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Encouraging Professional Development in the Workplace: A 2021 Guide

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As businesses grow, they become increasingly complicated. Without a firm finger on the pulse of your growth you could end up with a spiraling management system that is inefficient and causing dissent in your workforce. You need a loyal, dedicated workforce in order to outpace your competition, and the best way to do that is to have the best of the best working underneath you.

Finding and managing the best of the best, however, is either going to cost you an arm and a leg, or alternatively is a short-term endeavor. As manager or owner, you need to build a workplace culture that not only encourages employees to stay but also encourages them to progress and further their skillset beyond what they can learn on the job.

Do both and you get highly qualified individuals working for you, for less. Hiring new talent is always going to be the more expensive option, and it isn’t just because of the onboarding costs. Talent knows what they have and will demand a salary that reflects this, which can be beyond your pay range for that new hire.

The right work environment costs businesses less and brings in more value. It means you need to give back and invest, and to specifically use the tips outlined in this guide to do so:

First, Look at Your Work from Home Situation

If 2020 taught businesses anything it was that working remotely isn’t just possible, but it is the future. Businesses always want the best people, even if they cannot always afford them. With remote working you can have the best of both worlds.

Obviously not every role can be remote. Even those that can support remote working, many workers will still need to come into the office a few times a week. For those that can be remote, however, it is the best way forward for your business.Your employees can work for you and then live comfortably in a low-cost area. They can live rurally where they can give their kids wide open spaces and a slower, more wholesome childhood. They can avoid the high price of city living and can instead get the best of both words.

As for you, you can hire beyond those living in the city. You can open up your working pool substantially, and in turn bring the best of the best into your fold.

In order to reasonably offer remote working, however, you need to build a strong remote working platform. If everyone is relying on outdated means of communication, there is going to be a lot of unnecessary back and forth. Thankfully, there are many tools out there that make it simple and easy to manage remote teams by dividing up tasks.

Second Measure Employee Satisfaction and Cost Benefit

Understanding the cost benefit of a happy, loyal employee makes it easy to make the right decisions for your business. It is also how you can choose benefits like professional development that make the biggest impact.

At minimum you want employees to stay past the time it takes to reach operational efficiency. Every new job has a learning curve. Before that curve evens out you won’t get the most out of any employee.There is also an end to that curve, where their skillset doesn’t match up with the cost. They may end up being overpaid for a job that a new hire could do for less.

On the other end of the spectrum you could have employees fulfil higher level positions, for less, by hiring internally instead of externally.

Knowing the real figures attached to these different scenarios can help you understand and plan, so get started.

How to Encourage Professional Development

Professional development is best done when you can support remote working. It also doesn’t hurt to have the board’s approval – approval that is easy to obtain when you can see point blank the cost benefit of a loyal workforce.

A loyal workforce isn’t just one that sticks around long enough to reach operational efficiency. It’s one that pushes itself and your business to be better. If your employees expand their skillset, and decide to stay with you, then the cost will be far, far less than hiring those roles from outside of your company.

It’s better for your budget and for your business as a whole, so use these tips to encourage more from your workforce to progress their skills and expertise:

1.    Create Training Opportunities

Training and other opportunities are a great way to reach out to the community. It is also how you can specifically bring in people with the skillset that you need if your business is niche. Just look at how to become a CBSA officer as an example. To become a Canadian Border Services Agency officer there are several specific courses that will bring you up to speed both on the knowledge and on the skills you will need for the job.

Yes, you can earn a degree in criminology or a policing degree, but the minimum requirement is a secondary school education – and that is it. If your business also has specific, niche roles that require training, create those training programs, and advertise them to the candidates you would prefer. Waiting specifically for those with higher qualifications will only mean you pay premium dollar for those employees. By creating your own training program, however, you can enjoy a larger candidate pool and have lower overall entry wages.

These opportunities are also excellent for morale. People want to feel confident and comfortable with their choices, and if they can be almost guaranteed to be hired after your training program they will jump at the chance.

2.    Sponsor Further Education

There will be plenty of opportunities for your employees to learn. Conferences, talks, workshops, online courses, and even full degrees – all are options. While you may not have the budget to sponsor your employees through all of them, there are definitely instances where it is in the best interest of your company to sponsor attendance.

Conferences and even workshops are great options to sponsor your employees. Overall costs are low, and more importantly they can bring back essential information that will benefit your business as a whole and even the rest of their team.

If places are limited and there is a lot of interest, then either set up a draw system or have employees send in an application. Use a system to keep track of who has gone so that you can help as many of your employees progress their skillset as possible.

By having this application system, you can reward the employees that are real go-getters – the ones that will really help push your business to the next level – and of course give them the tools to actually help you see your goals through.

3.    Be Flexible

Remote working makes it easy to be flexible, which is why you should absolutely offer it as an option. With flexibility from work, your employees can do things like apply for a post-graduate degree and work to complete it. They can earn essential skills that you currently do not have and will most importantly have years of experience working with your company and within your industry.

Reward your employees for their drive by making it easier for them to handle both a degree and their work. Similarly give them time off when they have a conference or workshop to attend to.

4.    How to Get the Most Out of These Development Opportunities

It isn’t just one employee that learns when you sponsor them correctly. You can require that all employees going to that conference create a report on what they learned to send it to all other employees in your employment. You can have them present their findings and what they have learned as well during a meeting or by hosting a video.

There are so many ways to share the knowledge, from text to video to in-person, but you need to give your employees incentive to do this. With incentive employees will go through the effort to do better. They’ll work harder, the rest of your employees will learn, and your business as a whole will be better off for it.

5.    Reward Ambition

It can be hard to keep up to date with every employee and their progress when you have hundreds if not thousands of employees to keep track of. That is where individual managers come into play, and of course the right HR management tool. By having managers create progress reports you can keep track of pre-set milestones. If a sales employee earns your company a certain amount of money, they are rewarded.

If their educational presentation is well ranked by their peers, they get a reward.

Rewards can be anything from a paid lunch to a bonus to a promotion.

By keeping your rewards tied to milestone accomplishments you can encourage each employee to better themselves at their own pace. This way you get an entire workforce of better employees, instead of just a few go-getters who naturally take all of the attention and admiration.

You need every employee to feel as if they are seen and that their efforts are recognized. This is how you will build a loyal workforce, and how you encourage the bulk of your employ to push the envelope in terms of their own skills and expertise.

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About Shane Avron

Shane Avron is a freelance writer, specializing in business, general management, enterprise software, and digital technologies. In addition to Flevy, Shane's articles have appeared in Huffington Post, Forbes Magazine, among other business journals.

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