There is a drive for ongoing improvement in every business. Remember the adage, “if you are standing still, you are going backwards”? Well, it is the same for individuals and yet, in the drive to find great staff, one of the attributes or qualities that seems to gain little recognition (considering its importance), is a commitment to continual learning. In other words, it’s the drive for self-improvement.

The benefits of self-improvement

At the heart of expanding and growing is a desire to learn. People who are focused on learning have an open mind and a mindset more fluid and open to change. There are three key benefits of self-improvement – benefits that also guard against someone ‘standing still’ in their career:

  • It brings an ongoing improvement mindset to a business because the more things people learn, the more new ideas will surface
  • They continually get better at what they do and, in turn, become more successful at dealing with difficulties
  • They take on greater responsibility and, as a result, become more self-confident (often leading to promotions)

When talking about careers, Tom Peters, author of In Search of Excellence, describes a career as a portfolio of projects that teach you new skills, give you greater expertise, and enable you to develop more capabilities, grow your network and constantly reinvent you as a brand. People who see their career this way invariably understand the value of learning and self-improvement.

Seeking this for your business

You can determine whether someone has a self-improvement focus by falling back to my favourite – uncovering repeating patterns of behaviour. Don’t rely on such comments as, “I am really looking forward to learning about the business and learning new skills”. Instead, ask for examples in past roles where they gained new skills. A sample of potential questions include:

  • When did you learn new skills in a specific role?
  • When did you gain a promotion or additional responsibility because of a new skill you had developed?
  • When have you worked with someone where you needed a different approach to work collaboratively and how did you learn this new approach?

You want evidence of the above occurring through most of the candidate’s roles…not one or two instances. You are also looking for courses and learnings undertaken. In particular, find out if they were company or self-funded – an indicator of the level of desire for self-directed learning. Peter Drucker, the original American leadership guru, said, “those that retool themselves stand a chance of staying employed in the years ahead”.

We’re all looking to improve at the macro level and this is significantly driven by what takes place at the micro level – with the individual. I encourage you to add or elevate the value of hiring learners…people committed to self-improvement…and see the influence this has on your wider business.

Happy recruiting!