Turning self isolation into self development

Even if you didn’t have self development days before, you or your employees have a lot of free time now. So how can you improve knowledge and skills to be ready for a new era?

What’s that squirrelled away in your employment contract? A development day? You stumbled across it while checking your holiday allowance for the foreign break that’s now a staycation. Or, you’re a consummate L&D professional who regularly takes development days already, create a continuous learning culture.

The current climate is forcing a change, even if they’re not currently prescribed where you work. Furloughed employees can train and develop themselves under the government’s Job Retention Scheme. Indeed, there’s not much else they can do – working is verboten. But how do you make this time for development fulfilling and exciting? And what will it offer in terms of productivity? Let’s talk about creating an enriching development day, a week or even longer.

What is a development day?

First of all, what are they? Typically, a development day is an opportunity to spend a working day engaging in activities outside of your usual tasks, away from the office environment. The key thing is that should be self-organised by the individual. The objective is to create curiosity – a brain break; to enliven and nourish a learning passion; even if it is only tangentially related to their normal day to day job. But to truly benefit from this as an organisation, a successful development day taken by one person should also be beneficial to the rest of their team as well. I’ll go into how this is achieved further on.

Naturally, every successful organisation has learning and behaviour transformation embedded into their working culture. That will be seen in the hallmarks of a robust learning framework – an accessible LMS, bespoke elearning, and Point of Need tools. These are the very foundational tools of a high-performing, adaptable, and reliable workforce. That’s a given.

However, the purpose of a development day is not to replace this system. Instead, it is a chance to find unexpected, original and inspiring learning experiences that might not fit in a rigid structure. Being outside of the workplace, away from stresses and pressure, means that the learning has a great chance of being retained. And the refreshing change means the learner will come back with a renewed zeal and appreciation for company culture. Curiosity spawns innovation.

What does a development day look like?

The benefit of a development day is that it takes precisely the form that’s suited to each person’s need. If you can apply some creativity to your role, you’ll find a wealth of opportunities for development. Make use of the cultural, academic, and social resources where you live, or search on the internet.

Right now, we’re all online and there’s more than ever to choose from. Museums you might never have been able to attend are showcasing their works online. Speakers you never could have seen are recording videos. Now is the time to take advantage of this, make it work for you, and expand your horizons. Freeform learning can be priceless and shouldn’t be neglected as a tool. There is a compulsion to cling onto structured learning practises or enforce them rigidly. While this has a place, as we described above, it is not the be all and end all. A development day should encourage skills of self-determination, creativity, lateral thinking – just what the World Economic Forum has said will be the important skills of the future.

Case Studies

A recent example would be Supriya, one of our quality assurance analysts. She recently went on a self development day, to improve her understanding of the Agile framework of Scrum. This took the form of independently led research, allowing her to gain a clearer picture of how the process could be used in her daily teamwork. Being able to manage her own experience meant that she was able to fit a large amount of focused practise and learning into just one day. She used resources such as YouTube tutorials and guides on Scrum’s website. It then led her to look at our own working practices where we use Scrum and see what adjustments could be recommended to the team to make things work better. She produced a useful article that has been a great resource for the rest of the team and taught them something different and new.

Another case would be Niko, one of our graphic designers. He attended an exhibition and workshop at Central Saint Martins, part of the University of Arts London. The event was focused on theories of design and how they relate to human cognition and psychology. Given how our bespoke elearning materials are prized due to their focus on design-led thinking and basis in behavioural science, it was extremely relevant to his work but was an area that he wanted to have more time to see in practice how designers had reproduced this in design. The following week he was able to present key takeaways as part of our weekly Designers meeting, sharing printed resources that he had picked up. Like Supriya, he was able to produce an informative article about the experience that we’ve been able to refer to and learn from.

Isabella is our lead instructional designer and project manager. She’s also a connoisseur of literature and the performing arts. She took a development day to attend a matinee performance of a play at the Young Vic theatre. It was a piece of experimental theatre that had been receiving rave reviews in literary circles. Seeking out and attending this performance exposed her to innovative and fresh forms of narrative and story construction. Given that she crafts stories every day for our world-renowned elearning courses, this was incredibly helpful in finding new ways to create cutting-edge elearning. Part of the reason she’s so successful as an instructional designer is her past achievements as a scholar. It only makes sense for her to continue seeking out artistic and culturual nourishment to create professional growth.


Before and after the training day

If you’re an employer, you might be keen to let your team go out in search of these opportunities. But at the same time, it’s important to be part of the process. This means that there needs to be an open dialogue around the planning of a development day. It’s best that a team member applies with at least four weeks notice detailing what they plan to do and how they will share what they learned.


For those on furlough, every day could be a development day right now. This is in fact, the perfect time to build a learning culture within organisations. But learning also needs to be social and by allowing personalised unstructured learning combined with activities that allow learning to be shared; for skills to be nurtured – it will generate excitement about how they can implement new knowledge and skills into the workplace- benefitting themselves; their colleagues and the organisation,

We’d love to talk to you about other ways to create a learning culture within your organisation, so don’t be shy – just get in touch.

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