People are generally motivated by self-development. Assisting employees with career development planning, and so showing a personal interest in their career prospects, is a great way to build employee motivation and engagement. Career development and professional development go hand in hand in the following ways:

  • Career development is the process of learning and employing short-term skills to progress toward long-term professional goals.
  • Professional development increases employees’ skills, which can lead to new opportunities and their career advancement.

Seen in this light, professional development is the ongoing training and education of employees to help them advance their skills and competencies in a way that will benefit the company and their careers.

Benefits of employee professional development

Professional development does not only benefit employees. Here are seven ways in which investing in employee development also benefits the employer:

  1. Better talent attraction: Companies who care about their employees gain a reputation for being a desirable company to work for, improving the chances they will attract top talent, leading to a skilled and motivated workforce.
  2. An improved skills pipeline: Employee development empowers employees to grow and advance within the company by preparing them to take on new roles and responsibilities as they become available. This can help a company fill leadership or specialised roles more quickly and efficiently, without incurring recruitment costs.
  3. Empowered employees: When employees grow in knowledge and skills, they feel more empowered. Empowered employees tend to be more creative, engaged, and autonomous – needing less hands-on management and being more equipped to make decisions.
  4. Increased satisfaction: When employees participate in professional development programmes, they gain skills that can help them become more confident and efficient in fulfilling their roles, leading to increased job satisfaction and longevity.
  5. Enhanced job performance: Employee development can help employees acquire skills that they can use to perform their jobs more effectively, boosting job performance. This can encompass both technical and soft skills development, for example:
    • Time management
    • Communication skills
    • Writing and presentation skills
    • Negotiation skills
    • Business-specific software
  6. Greater collaboration: When employees participate in education or training programmes together, it helps to forge bonds. Employee development within a team also establishes shared understanding. This increases trust between colleagues and can lead to a more diverse range of perspectives and ideas.
  7. A boost in profits: There are many research studies that show that employers who invest in employee development enjoy significantly higher sales and profits than employers who do not.

How to build a solid employee development programme

Strong personal development programmes help a company and its employees to achieve their future goals, whether you are developing the skills needed to perform well or training employees for future positions. Here is a five-step guideline to inform the best approach to building a professional development programme for employees.

  • Visit or establish organisational goals
    Before you create a programme for learning and development, it is essential that management assesses the organisation’s business goals and strategies for growth. A plan that does not align with the organisation’s objectives can incur significant costs without delivering the desired result.
  • Take a structured approach for employee development
    It is important to start with a thorough evaluation of employees’ current skills and interests in order to spot the gaps, plan for the future, and then set relevant and attainable goals. This will provide each employee with the opportunity to contribute to the assessment of their skills and interests, as well as outlining their career aspirations. Regular assessment can help identify areas where your workforce may need additional training and support.
  • Personalise employee development
    Implementing a personalised professional development programme is one of the best ways to ensure that each of your employees are prepared for a change in job function or advancement opportunities within the company. More than gaining new technical skills, this includes developing and sharpening soft skills like communication, critical thinking and problem solving. This is a win-win in that it allows for employee development to be tailored to fit individual employee’s specific needs and circumstances and it helps the company to assess gaps when forecasting and planning future workforce supply and demand.
  • Engender a culture of lifelong learning
    Due to the rapid speed of technological advancement and the ever-increasing need for trained experts, it has become necessary for people to continually improve their skills and knowledge. Business owners cannot ignore these shifts if they want to remain competitive in their industries. Rather than providing ad hoc professional development opportunities, there is plenty to gain from fostering a culture of lifelong learning within an organisation, where most employees feel empowered and motivated to pursue knowledge.
  • Upskill to prepare employees for a digital world
    Employee upskilling is about addressing specific skills gaps. Digital upskilling involves providing training resources for relevant and useful digital skills to ensure your workforce can keep pace with digital transformation. In other words, digital upskilling means giving employees the opportunity to gain the knowledge, tools and ability they need to utilise more advanced technologies in the workplace and in their daily lives. Upskilling transcends teaching people to use new software, it involves learning how to think, act and thrive in a digital world in a sustainable manner over time.

When done right, even though employee professional development requires an investment in time, effort and money, these investments have shown, repeatedly, to pay great dividends for companies that commit to them. Not only does professional development offer enhanced abilities and new skill sets, but it also allows your employees to bond and build trust through opportunities to learn from each other, as fellow professionals share their experiences. The result is building a motivated, engaged and loyal employee body who feel empowered to learn and grow.

Over to you for sharing your comments and experiences.

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About the Author: Kerstin Jatho

Kerstin is the senior transformational coach and team development facilitator for 4Seeds Consulting. She is also the author of Growing Butterfly Wings, a book on applying positive psychology principles during a lengthy recovery. Her passion is to develop people-centred organisations where people thrive and achieve their potential in the workplace. You can find Kerstin on LinkedIn, Soundcloud, YouTube and Facebook.

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