Professional development: It’s a buzz term, sure, but it’s also an essential tool in an employee’s personal and professional growth and potential output. In many industries, like medicine, law, and education, individuals are required to participate in continuing education courses to maintain their ability to practice. This is because continuing education isn’t just a way for professionals to stay up to date on industry trends and new findings – continuing education ensures that they can do their job better. 

So, why hasn’t this trend transferred to other industries? Well, for some companies, programming may be seen as costly or a non-requirement for an individual to do their job well. Not only is this an outdated way of approaching employee development, but it could also be a roadblock to securing and keeping top talent.

Ready to offer your team developmental benefits but not sure where to start? Read on. 

Why prioritize professional development in the workplace? 

First and foremost, you want to have a company culture that cultivates talent within the company. By investing in your current employees, you’re investing in a more productive and agile team.

A key metric that your people team should monitor is employee churn rate. If new hires are leaving after a short, 18-month tenure at your organization, this is likely a reflection of what you’re not doing internally. Slower turnover is not only cost-efficient, but it’s also beneficial for your larger employer brand. 

At a broader level, a growing majority of the workforce will expect you to invest in programming. Millennials, who represent the largest generation in the US workforce and who are forecast to make up nearly 75% of the global workforce in the next five years, are more loyal to companies that invest in their future leadership potential within that organization

What can professional development look like in the workplace?

Periodic Development Meetings

At Scouted, the CEO meets with employees monthly to discuss goals and objectives outside of an individual’s daily responsibilities or projects. What, exactly, is discussed in the meeting is highly individualistic and is shaped by what someone values and prioritizes in their professional endeavors. 

During this meeting, it’s important to set goals and accountability check-ins to create a path forward where your employees feel empowered and equipped to progress towards their goals. 

Ad hoc Courses 

Numerous colleges and universities offer online and in-person executive and continuing education business courses and programs. For example, both Harvard and Stanford offer relatively low-cost, non-MBA business management certificates geared towards working professionals. And most business schools offer executive MBA or education programs for those more established in their career (think: VP, SVP, or C-suite level, depending on the company or firm). 

Working on a budget? Online platforms host thousands of no or low-cost, self-guided options on sites like Coursera, Skillshare, Codeacademy, etc., and generally offer an elementary or intermediate overview of specific topics or areas of expertise. 

And, if an employee is interested in learning more about an industry-specific, marketable skill that applies to their day-to-day, platforms like Facebook, Linkedin, and Hootsuite offer basic courses and certifications. 

Seminars and Guest Speakers

Don’t assume that your internal team is the end-all for knowledge and expertise. Look outside of your organization to identify relevant industry leaders and coordinate for them to speak to your team during a “lunch and learn” or town hall. 

The easiest way to do this is by navigating your work network: Who do you know or who have you come in contact with during your career that would have something valuable to offer to your team? Often, people are willing to help out and not require a speaker’s fee. That said, don’t shy away from compensating an expert for their time and services.

Hackathons 

Companies with established engineering and data teams are privy to the internal hackathon; an event that encourages imaginative brainstorming and innovation to help team members think outside the box and step away from the day-to-day business problems they’re typically tasked with to solve. 

But, you don’t need a robust engineering team to host a similar internal brainstorming session. Teams of all sizes and skillsets would benefit from taking a step back from their more “in the weeds” projects and instead tackle larger, more lofty business problems at the company level. 

Executive Training/Education 

When we talk about individual growth and potential, we’re not just referring to junior or middle-level employees. Top executives, especially individuals in the C-suite, are also looking for educational opportunities, and investing in continued learning for your company’s leadership will help set the tone for the rest of the firm. 

Outside of the executive team, companies should also think about training and mentorship programs for rising leaders and executives. Some larger corporate entities incorporate VP-track seminars for women and BIPOC leaders who may not be properly represented within the firm. 

How to integrate professional development programing into your company culture

Offer Annual Learning credits 

Whether $250 or $25,000, your team can and will benefit from an annual learning stipend. Take it from an employee at a top global hedge fund who uses his stipend, without question, every year for extracurricular courses:

“To me, professional development credits should be a no-brainer to employers. Not only does the employer reap dividends on improving an employee’s ability, but it’s a strong signal to prospective employees that the company is willing to invest in their growth.”

Quantitative Analyst, Two Sigma

Institute Evergreen Company Programming 

Be ready to set a plan in motion to implement the basics: Quarterly development meetings and goal setting; Quarterly town halls with a guest speaker; Annual company-wide hackathons. 

While additional meetings, including company-wide events, might seem like a heavy logistical undertaking, once you’ve established what new programming will look like the minutia will fall into place. Your team — and prospective employees — will appreciate the care and resources that you put into their professional development.

Set an Example at the C-suite 

As with any company-wide initiative, you’ll need executive buy in to make it a success. Implementing professional development programming is no different. Take the time to invest in yourself and your executive team — set the tone that professional development should be a priority for everyone in the organization.