11 Oct 2021

How Can Professional Development Improve Employee Performance

A woman looking at her laptop and smiling.

Companies need to maintain a competitive edge to stay ahead in their industry. While product innovation is a notable way of doing so, professional development among employees might be a better-recommended approach. By implementing initiatives that turn your workers into learners, you could improve your business.

You might wonder how these learning opportunities can improve employee performance. Once they’ve been implemented, you’ll see this in various ways. It’ll let them learn leadership skills, alongside other new skills related to their jobs.

That’ll give them a much better competency with their roles while also letting them upskill. These professional development opportunities can be customized to an employee’s or company’s needs.

As a result, you can ensure that the modules they take are catered specifically for what they do. That should lead to multiple obvious improvements in how your employees perform. That doesn’t necessarily mean sending them to community college for a degree, however.

Instead, you can take advantage of online learning classes geared toward specific subjects. To take advantage of this properly, though, you’ll need to know the ins and outs of continuing education and professional development.

As beneficial as it might be, there’s more to it than you might expect.

What Is Meant By Professional Development?

You might wonder what professional development actually is. Typically, this refers to the career-focused continued education that a worker may go through. The goal of this is to allow and encourage employees to stay up-to-date with industry trends and tools.

There are multiple other aims associated with these learning experiences, however. If an employee’s goal is to advance in their field, then they’ll need to upskill. Achieving this will mean taking advantage of professional development opportunities as often as possible.

In many industries, doing this is mandatory. Usually, this will be related to earning and renewing the certifications and licenses needed for a particular role. Employers will normally help in achieving this, such as paying for classes and allowing time for studies. Others will have some sort of training program.

It’s not uncommon for employees to do this outside of work, however. Much of this has been driven by the popularity of online courses. The employee’s coursework tends to be done outside of work hours, and they’ll usually earn a certificate of completion when doing so.

If they attend a community college or something similar, however, it’s common for them to be given some form of degree, even if they haven’t earned a bachelor’s. Professional organizations can also be the providers of such professional development programs.

What Are Examples Of Professional Development?

If you’re thinking about offering quality professional development to your employees, you might want some ideas. Though some things might be obvious, especially if they’re industry-specific, quite a few won’t be.

Perhaps the most obvious would be enrolling in a college course related to a role. Alongside this would be accreditation programs that are typically needed before someone can start a specific position. There are multiple other options that can be taken advantage of, each of which can be high-quality.

One of the more notable of these is online courses, which can often be focused on acquiring specific skills. Employees can then use these new skills to perform their jobs much better. Coupled with that are:

  • Online Modules;
  • Workshops;
  • Skill-Based Training;
  • Webinars.

Many of these can be done on a flexible schedule, although it’s worth noting that not all of them can. Workshops and webinars, for example, will typically take place on a given day and time. Attendance will be mandatory for employees to take advantage of them.

What Is The Difference Between Professional Development & Professional Learning?

You might often assume that professional development and professional learning are the same things. While they can be similar and related, there are notable differences between the two of them. If you want your employees to benefit properly from either, you’ll need to differentiate between them.

Professional development typically takes the form of lectures, workshops, or seminars, among similar things. These are things that your employees will take part in, although it’s a more passive approach to upskilling.

In most cases, professional development focuses on updating an employee’s knowledge. Professional learning entails many of the same principles, although it goes about these learning experiences in a different manner.

In many cases, it’s seen as a modernized version of professional development. That’s primarily because it’s often much more interactive. Your employees will be much more involved in these lessons, which could be much better for developing their competency in certain areas.

What Is A Professional Development Plan?

Once you’ve decided to take advantage of quality professional development, you’ll need to come up with a strategy. Doing so won’t be possible without a professional development plan. You might be unsure as to what this is.

As you might guess from the name, it’s a plan of approach that outlines the goals of your employee’s professional development programs. It will also detail the required skills a worker will need to learn, how competent they’ll need to be, and whether they’ll need a certificate of completion.

You’ll also include what support systems the business itself will provide for the employees when doing so. That could include paying for learning initiatives, giving employees the necessary time off, and much more. 

To take advantage of this properly, you’ll need to know how to build a professional development plan.

5 Steps To Building A Professional Development Plan

1. Comprehend What Employees Really Want

Your employees should know what their current skills are and what ones they’d like to learn. These will sometimes relate to where they want to go with their career. Typically, however, it will be where they feel they could use the most work and what new skills they need to do their job better.

You should then understand and evaluate whether these responses match what the company needs. At the same time, your employees should look at their interests, values, personality, and much more.

Armed with this knowledge, you can then start building a professional development plan.

2. Stating Career Goals

Where your employee wants to go with their career will play a significant role in what skills they should learn. It’ll also factor into what professional development opportunities they should take advantage of.

If their career goal is to head the marketing department, for instance, then it mightn’t be appropriate for them to take accounting classes. Knowing what your employees want when moving up in your company will be mandatory for their development plan.

3. Identify Fillable Gaps

Once you know where your employee wants to go, you can start to identify what gaps they might have in getting there. You’ll primarily focus on their skills when doing so. In most cases, these will be the technical ones needed for further advancement in their career path.

These will vary from role to role, so you’ll need to sit down and identify which ones they’ll need the most. You shouldn’t focus solely on the technical things, however. You should also consider leadership skills and much more.

As your employees move up the corporate ladder, they’ll become leaders, after all. Knowing that their skillset is well-rounded will be mandatory.

4. Start Putting Things Together

Once you know exactly where your employee wants to go and what they’ll need to focus on, you’ll need to start implementing things. You’ll first need to identify the resources you have at your disposal. These could include learning providers, online courses, in-house training initiatives, and much more.

You should identify exactly which ones will benefit your employees and organize for them to take advantage of them. It’s worth being patient with this approach. They won’t have the time or energy to take on everything at once.

As such, you should take a slow and steady approach to this.

5. Help Monitor Progress

Once your employee starts on their professional development journey, you’ll need to monitor their progress regularly. While the timeline will vary depending on skill and employee, you should check in regularly and determine how they’re doing.

That could be as simple as exam-taking and analyzing results. This should be outlined in the professional development plan and be compared against expected results.


Taking advantage of an employee training program can offer a host of benefits for your business. Should many of your workers take advantage of the professional development opportunities that you present them, your company will benefit even more.

Well-trained employees are the backbone of a successful business. Without them, it mightn’t be able to grow and succeed. That makes giving your workers access to continuing education could be the fuel that powers your future growth.

An investment in your workforce is an investment in your firm. Without it, you’re not going to see it blossom as much as you should. There are good ways and bad ways to go about this, however. You’ll need to identify core areas to focus on and ensure that employees want to take advantage of professional learning.

Having a strategy in place for this should be more than enough to implement webinars, mentoring, and other learning experiences for your workforce.

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