8 Ways to Prioritize Your Professional Development
But, when we ignore our professional development, we risk getting left behind. For example, we might miss out on opportunities for greater responsibility, or even get passed over for promotion.
Professional development means taking positive steps toward improving your skills and knowledge. Taking ownership of your own development can help you to feel more empowered and confident in your abilities.
When you dedicate time to building up expertise , you’ll be seen by your boss, colleagues and clients as someone who is able to make valuable, intelligent and insightful contributions. This will soon earn you a reputation as the go-to person on the team who can turn their hand to anything. In addition, your newfound expert power will make it easier for you to win support for your projects, to negotiate contracts, and to respond to change.
You’ll also find that your professional value goes up! If you have a long list of skills to your name, you’ll be more marketable and you’ll be in a better position to take on a challenging new project, or even a promotion.
Importance of professional development programs
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.
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:
Continued micro-learning opportunities
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.