5. Conflict resolution

When disagreements arise between you and a coworker, it can be challenging to find easy solutions. If you have not been able to resolve differences, you may need to seek conflict resolution advice or mediation that can help you overcome the problem.

Here are some tips to help resolve conflict:

  • Participate in an organized conflict resolution training in a neutral environment before problems arise.

  • Walk away from the conflict if you feel too emotional—and wait until you feel calmer to discuss your concerns.

  • Avoid accusing each other. Instead, try the following phrasing: “When you [miss our morning meeting], I feel [disrespected].”

6. Adaptability

Even the most thorough brainstorming and planning may not anticipate the scenarios that change the scope of a project as it progresses. A change in leadership, a client’s restructuring of their vision, a financial setback or restructuring of personnel can all affect a project’s deadlines and deliverables. Employees who can easily adapt to the changing scope will both be more productive and happier even with fluctuating tasks and circumstances.

Here are some tips to become more adaptable in a changing work environment:

  • Before a project begins, acknowledge and accept that there will likely be adjustments.

  • If a project changes course, take time with your team to reassess and redefine the scope much as you would at the beginning of a project by soliciting feedback and input from all members of the team.

  • Use mantras or read inspiring quotations that keep you calm and focused on outcomes, even if many aspects of your work change.

7. Organization

Good organization is a habit that can positively affect every aspect of your job. When your paperwork, your electronic files or your input into a database or a task-tracking program are in order, you will probably be prepared to answer any questions that may arise and help keep yourself on task.

Here are some tips to keep your work organized:

  • Devote some amount of time each workday to organization, such as filing paperwork for 30 minutes after lunch or entering progress into a spreadsheet.

  • Create a functional organization system—with physical file folders and backups on an external hard drive or cloud storage—where documents and files are labeled clearly and consistently.

  • Keep high-priority tasks at the forefront of your organization system, whether that is an inbox for paper on your desk or an electronic task-management system that helps you with reminders and alerts.

8. Accepting constructive feedback

It can be difficult to hear constructive feedback about your work or behavior. However, constructive feedback can help correct behaviors and promote good work, whether between coworkers to resolve conflict or from manager to employee.

Here are some tips to be open to constructive feedback:

  • Encourage your company to foster a culture where both positive feedback and suggestions for improvement are a regular part of office communication.

  • Participate in a training that teaches best practices for constructive feedback.

  • When you receive constructive feedback where correction is warranted, try to be humble and assess how you can implement even a small change.

9. Integrity

The best way to gain and keep the trust of your coworkers, managers and customers you serve is to establish yourself as honest and ethical in all your business dealings, even when it may be difficult to tell the truth or admit to a mistake.

Here are some ways to demonstrate your personal integrity:

  • Be open and transparent when dealing with financial transactions like petty cash, company credit cards or turning in receipts for reimbursement. Only use company funds for allowed purchases.

  • Use company time wisely by working hard on your assigned tasks during the hours you are expected to be there.

  • Follow up on answers you have promised others, meet your deadlines without excuses and take responsibility for the results of your work.

10. Productivity

At the end of a workday, it can be satisfying to look back on what you have accomplished. Some days allow you to pursue your list of tasks with efficiency and minimal distractions, and others can be filled with unexpected issues that detour your attention from your original plan. Developing your ability to be productive no matter what happens during your day is a valuable skill.

Here are some tips to increase your personal productivity:

  • Try to focus on one task rather than multi-tasking. You can try closing your office door, silencing your phone or shutting down your computer for a period of time to meet a deadline. Every time you look away from the task, it may diminish your focus and increase the overall time it takes to finish.

  • Create a system that you can follow every day. That might be making a list every morning, checking email only at certain times of the day or being accountable to a coworker for motivation. Find something you know will be sustainable for how you like to work.

  • Take short breaks when you feel especially challenged or tired. A short walk, some desk yoga or a snack can help you feel revitalized and more able to refocus on the task.


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