As a business owner or manager, you should always want the best for your employees. Part of that commitment is to help them advance their careers by learning new skills, building on existing ones and in some cases, even developing to the point that they go and achieve success elsewhere. While this is never the goal, with an excellent culture and development pathway you can avoid losing staff because they’re too skilled.
Even with the risk of losing top talent, professional development is crucial to ensure you have a productive, highly-skilled workforce of your own. Sure, some may leave if they don’t have opportunities to advance within your company. But overall, the benefits of professional development courses far outweigh the risks.
What are professional development courses?
Many people ask what the difference is between staff training and professional development. Well, it’s not necessarily an easy question to answer. Training is part of one’s overall professional development. It would be hard to argue that attending a training course to learn Microsoft Excel is going to damage your career. But career development isn’t really the purpose of that training.
Where training is designed to fill a gap in someone’s knowledge or skill base, professional development is more about building your career. Another key distinction is that general staff training is often only relevant to that particular workplace. Professional development is about growing the skills that can be transferred to any job, and even outside of your working life.
For example, staff training on how to use a new computer system is simply training. However, courses on time management are considered to be professional development, because time management is a skill you can use anywhere.
Why are professional development courses so important?
The types of professional development courses you offer for your staff are likely to be quite different depending on their desired career path. But let’s take a look at why professional development is great for both employees and employers.
Learning new skills
It might sound obvious, but everybody can benefit from learning new skills. Whether it be how to manage conflict, how to prioritise and plan work, or even how to network effectively. There are so many different types of professional development courses out there, so you can give employees the opportunity to gain more knowledge and further themselves.
For employees, they develop more skills they can use anywhere, and employers can benefit from having more highly skilled staff members on the team.
Developing existing skills
In many cases, professional development is actually about building on the skills that people already have. For example, perhaps an employee is reasonably good at time management and planning but wants to use these skills in a project management role. For that, they may need further development with specific project management courses.
An employee not only becomes more proficient, but professional development also helps them to map out a career pathway that is hopefully within your organisation. For employers, again, a skilled workforce is something your competitors can be envious of.
Increased staff engagement
Staff engagement is huge in the modern business landscape. Unhappy staff are not only less productive, but they usually also have one foot out the door. This isn’t a good result for them, or for the employer. However, staff engagement is known to be stronger within organisations that prioritise training and development opportunities for staff. If done exceptionally well, your professional development will also have links to career pathways within your business.
When staff can clearly see that you’re investing time and money into their development, engagement increases and staff retention improves. Plus, you’re training the next line of senior staff members along the way.
More career development opportunities
As we mentioned, having a clear pathway for people to grow with your business is the best way to improve staff retention and engagement. When people are encouraged to focus on their professional development, they can start envisaging a career path for themselves. It might be moving sideways into a different role or department. Perhaps they have their sights set on management. The actual pathway isn’t important, but more the fact that you are providing career development opportunities.
This works even better when you have a solid development program in place. One that’s personalised, rather than just sending all employees to the same courses. With the rise of online learning, you can now tailor a development program to suit each individual employee and deliver real value.
Staff retention and attracting top talent
We’ve focused heavily on staff engagement and career pathways because these are extremely important reasons why you should invest in professional development. However, staff retention is almost its own animal. There are many people who are good at their jobs and don’t have any desire to advance or move around. That’s totally fine, but for those who do want to advance their careers, they won’t stick around long if you don’t support them.
The cost of recruiting new staff is extremely high when you factor in the time it takes to get them to a productive level of output, not to mention all of the actual recruitment costs. So, when you develop a policy to promote from within, and also give people the tools to chase their dreams, they are more likely to stay loyal.
This also flows into the process of attracting top talent from outside of the business when you need to. People have more choices these days, and they’re reluctant to stay in jobs where they aren’t supported. When word gets out that you invest time, money and effort into the careers of your employees, you’ll likely find that you can attract better candidates when jobs do open up.
In conclusion, professional development is extremely important. But it can’t just be done in isolation. Offering opportunities is one thing, but to achieve a happy, productive and ambitious workforce, you need a good system in place to help people achieve their goals. Career development and professional development go hand-in-hand, so if you’re uncertain how to proceed, speak with a reputable employee training provider who can help to transform your L&D program.