10 ways to bolster your team’s professional development

Employees want opportunities to learn new skills and gain enriching knowledge. Try these tips to propel them upward toward greater career success.

10 professional development tips

As Benjamin Franklin wrote back in 1758: “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

All these years later, that advice still stands. This adage is especially true when it comes to your team.

Team members who consistently upgrade their skills are better positioned to use the latest technologies and strategies. In turn, they’ll be more innovative and productive. Moreover, they’ll be more engaged and loyal to your business.

Additionally, employees value education a great deal:

  • Learning and development at work are “essential” to 87% of millennials.
  • According to employees, 76% believe a company would be more appealing if it offered skill training to its employees.
  • Seventy-four percent of surveyed employees feel they are not reaching their full potential at work because of a lack of development opportunities.
  • To stay employed, 74% of workers are willing to acquire new skills or retrain.
  • Just 29% of employees in an organization are “very satisfied” with the career advancement opportunities available to them.

So, providing continuing education for your team is a no-brainer as it benefits both parties. But how can you effectively deliver this perk for them? Here are 10 ideas to explore.

1. Launch a coaching or mentoring program.

“One of the most common ways to provide continuous learning opportunities is by arranging face-to-face training,” notes Robert Half. “This could be at an external venue or at your own offices.”

What’s more, the format of sessions and group size can vary depending on your team’s needs. For example, you could book a venue, like an auditorium, and host presentation-style teaching. Or, you could provide personalized one-on-one instruction. There are plenty of virtual learning opportunities, too, of course.

In addition to coaching opportunities, you could also introduce a mentoring program. Here, experienced team members share their knowledge with newer, less experienced employees, explains Robert Half. As a result, this helps your team develop valuable skills.

Additionally, mentoring “ensures that you retain valuable knowledge which has been learned through years of experiences.” For example, if those employees left the company due to retirement, this knowledge would be totally lost.

You can still find time for mentoring by;

  • Consider virtual meetings and groups, networking, and reverse mentoring opportunities.
  • Don’t overcommit yourself. Instead, pay attention to a select few, aka proteges, based on performance and potential.
  • Block out specific days in your calendar to meet with mentees.
  • Delegate tasks to mentees.
  • Create and distribute mentoring references, such as Word docs, FAQ pages, Wikis or instructional videos.

2. Offer continuing education credits.

Do you know that about 84% of Americans say a college education is essential to success in life?

Continuing education at the workplace is a great way to inspire employees’ learning. Perhaps you can provide a more specific course list relevant to your industry and assist them with the cost. It’s also common for employers to pay for certification courses to ensure employees are well-trained.

Some companies, however, leave the door open by covering fees without any restrictions. That means employees can learn anything they want — even if it’s not directly linked with their job.

3. Draw connections to performance.

“Being certified brings confidence and sureness to your day-to-day role,” says Ruth Hartgen, director of HR at HRCI. For instance, when it comes to HR, “You have to recertify every three years, so your knowledge never stagnates.”

Select a certification that supports each employee’s career goals and allows them to grow personally. “Show how certification helps them progress within the organization,” Hartgen suggests.

What’s more, newly certified employees can be a valuable source of inspiration to get their colleagues to follow in their footsteps. For example, you could ask them to share how their certification has improved their practice, enriched their performance, and assisted them in achieving their goals.

4. Set up a book club.

Usually, when you think of a book club, it’s an out-of-work activity where a group of friends gather to discuss a novel they’ve all read together. However, this concept can also be used to help employees develop on-the-job knowledge.

The books you select should encourage your team to grow professionally and personally. Or, you can choose according to what your team is interested in.

After you’ve found a book, give everyone ample time to read it. Everyone can then gather to discuss the book and how to apply its tactics to their own lives.

5. Schedule lunchtime speakers.

A lunch break is unavoidable during an eight-hour workday. While your team eats, why not give them a chance to strengthen or develop new skills?

Whether the speaker is from inside or outside the company, a lunch-and-learn brings your team together. The possibilities for topics that would bolster staff education are endless; just make sure your team has a say in terms of content and speakers.

6. Implement the 70/20/10 rule.

To maximize learning and growth, experts suggest acquiring three types of experience based upon a ratio of:

  • 70% challenging experiences and assignments
  • 20% developmental relationships
  • 10% coursework and training

A key takeaway from this rule is that relationships are the foundation of social learning. Studies also show that when individuals learn together, they learn more effectively. As such, you should tap into the power of group learning opportunities.

7. Let employees choose their own adventure.

Are there industry events, workshops, webinars, or online classes your team members want to attend? Could you encourage them to participate? Even if you don’t have the resources to cover all of their expenses, you could grant them a more flexible schedule so that they can attend.

In addition to covering the latest industry trends and honing their skills, these events also present priceless networking opportunities. Review the speaker list and content topics before giving them the green light. It’s a simple way to ensure that your team members aren’t wasting their time.

8. Organize a library of resources.

When employees know that relevant resources are readily available, they’re more inclined to try out a book or course. With that in mind, provide a professional development library on your intranet or somewhere else easily accessible.

Books, podcasts, videos, e-books and training manuals that focus on building skills specific to your industry should be included. You might also include guides written by senior management or other industry leaders.

Another option is to provide subscriptions to popular industry publications or online learning platforms.

9. Create a corporate Toastmasters club.

Toastmasters training can help employees learn how to run meetings, practice better time management, improve their listening skills, and, of course, strengthen public speaking skills.

You can create your own corporate Toastmasters Club by following these five steps:

  • First, find at least 20 people over the age of 18 who want to join.
  • Designate and secure a meeting location.
  • Fill out and submit the requisite new club forms to World Headquarters.
  • Fill out the Start a Club form and request more information.
  • Download a copy of How to Build a Toastmasters Club, a step-by-step guide to growing a successful club.

Doing hands-on tasks (e.g., giving speeches or taking on various meeting roles), these club meetings develop communication and leadership skills in members.

10. Recognize learning as a significant achievement.

Businesses reward what they value. Despite this, so many businesses don’t encourage continuing education and learning.

The answer? You need to demonstrate an actual appreciation for learning.

There is no question that results matter. For example, a measurable ROI would be if an online course boosted employee productivity. First, however, your team must recognize learning as a substantive achievement so that they’ll be motivated to continue learning.

One idea would be to reward learning by presenting completion certificates to these team members in front of everyone else. Another would be constructing an “achievement wall.” Or, you could reward them with vouchers, small gifts or paid time off.

John Hall is the co-founder of Calendar and a keynote speaker. Read more of his work on the Calendar blog.


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