Many employers shy away from professional development programs, thinking they are unnecessary. However, there are several ways these programs can benefit not just your employees, but also your business.
Employee knowledge and advancement
Beyond the benefits of supplemental training for one’s job, professional development enhances an employee’s value and ensures they remain relevant in their career field, said Steve Smith, founder and CEO of GrowthSource Coaching. Professional development can also involve an employee becoming certified in a field complementary to their current position.
Development certification is one way for staffers to demonstrate they can perform bigger and better things, upping their value to their employers and the workforce in general.
“Becoming irrelevant is the fastest way to lose your job or, if [you own] a company, have your business decline,” Smith said.
Employee job satisfaction
According to Smith, many people pursue professional development to bolster their confidence in what they do at work, “which is a noble reason to continue to develop yourself.” This confidence can translate into higher overall job satisfaction, which in turn increases employee performance, productivity and morale.
Businesses that do not offer career-building educational opportunities for their staff tend to see greater employee turnover than those that do provide those resources. Miner said that disinterest correlates to “why companies are finding hiring and retention so hard. They are not investing in professional development, and employees leave.”
Interesting, challenging and career-enhancing education is becoming an employee “expectation,” said Hawter. Companies that don’t invest in a culture that prioritizes educational training programs for their staff run the risk of losing them to employers that do.
Key takeaway: Professional development programs improve employees’ knowledge, skill sets and job satisfaction, resulting in higher employee retention.
Foundations of a strong professional development program
Even the most impressive professional development program is destined to fail if a participant does not “buy into” the initiative, said Hawter. These are the two pillars of a viable professional development program:
It must offer continual development.
It must allow staffers to determine the pace of their enrichment, giving them control over their educational path.
Continued micro-learning opportunities
According to Hawter, “micro-learning” is a big buzzword in the learning and development universe. Micro-learning means an educational opportunity that focuses on small concepts.
One example of this niche learning is teaching a staffer how to connect with the mobile generation. That knowledge in particular is all the more important since an ever-increasing number of millennials and Gen Zers work remotely. Because the modern workforce comprises three or four generations, a one-size-fits-all approach to employee enrichment is simply outdated, Hawter said.
Formal and informal learning opportunities
The availability of both formal and informal professional development opportunities is imperative in today’s modern workforce. Webinars and podcasts are examples of informal learning that gives the participant total control over when they seek assistance. That is partly why informal professional development programs are more impactful when combined with formal offerings.
The best professional development programs are overseen by professional organizations, such as Dale Carnegie Training, because those workshops “focus on leadership,” said Smith. “Those programs are designed to teach new things but also provide game plans to help [companies] implement professional development in the workplace.”
Even companies that start with the best of intentions might stop fully supporting learning and development efforts over the long term, Smith said. Regular follow-ups are necessary to ensure employees are using everything they have learned to improve their performance.
Hawter urges companies not to minimize the importance of employee development, largely because “PD ensures employees know of the company’s investment in them and demonstrates the company’s real concern” for their welfare.
Key takeaway: A strong professional development program should offer continual formal and informal employee development opportunities that match the employees’ needs.