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The importance of supporting professional development in your workforce

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The importance of supporting professional development in your workforce

By Olivia O’Neill, Director at the Godfrey Group

If you want to maintain the most vibrant, engaged and enthusiastic workforce, refusing to acknowledge the power of professional development could be tantamount to burying your head in the sand.

Short-sighted business leaders often see professional development as a waste of resources. After all, why spend time and money helping someone progress in their career if they’re just going to move on—along with all their newly acquired skills—to another business? Maybe even to a competitor?

Professional development is not a waste of time and money

Business leaders must look at the bigger picture. Workplace learning is no longer about simply improving your company’s performance and productivity: It’s about attracting and retaining the best employees for your business.

Today’s employees don’t stay with a company for a lifetime; they stay for as long as they can learn new skills and take on new challenges. As a result, they choose to steer their professional development in a direction that suits them—not just to better serve their current employer. That’s why a lack of learning opportunities is a common reason cited by many employees when they choose to leave an organisation.

So, if you want to find and retain the kind of engaged individuals who actively enjoy throwing themselves into new learning experiences, invest some time and money in their professional development.

Offering professional development is vital to the success of your business

According to Business Insider, some 15 percent – that’s roughly 1.8 million Australian workers – are seeking a new job this year, with more than two-thirds of Australian employers saying that they’ve seen an increase in staff departures over the past three years.

Add to that the fact that the Harvard Business Report’s Impact of Employee Engagement of Performance study reveals that 73 percent of business leaders believe that a ‘high level of employee engagement’ is the third most important factor when it comes to the success of an organisation, and you’ll begin to understand how vital professional development actually is.

In fact, the report rates employee engagement higher than ‘efficient productivity’ (68 percent), ‘ability to innovate’ (59 percent), and ‘strong sales and marketing capabilities’ (58 percent).

Think outside the box with what you offer

The first step in putting a strong professional development strategy in place is to talk to your employees about what they want to achieve and why, and then consider the advancement options you can offer them.

Create a clear plan for their professional development, set realistic and measurable expectations for both the short and long term, and check-in with them regularly throughout the process.

Think outside the box. Successful professional development is not just about staring blankly at a text book. There are many ways to help an employee reach their career goals.

Mentor-ship is a good option because it not only benefits the less-experienced employee who is looking for insight, it also provides the mentor with some fresh new perspectives on the workplace. It helps a new employee to clearly define their career path and encourages an established employee to take the next step in their career.

Alternatively, you can provide your employees with the opportunity to work in a different department for a set amount of time. Experiencing your company from a different angle can provide an employee with some sharp new skills and fantastic insights into the overall running of your organisation.

Or, if they do want to go back to university or an online institute, you can subsidise their classes and seminars. Encouraging an employee to reach their educational goals will work wonders for their level of commitment to your organisation too.

Professional development is a win-win situation

Putting an innovative professional development strategy like this at the heart of your organisation is win-win situation for both you and your employee. They widen their skill set and receive the support they crave to develop a sustainable and productive career. You effectively increase your business’ intellectual capital reserves and have an educated and energized employee who actively wants to work for your company. That’s why professional development is a sure-fire retention strategy.

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