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Today’s Learner/Leader is Self-Directed and Intrinsically-Motivated

By Deb Jewell, senior director of lifelong learning, UVA Darden Executive Education

In a study of working professionals who had recently undertaken non-degree professional development*, the University of Virginia Darden School Foundation’s Executive Education gained a deeper understanding of their motivations. These statistics, taken together, paint a picture of a professional who wants to have control of their own learning journey, prioritizing professional development that meets the requirements of their personal career goals. They want to be more effective at their current roles and improve higher-order skills, possibly resulting in their growth within their current organization. They are willing to consider online learning as a convenient option that allows them to learn at their own pace.

Intrinsic drivers were more important to respondents than external inducements to pursue development. In response to a question about what motivates them to seek development, the most prevalent response was “self-identified opportunity to increase competence in current role” (75%) followed by “building competency for potential promotion” (70%), significantly higher than, “suggestion from manager/company leadership” at only 52%.

What delivery formats would you consider for a professional development program?

Similarly, once development has been considered, the most compelling factor to actually attend is the need to “acquire new knowledge and skills directly relevant to [their] industry” (82%), closely followed by their “individual career development plan” (79%), and “improving leadership and management skills” (73%), significantly ahead of “encouragement by executive leadership” (57%) and their “direct supervisor” (53%). The lowest named factor was “building a more extensive business network,” at just 43%.

Some of the top business skills professionals are interested in developing to forward their careers include strategic planning (27%), critical thinking (19%), data-driven decision-making (19%), communication (18%) and negotiation/conflict resolution (15%).

Most working professionals (60%) would consider online delivery, due to the convenience and flexibility this format offers (81%), as well as the ability to go at their own pace (63%). As the efficacy of this approach continues to close the gap on in-person experience, we expect more professionals to develop a comfort level with digital means of development and this number to continue growing.

Learning and development professionals can facilitate this effort with funding for individual development, curation of resources and experimentation with AI as a vehicle for providing guidance on skills development.
Why would you consider online classes?

Empowering leaders and managers to be in control of their own development path could create a more motivated and capable leadership team. Learning and development professional scan facilitate this effort with funding for individual development, curation of resources and experimentation with AI as a vehicle for providing guidance on skills development.

We are pleased to share results of this study to facilitate organizations collaborating with their employees to meet their development needs and help them attain their career objectives.

To learn more about professional development opportunities for your organization, visit darden.edu/org_development.

Professionals want control over their own learning journeys, prioritizing professional development that meets the requirements of their personal career goals.
1 Top 5 responses, sample size 446
2 Select all that apply, sample size 445
3 Select all that apply, sample size 266
* Study conducted by Hanover Research, 2018, n=468
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Darden Executive Education is a top-ranked, global provider of professional development. Delivered by the University of Virginia DardenSchool Foundation and taught by the Darden School of Business’ highly acclaimed faculty, Darden Executive Education prepares and inspires leaders to succeed in a global marketplace. Offering more than 30 open programs and partnering with leading organizations worldwide to develop custom business solutions, we provide personalized, transformational learning experiences at our locations inCharlottesville and Rosslyn, Virginia, online and around the world. Learn more at darden.edu/executive-education.