If you haven’t started asking how to offer your employees professional development opportunities, you’re behind the curve. And if you have wondered, but aren’t sure how to proceed, we have some suggestions.
Providing opportunities for professional development is an essential part of attracting top talent to your company; smart people want to work for an organization that invests in their success. It’s also important for maintaining a high level of employee engagement and retention, both because it offers stimulation and because it creates paths to new opportunities and advancement. And because it’s good for retention, it helps keeps new-hire and training costs and resource allocation in check. In addition, there are obviously many benefits to the company itself when team members learn more about the work they do.
Obviously, financial considerations come into play when deciding how to offer your employees professional development opportunities. Luckily though, while some options can be costly, there are plenty that are low-cost or that simply cost some time. So, cost shouldn’t be an excuse for not allotting any resources to helping your staff learn and grow as professionals in your industry. Remember, it’s an investment in your business—not an expense.
So, here are a variety of ideas as to how to offer your employees professional development. Any company will find at least a few that are realistic and immediately actionable.
Ways of Providing Employee Professional Development
- Talk to employees directly about what they’re interested in and where they hope to go. Understanding what individuals want is fundamental to helping them grow, and it also brings to light how to offer your employees professional development opportunities they’ll be most appreciative and willing to take advantage of.
- Provide constructive criticism to all employees on a regular basis. Instructive feedback is one of the most basic forms of professional development, and yet it’s so often overlooked. Genuine, valuable feedback that helps workers do a better job benefits everyone.
- Build a library of informative books about your industry, business practices, customer service, effective management and leadership, etc. at your workplace—even if it’s just a rack in the break room or a shelf in a hallway. Encourage employees to borrow them at will.
- Offer small incentives for employees to take relevant free online classes. You can even compile a list of eligible courses for them to choose from. Some good websites to review for this purpose include Udemy, Coursera, Alison, EdX, and Future Learn. Alternatively, pay for employees to take online courses through a website or college’s e-learning offerings, or on-site at a college. You can also pay for relevant certifications offered in conjunction with free and paid courses.
- Give employees some designated professional development time during their workday when they can read, complete coursework, etc. Even just as little as an hour or two per week shows that you’re invested in them, and that you prioritize their work-life balance by cutting back the time they have to put in outside of work.
- Hire professional speakers to give informative, engaging presentations to your staff on topics that are relevant to their job duties and/or your industry. Also, if financially possible, pay to send employees to workshops, seminars, and industry events.
- Build a highly collaborative workplace and company culture. Employees can learn a lot from each other, but only if they communicate and work together to achieve shared goals. As part of this, consider implementing some type of limited job rotation program, where employees can briefly explore other departments or aspects of your business.
- Establish a mentoring program in your company, allowing newer employees to learn from the experience and expertise of long-time workers or your most successful managers.