6 Professional Development Ideas to Help Employees Thrive

Use these professional development ideas to show employees that you are willing to invest in them and support professional growth.

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6 Reasons Offering Career Development Benefits Companies

Are you looking for professional development ideas to maximize your team’s potential? There are plenty of ways to encourage employees to develop skills through active participation, training, and cultural initiatives.

In today’s fast-paced work environment, it’s more important than ever to foster employee development. Companies that encourage learning and growth among employees report higher job satisfaction, morale, employee motivation, and job performance. 

Professional development can cover a wide range of topics, including written communication, leadership, organization, conflict resolution, and time management. It’s up to managers and professional organizations to decide which of these are most important. 

What are the best ways to encourage professional growth and development within your organization? Here are 6 tried and true employee development suggestions.

1. Implement a financial wellness program

Financial wellness programs are designed to educate employees on money management topics, such as investing, retirement planning, and debt control. Each program should be customized to the needs of staff because workforces have different priorities.

Studies show that millennials want resources to help them plan their financial futures. Carrying the burden of student loans and other fiscal responsibilities, millennials are eager to succeed. Although younger generations lead the demand for these programs, employees over 55 also welcome the perk as they near retirement age. Financial wellness programs are a great way to attract younger talent and improve employee well-being.

2. Offer learning incentives

It’s critical for employees to keep their skillsets relevant. Embracing a learning mindset helps employees grow and avoid burnout by constantly helping them develop and update their role responsibilities.

That’s why one of our top employee development suggestions is to offer a learning stipend. Companies can allocate a small budget toward educational books, online courses, seminars, and events to help team members flourish. Putting the power in employees’ hands gives each person the freedom to learn new skills and explore new ideas in a way that’s best for them.

If the budget doesn’t allow for a stipend, employers can choose to promote company-wide learning incentives. Sponsoring monthly or quarterly professional development opportunities is a cost-effective way to support employee development.

“Lunch and learns” or team seminars are great options to consider. Some employers even recommend podcasts and online learning resources depending on objectives. Start by gathering input from your team to effectively tailor development efforts to staff interests.

Companies can allocate a small budget toward educational books, online courses, seminars, and events to help team members flourish. Putting the power in employees’ hands gives each person the freedom to learn new skills and explore new ideas in a way that’s best for them.

3. Hire and train for soft skills

Professional development programs used to be all about training for technical skills, also known as hard skills. Now, companies realize the value of interpersonal skills like empathy, self-discipline, communication, body language, and critical thinking. Monster’s The Future of Work 2021: Global Hiring Outlook reported that when employers were asked to name the top skills they want in employees, they cited soft skills such as dependability, teamwork/collaboration, flexibility and problem-solving.

According to Liz Cannata, vice president of human resources for talent acquisition company CareerBuilder, companies have a lot to gain by treating soft skills as they would any technical skill. “Developing soft skills won’t be successful in most cases using a one-and-done approach like a single webinar or panel discussion,” Cannata says. “No one really develops their technical skills that way, either.” The soft-skills training methods that tend to work best are “flexible, shorter and more frequent,” Cannata says. 

4. Provide hands-on experiences

On-the-job coaching, feedback counseling, and formal presentation opportunities are a few ways to develop leadership skills and help employees solve new challenges. A seminar or a podcast can be helpful. But continuous learning of relevant topics can provide more concrete ways for employees to understand and apply what they learn. 

Have an employee shadow one of their superiors for a day (understudy training). Expand accountability and responsibilities while providing useful feedback. When employees increase engagement with management roles and continue sharing knowledge, they’ll only increase their competence and confidence. 

For example, Mackenzie, a paid media strategist, plans to take a weeklong vacation in June. She prepares by having one-on-one working sessions with a junior paid media specialist for half an hour each day. By June, the junior media specialist feels equipped to take on the essential parts of Mackenzie’s responsibilities while she’s away. 

This kind of practical training not only provides Mackenzie peace of mind on her vacation. It also helps the junior media specialist advance his skills, knowledge, and confidence. He hopes that leadership roles like Mackenzie’s will one day be within his reach.

5. Create a healthy environment

It’s no surprise that healthy employees are happy and more productive. Not to mention, they cost less. Health development opportunities are a win for employers and staff. Many employees are interested in living healthier lives but have a hard time reaching their goals in the workplace.

Leading businesses are taking strides by offering healthy snacks and meal options in the breakroom. Office yoga, massage, and exercise classes are also increasing in popularity. A simple gym membership reimbursement program is another way to help team members get healthy. 

Snacks are great. But most employees are happiest when they work in ways that are most conducive to their mental and physical health. Burnout has been one of the primary reasons for high employee turnover in a post-COVID workplace. To combat this, you can provide stress management interventions, engage employees in decision-making, and implement high-quality performance management.

The most important way to create a healthy environment is to cater to the needs of employees. This is especially important if you’re transitioning from fully remote to in-person. Don’t just assume that a standing desk or breakroom snacks are the universal answers. Ask employees how they feel most comfortable and productive, and work with them on building a custom solution. When employees recognize your investment in their health, they invest in you.

6. Build a team culture

Professional development is best implemented when the team culture is already healthy, diverse, and strong.

Developing a highly skilled and motivated workforce requires teamwork. Organizations that perform well as a team tend to have extremely strong and unique company cultures. Fostering an environment that individuals want to be a part of requires a consistent effort from leadership.

A good team culture should go beyond pizza parties and softball. It begins with communication and respect. Professional development is best implemented when the team culture is already healthy, diverse, and strong. If you’re unsure where to start when building or strengthening team culture, begin with establishing your company values. 

Everyone in your company should be able to identify the company’s values, from the interns to the CEO. If not, that’s where you should begin. Strong company culture is built on the foundation of a shared goal: believing in the company’s mission and values. It doesn’t stop there. These values must be integrated in the way employees interact with tasks, coworkers, customers, and the business as a whole. 

A team-building activity can still be useful here. Many team-building activities focus on communication skills, problem-solving skills, and outside-the-box thinking. These can all be potential values for your company. However, what’s essential is the clear connection between the values and activity. These should not only be implied but clearly understood and practically implemented in training sessions and decision-making. 

Use professional development ideas to encourage growth

Employee growth is an integral part of any dynamic working environment. And effective professional development doesn’t just benefit a person in their specific role — it helps with personal growth. Employees can take the knowledge with them no matter where they go. With these professional development ideas, your company will build stronger, adaptable, and more confident employees. 

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