Editorial

11 Oct 2021

How Can Professional Development Improve Employee Performance

Kelsey Kaczynski

You don't have to wait for a new year, a new quarter, or a new month to reinvigorate your employees’ performance.

As the worldwide business landscape evolves, responding to the whims of technology and increased competition, so does the importance of professional development plans.

Designed to arm employees with new resources to succeed in their positions, even preparing them to accept additional duties within the company, these plans are gaining in popularity, complexity, and necessity.

Companies need 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. Offering opportunities for professional development can also help to increase your employee retention rate.

You might wonder how these learning opportunities can improve employee performance. Well, 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 plans.

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 continually equip themselves with new skills.

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 and plans. All you need is an action plan.

What Are Examples Of Professional Development?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cmglfdSZzhY

If you’re thinking about offering quality professional development to your employees, you might want some examples. 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 refining a specific current skill. Employees can then use these additional skills to perform their jobs much better. Options include:

  • Online modules
  • Workshops
  • Skill-based training
  • Webinars

Many of these can be done on a flexible schedule, so they can be perfect for agile workers or remote offices.

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.

Professional Development Vs. Professional Learning

You might often assume that professional development and a professional learning style 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 a professional development plan. That’s primarily because it’s often much more interactive.

Your employees will be much more involved in these lessons, which could be better for developing their competency in certain areas.

What Is A Professional Development Plan?

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Once you’ve decided to take advantage of quality professional development, you’ll need to come up with a strategy or plan. Doing so won’t be possible without a professional development plan.

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 professional 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 in the plan what support systems the business itself will provide for the employees when doing so. That could include paying for learning style 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.

Five Steps To Building A Professional Development Plan

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Comprehend What Employees Really Want

Your employees should know what their current professional skills are and which 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 professional 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.

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.

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 skill sets 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 skill sets are well-rounded will be mandatory.

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 education institutions, 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.

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 taking an exam and analyzing results. This should be outlined in the professional development plan and be compared against expected results.

Importance Of Professional Development Plans

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Many employers shy away from professional development programs and plans, thinking they are unnecessary. However, there are several ways these programs can benefit not just your employees, but also your business.

Employee Knowledge And Advancement

Beyond the benefits of supplemental training for one's job, professional development enhances an employee's value and ensures they remain relevant in their career field.

Employee Job Satisfaction

Many people pursue professional development to bolster their confidence in what they do at work, grow what they already know, and expand where they’d like to go.

This confidence can translate into higher overall job satisfaction, which in turn increases employee performance, productivity, and morale.

Employee Retention

Businesses that do not offer career-building educational opportunities for their staff tend to see greater employee turnover than those that do provide those resources.

Disinterest, in general, correlates to why companies find hiring and retention so hard. They are not investing in professional development, and employees leave.

Career-enhancing education is becoming an employee expectation.

Companies that don't invest in a company culture that prioritizes educational training programs for their staff run the risk of losing them to employers that do.

Foundations Of A Strong Professional Development Plan

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ciSAmN7hQgk

Even the most impressive professional development plan is destined to fail if a participant does not buy into the initiative. These are the pillars of a viable and productive professional development plan:

Offer Continual Development

It must allow staff to determine the pace of their enrichment, giving them control over their educational path.

Continued Micro-Learning Opportunities

Micro-learning is a big buzzword in the learning and development universe. Micro-learning means an educational opportunity that focuses on small concepts.

One example of this niche learning is teaching an employee how to connect with the mobile generation.

That knowledge, in particular, is all the more important since an ever-increasing number of millennials and people from Gen Z work remotely.

Because the modern workforce consists of three or four generations, a one-size-fits-all approach to employee enrichment is simply outdated.

Formal And Informal Learning Opportunities

The availability of both formal and informal professional development opportunities is imperative in today's modern workforce.

Webinars and podcasts are examples of informal learning that gives the participant total control over when they seek assistance.

That is partly why an informal professional development plan is more impactful when combined with formal offerings.

The best professional development plans are overseen by professional organizations because those workshops focus on leadership.

These programs and plans are designed to teach new things but also provide game plans to help companies implement professional development in the workplace.

Plan Follow-Ups

Even companies that start with the best of intentions might stop fully supporting learning and development efforts over the long term.

Regular follow-ups are necessary to ensure employees are using everything they have learned to improve their performance.

Companies should not minimize the importance of employee development, largely because it ensures employees know of the company's investment in them and demonstrates the company's real concern for their welfare.

Employee Professional Development Ideas

As team members, your employees can work both individually and together to reach a common goal. The personal growth of each employee contributes to the career success of the entire business.

The acknowledgment of an employee's talents and successes in fulfilling their job responsibilities builds their confidence, which increases employee productivity and talent.

According to numerous studies, millennials tend to favor moving from one job to another.

Empowering employees, especially younger workers susceptible to job-hopping, to succeed in their current roles and ultimately move up could reduce this turnover.

There are numerous ways for employees to pursue professional development.

Follow these actionable steps to find the plan – or combination of plans – that works best for your team.

Have Discussions With Employees

You and your team managers, or HR representatives should meet with your employees regularly to discuss each one's job performance.

The conversation should include suggestions for improvement, showing the employee the company cares about them and their future.

Additionally, bouncing professional development ideas around the office empowers employees to play an important role in the plan, while encouraging personal and professional refinement.

Creating a culture of additional learning in the workplace is a shared responsibility. Employees should feel free to suggest academic or professional development programs and plans.

Use Technology To Your Advantage

It's crucial for employees to keep pace with societal and technological developments.

Since rapid technology advancements impact most industries, professionals armed with diverse skills and abilities offer more flexibility and value to employers than those whose learning has stagnated.

Create An Internal Mentorship Program

Employers should arrange brainstorming groups or mentorship programs to help staff connect with one another.

For example, form small teams to discuss ideas, create prototypes, improve tools, and more.

Start An Ongoing Lunch-And-Learn Program

Get an expert speaker or knowledgeable team member to teach your employees in an informal lunch setting.

The expert can present to the team, and then employees can engage in a creative discussion with the expert, gaining front-row knowledge on a specific topic.

This is a great monthly event that can help educate employees without taking up too much of their time.

Many companies pay for lunch for the employees to eat while listening to the speakers, which gives staff an incentive to come and an even more positive association with the sessions.

Encourage Active Participation

While some staff members welcome professional development opportunities, others might be reluctant.

As an employer, you should encourage educational pursuits in and out of the workplace. You could also organize initiatives to stimulate new ideas.

Review And Finalize Your Plan

With professional goals and personal goals set and a plan in place, it’s time for the employee to present their professional development plan to their manager.

Together, you and your employee should review the plan to make sure their SMART goals are aligned with the organization, iron out any kinks, and finalize the plan of action.

As you review their plan, consider the following questions:

  • Does the employee understand their performance issues and your expectations for improvement?
  • Do their career aspirations relate to those performance issues?
  • Is their plan for achievement clear and focused? Are the action steps specific and actionable?
  • Can they measure their career development goals accurately and confidently? Is there any way to make their goals more quantifiable?
  • Do you both agree on the timeline and milestones for achievement?
  • Can you provide the resources necessary for your employee to be successful?

Depending on your answers, you may have to work with your employee to revise their goals or plan of action.

Conclusion

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvb7xoJq7so

Taking advantage of an employee training plan can offer a host of benefits for your business.

Well-trained employees are the backbone of a successful business. Without them, it might not be able to grow and succeed.

That means giving your workers access to ongoing education could be the fuel that powers your future continued 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.

Performance management is a crucial part of a profitable company. Yet, a staggering 48% of organizations say their performance management needs improvement.

The key is to turn your review process into a useful endeavor for both employees and managers to increase engagement and gather meaningful results.

The performance development planning process reduces the inefficiencies of the annual review process and empowers employees and managers alike to take a proactive approach to performance management.

Once you have a plan in place, be prepared to check in regularly with your employees to make sure they are on track.

Performance reviews and goal-setting can be overwhelming for both managers and their employees.

But with a well-thought-out performance development plan, you can make all the difference in helping employees achieve their overall professional goals and increase employee engagement.

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