LinkedIn’s 2020 Workplace Learning Report showed that 49% of talent developers across the globe consider convincing management to prioritize workplace learning a significant challenge. In addition, 42% said creating a culture of continuous learning also presents herculean difficulties. Just these two statistics demonstrate that while the importance of professional development seems like a no-brainer, unfortunately, not enough companies make a serious effort to do so continuously.
We recently expanded our services to cater to all company culture needs, positioning professional development, team activities, office catering, and office design as cornerstones of a thriving workplace. This article, the first of four diving into each new category, will discuss why cultivating an ongoing learning environment matters for corporate longevity, processes to follow when designing development programs, and the Thriver toolkits we recommend to get the ball rolling.
Why Forward-Thinking Companies View Professional Development as an Absolute Necessity
First off, it’s important to note that training and professional development are NOT the same things, though there is overlap. Whereas workplace training refers to teaching a specific skill, mindset, or behaviour at a particular point in time, professional development is the ongoing, holistic practice of bettering and empowering your team to help them succeed physically, mentally and vocationally in the long run.
Regularly upskilling your team creates an unbeatable culture and transforms your organization into a force to be reckoned with.
Professional development requires commitment but no matter the size of your organization, investing in it for your employees is highly worth the added efforts. Doing so:
Provides a competitive edge
A culture of life-long learning automatically creates a stronger awareness of your teams’ skill levels and how they compare to industry standards, shifts and trends. As a result, your leadership will more easily identify workforce knowledge and other deficiencies, allowing you to address them and ensure your organization remains current and ahead of the curve.
Keeps employees engaged and motivated
A 2020 article by Gallup showed that workplace engagement is generally abysmal, with only 15% of the world’s employees describing themselves as actively interested at work. Your staff might physically (or digitally) show up to work, but that speaks nothing of their emotional commitment. They want to do work that matters and makes a difference. They want to grow and evolve with their jobs, not remain stagnant.
One of the most common mistakes companies make is to approach engagement as a sporadic exercise in making their employees feel happy — usually around the time when a survey is coming up.
Boosts your brand image and attracts and retains the best talent
Think back to the last job ad your company posted.
What items did it list under “Perks”?
A sparkly, Metropolitan office space, free coffee, and subsidized gym memberships are great starts, but they’re not exactly solid answers for when a candidate asks: “What’s your company culture like?” at the end of an interview.
An ongoing commitment to staff upskilling positions your company as an organization dedicated to employee success and puts you far ahead of the competition. Plus, it makes retention and career planning so much easier as workers commit themselves long-term and naturally progress through the various levels of your organization.
Lastly, employees want to feel like you care about them, plain and simple. Professional development shows that you value current and prospective workers enough to keep investing in their growth.
Ensuring A Top-Down, 360° Approach to Continuous Learning
To get the best results, it’s important to apply assorted training, coaching and mentorship methods to each group (below). While the specific approach(es) you adopt may vary, use this as a general guideline:
5 Steps to Establish a Solid Professional Development Program
As stressed earlier, creating a culture of ongoing learning is no walk in the park. We recommended the following steps:
Step One: Identify goals and stakeholders
Who precisely is a part of your company? What function do they have in your organization? Who are your customers, and what are their needs? How does all that information tie in with your global vision? Consider skills and knowledge gaps, your competition, industry benchmarks and your overall strategic direction.
Step Two: Collect thoughts and ideas from employees
Next, uncover what workers care about and what they feel like they lack in terms of skill set. What are their career goals? What do they want to learn, and how will it help them? Create focus groups with individuals representing each organizational level, department, and team to compile this information.
Thriver’s polling tool is perfect for gathering votes on specific topics so you can work with more detailed information.
Step Three: Identify the best training approach(es)
This step requires creative, comprehensive thinking to settle on the best training and development mix for your company’s needs. Earlier, we touched on considering employee level when designing your program, but there are way more components to keep in mind, including:
- Employee life stage and experience (e.g. seasoned versus brand new hires)
- Individual goals (e.g. gunning for promotion versus the desire to grow within existing role)
- Frequency (e.g. monthly training versus seasonal refreshers)
- Reach (e.g. local, regional, or national teams, etc.)
Note also the various types of professional development. Finally, consider existing company resources, how you can leverage them, and what additions to make to beef up your overall program.
Step Four: Choose the appropriate KPIs and measure results frequently
Next, decide on how you’ll measure your program’s success once it’s launched. Again, here you need to be both broad and specific at the same time. Indeed.com provides a comprehensive guide for choosing KPIs and a template to flesh out each one.
Step Five: Rework and reassess your program based on data analysis and feedback
Lastly, address any material deviations between actual and intended results. It’s important to consider not only KPI data but also individual and group feedback. Make sure you’re truly listening to your employees, as your program ultimately aims to enhance their skill sets and holistic well-being.
Use our feedback and review feature to collect insights about what’s working and what needs tweaking.
Bonus Tip: Leverage experts to bridge gaps in technical skills and overall strategy
As your program develops, it’s normal to run into some challenging scenarios. Rather than wasting time and resources trying to solve issues beyond your company’s strengths, consider working with consultants and specialists who can point you in the right direction in a fraction of the time. You don’t have to look very far to find them; our platform hosts several experts in human resources, corporate wellness, and custom training sessions.
8 Target Areas for Ironclad Employee Enhancement
While your organization has distinct needs, keep in mind those specific non-negotiable skills your teams must master to navigate the current and future business climate. We’ve broken them down into eight areas to emphasize in a professional development program:
|Diversity & Inclusion||Demonstrating allyship and the ability to spot biases and embrace differences||• Diversity & Inclusion Seminar|
• 50 Ways to Fight Gender Bias
|Leadership||Maximizing influence, supporting employee growth and success, and driving corporate momentum||• The Future of Leadership|
• Mindful Leadership Workshop
|Mental Health Management & Support||Effectively self-managing mental health challenges and/or supporting struggling colleagues||• Stress & Mindfulness Seminar|
• Managing Pandemic Stress
|Team Building & Communication||Encouraging effective collaboration and productive camaraderie among coworkers||• The Connected Team|
• Creating a Culture of Feedback
|Creativity & Problem Solving||Assessing situations and identifying unique, imaginative solutions||• Creativity & Collaboration|
• Creativity Workshops Part I and Part II
|Change Adaptability & Resilience||Adapting to and recovering from challenges presented by world, industry, and company shifts||• Embracing Change & Uncertainty|
• Success Strategies That Create Workplace Transformations
|Self-advocacy||Mastering the art of self-awareness, story-telling and self-promotion to achieve goals||• Step into the Spotlight: Self-Promotion at Work|
• Stand Out Through Storytelling
|Emotional intelligence||Connecting deeply with team members and clients through empathy, active listening and genuine curiosity||• How EQ Creates Strong Wins in Client Relationships|
• When Differences Clash
Feeling a Tad Overwhelmed? Talk To The Experts.
A comprehensive, employee-empowering professional development program that keeps your company on par with the competition takes time and attention to cultivate. Figuring out your teams’ needs and creating a plan to address them can be challenging, so it’s perfectly normal to feel out of your depth from time to time. If that’s where you’re at, you’re not alone. Within our Professional Development category, these consulting services will connect you with an expert to provide tailored recommendations that will save you time, stress and money in the long run.