Development initiatives are great for keeping your employees motivated and making them feel valued. Investing in your employees’ personal and professional growth also ensures that you’re keeping their skills current so they can evolve with your company as it grows.

Even if you don’t have a large budget to send your employees to expensive seminars or classes, you can still develop a great professional development program in-house that leads to employee satisfaction and greater retention.

Learn more about the basics of professional development, its benefits, how to structure a program that works for your employees, and some must-haves for your program.

What Is Professional Development?

Professional development in the workplace refers to the certifications, education, and training that a worker needs to build skills in their job position or career. Professional development helps employees to become better, more efficient workers and can increase overall staff expertise.

According to SHRM, professional development keeps businesses competitive, helps them deal with skill shortages, and reduces turnover. In fact, 39 percent of employees consider professional development and learning to be highly important to their level of job satisfaction, which directly impacts their productivity and willingness to stay and grow with an employer.

5 Benefits of a Professional Development Program

Professional development programs have endless benefits for employees and employers alike. Here are five benefits of professional development plans for you to take advantage of:

It Demonstrates a Commitment to Employees and Their Individual Development

Professional development initiatives show your employees you care about their futures and that you encourage them to hone their current skills, learn new skills, and prepare themselves for jobs with more responsibility. As a result, your employees become more confident in their abilities, and they are more likely to experience job satisfaction as they see more professional growth opportunities with your company.

It Increases Employee Motivation

Investing in the development of your employees gives them a sense of value, which in turn fuels motivation. Employees become motivated through advancement, personal growth, achievement, and recognition.

It Helps Employees to Reach Their Maximum Potential

Acquiring new skills and competencies allows your employees to live up to their full potential in their job roles. More importantly, it gives you the ability to see which employees have professional development goals and which ones are content where they are. 

Employees who wish to reach their maximum potential can even help others to do the same by teaching them what they know and encouraging them to participate in the program.

It Enhances Your Employer Brand

Your employer brand is the way your employees and the workforce perceive your company. Making sure your employees can grow in your company by offering professional development initiatives helps foster a company culture that encourages learning. 

This is an attractive benefit to new talent and a great incentive to get employees to stay. 

It Increases the Collective Knowledge of Your Team

Encouraging your employees to train, learn, and develop their professional skills in relevant subjects helps to raise overall staff expertise. 

Once your employees learn how to manage responsibilities in their respective positions, they are likely to collaborate with other team members and exchange knowledge. This helps your entire team become more effective and to apply their knowledge appropriately.

How to Structure Your Professional Development Program

Here are four ways to structure your professional development program to ensure success:

Use Various Professional Development Strategies

Professional and career development strategies come in several forms. This means you can leverage various professional development strategies under your overall professional development program offer for your employees. 

For instance, you can offer leadership development, mentoring, coaching, personal development, and career workshops.

Each of your employees has a different role and career goals, which makes taking a one-size-fits-all approach to your professional development program ineffective. However, diversifying your strategies provides a more personalized experience for your employees.

Create Specific Professional Development Plans

Making a professional development plan that is specific to the needs of your employees is crucial for employee participation.

If your employees don’t feel like your program is beneficial for their career development, then they aren’t likely to participate.

Take their feedback into consideration, brainstorm ideas, and physically write out a plan that will serve as a blueprint for your employees to use while they go through your professional development program.

Offer Tools and Resources

Provide some assistance to your participants by offering free tools and resources that guide them through the program. Career development software or a central knowledge database is useful for storing information and valuable resources that your participants can access at any time.

If you conduct a training class, you may also consider recording it so your participants and future employees can look back at key points at any time.

Your aim should be to create a professional development program that is accessible and helpful.  

Measure Success

Measure the success of your professional development program to see how effective it is for your employees. Outcomes can be tracked and measured using reports that you pull from your professional development software, with employee retention statistics, or information about internal advancements. You may also consider checking in with participants during professional development sessions to see how they are going.

7 Professional Development Program Essentials

Every professional development program requires a few must-haves to make your organization a highly sought after workplace.

Professional Development Platforms 

Using communication platforms and other forms of technology is a great way to revolutionize the way your employees learn. Make use of some popular platforms, such as LinkedIn Learning, YouTube, and TED Talks. 

Some of these free platforms make it easy to share quick educational videos, articles, and short tutorials with your employees. 

These platforms are accessible at any time, and you can even create a central location where all of the links are located by topic or position.

Alignment of Professional Paths With Competencies

Aligning professional paths with competencies provides a clear roadmap for your employees. Through the training and performance you lay out for them, they’ll see the skills they must master to reach their goals. 

With professional paths and competencies, employees will have an idea of how long they are expected to stay in their role and the expected level of performance before they can advance. 

Career Coaching

Coaching has a strong impact on many areas in an employee’s professional life, such as performance management, learning, leadership development, and even wellness and wellbeing. If you want to add career coaching to your professional development program, you don’t necessarily have to hire a specially trained career coach.

Sometimes the best career coaching comes from ongoing coaching through in-the-moment feedback that is ongoing or targeted professional development meetings. This will set your employees on the right path and keep them accountable.

Management and Leadership Training

Leadership and management training helps to foster confident leaders and managers who directly impact employee engagement. 

A good way to support the managers and leaders in your organization is through online or in-person training courses on topics such as effective delegation, courageous leadership, or listening for leaders.

Professional Certifications

Professional certifications require training and standardized testing that participants must complete and pass before they can get certified. 

Certification programs are appealing for employees who want to move into new positions or those who simply want to reach their professional development goals. They are good middle-ground options for professionals who are interested in elevating their education without the lengthy commitment of a degree.

Cross-Training

Cross-training helps build the skills of everyone in the company. This way, every employee understands what it takes to run the business. It also provides employees with valuable insights into other possible career paths that may interest them in the future.

And when opportunities become available, they’ll be ready to help out or to fill the position.

Wellbeing Tactics

Wellbeing programs benefit your employees’ physical and mental wellness. They allow your employees to de-stress and do some of the activities they love, encouraging them to form good habits. Wellbeing programs also improve productivity and stimulate creative thinking. 

There are plenty of corporate benefit options you can provide to support wellbeing programs for your employees. For example, corporate wellbeing platforms like Gympass provide access to gyms, virtual personal training, live streaming classes, and wellness apps to deliver a holistic solution to improve employees’ mind, body, and mood. Happy, healthy employees are set up to succeed in advancing themselves professionally. 

Effective professional development programs come down to the way they are executed. You want your employees to be excited about participating in your program so that both their personal growth and your organization are positively impacted.