How well does your organization support ongoing professional development, encouraging employees to learn new skills, particularly “soft” skills and maybe even earning certification for leadership development?
What we do know is that if a company is serious about recruiting and retaining the best, creative and bright people want their talent nurtured. The top performers in today’s work climate expect to be offered opportunities that include:
When organizations promote ongoing learning and facilitate certification for leadership skills, they typically have higher productivity from employees who also rate their job satisfaction highly.
Here are some ways to encourage employees at all levels to learn new skills, particularly leadership skills:
- Formalize the learning and development process: Remember the saying that without a goal, a plan is just a wish. Saying that you want to create opportunities for both formal and informal learning isn’t going to have the same traction as planning. Putting a leader in charge of developing a robust succession plan is the first step to establishing someone who is responsible for professional development. Their role will be to identify both needs and opportunities for all staff to improve their hard skills and soft skills – and ensure there is a training budget (some organizations will allocate specific dollar amounts for each employee to use in a calendar year, with manager and HR approval).
- Be open to all sorts of learning opportunities: Professional development you can offer your employees doesn’t have to be one-size-fits-all (and arguably it shouldn’t be!). Invite employees to participate in finding their own professional development so that they feel invested in the outcomes. Leaders might benefit from coaching, managers from peer learning and team members from particular skills development workshops, digital courses and workshops (more affordable and accessible than ever) or “lunch and learns” held in the workplace. There are also other possibilities, such as setting up mentorships and specific experiential learning opportunities on the job that offer employees a chance to stretch their skills and gain hands-on experience as they prepare for management roles.
- Protect the time required for professional development: It’s important for your organization to carve out time for employees to learn. Professional development has to be a priority for everyone.
What does that look like in practice? A culture that supports learning will ensure that people can unplug from the office for a few hours, a day or a week to participate actively in learning without being interrupted or pulled away. We know that engaged management support of coaching and learning is critical to secure a valuable ROI.
- Think beyond the workshop or training: Tracking successes and celebrating achievements is motivating, but remember to also plan ways for team members to use their newly acquired skills in the workplace. Using what they’ve learned on projects or with new assignments – or perhaps filling in for someone more senior temporarily or taking an internal secondment to another department – will help staff to put knowledge and skill (such as what they learn in the certification for leadership) into practice (actually leading a project or team). Check in regularly to see if staff are using what they’ve learned and have access to ongoing development opportunities.
Creating a culture for learning is an important part of what it takes to be a company of the future with team members who are prepared to be future-ready leaders.
How does your organization encourage and support ongoing professional development? What could it do better? How is success measured?