Developing Effective Professional Development

In the past, I’ve written about new and emerging trends in the workforce. Of course, many are driven by technology. For instance, artificial intelligence and automation are transforming the finance department. At the same time, new ideas about how to maximize teamwork emerge. That’s why I wrote this blog post about Agile methodologies. Whatever field you work in, new challenges and opportunities are bound to continue popping up. The best way to be ready for them is to engage in professional development.

Defining Professional Development

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (more commonly known as the CDC) has great information about professional development. They created this course to address the need for staff in health fields to keep learning on the job. In this introductory video, this concept is defined and explained. Professional development focuses on strengthening employees’ knowledge and skills. It has to be intentionally designed to meet the needs of its audience. As this video from the course notes, there are many ways to bring education to the workforce. Think of workshops, trainings, and info sessions you may have attended. All of those were working towards the goal of upskilling you, or improving your skill set.

This video was released by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to promote upskilling. The professionals featured explain that this is critical in the modern world. They focus on the benefits that professional development offers to national economies, organizations, and even individuals. In the big picture, it prepares the workforce to use new technologies and knowledge in their work. For every individual involved, it’s about making the most of your skills to succeed in your career.

Benefits for Organizations

Let’s start by examining the benefits for organizations as a whole. As mentioned, the video from PwC views professional development as a stepping stone to the future. It ensures that companies’ employees are prepared to meet new challenges. In the meantime, it also saves costs for organizations. It’s more efficient to invest in trainings for existing employees than to recruit new ones. Moreover, the savings aren’t just financial.

Upskilling current employees makes them feel more valued. This increases their loyalty to a company and decreases turnover, according to this Forbes article. The article cites this research from McKinsey & Company. They found two related reasons why workers leave their jobs. These include feeling undervalued and lacking opportunities to advance. In light of the Great Resignation, it’s not a bad time to invest in employees. Besides all that, workers are more productive and more adaptable to change with the right skills. Professional development is a valuable investment.

Finally, there’s an important bottom line that professional development affects: people. As mentioned in earlier blogs, engaging stakeholders and meeting their needs is crucial. This includes employees, clients, and the community. How organizations treat people matters. That’s the big idea behind Corporate Social Responsibility. Investing in trainings for employees not only serves them but also combats inequities in the community. Upskilling all members of a diverse workforce fights historical economic disparities. It opens the door to opportunity for others, not just your employees.

Benefits for You

On that note, every employee stands to benefit from professional development. The most obvious pro, as identified in this PwC video, is job security. As long as you continue to learn new skills, you’ll keep up with the demands of your job. Plus, your employer clearly wants you to stick around if they’re investing so much in your growth. However, there’s more to it than just that.

This video from the CDC course points out that professional development can help employees achieve their goals. If you’re not sure how to set goals for professional growth, check out this blog post about goal setting. Continued growth is important. In fact, it doesn’t have to involve technical skills. This Forbes article points out that trainings can cover topics like self care and communication. In other words, organizations can improve their employees’ ability to take care of themselves and their relationships at work. There are plenty of subjects employees should know about to work productively. For example, learn how to handle procrastination. If you get trainings like these, they’ll likely contribute to your wellness at work. This will help prevent you from being overwhelmed by stress or burnout.

Best Practices for Developing Professional Development

So if you’re an organizational leader, how can you develop effective professional development opportunities? This video from the CDC outlines best practices. These include designing offerings thoughtfully and evaluating their impact. You want to know that your trainings and workshops are working.

The CDC course references three theories on adult education that can inform your design process. First, there’s adult learning theory, based on the work of educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom. It identifies three domains of learning: cognitive, affective, and psychomotor. In each domain, there are various levels. For instance, basic cognitive learning involves memorizing facts. Meanwhile, more complex learning requires analysis. This video advises organizations to provide professional development that challenges employees to think deeper. Instead of providing information to memorize, present problems. Encourage employees to develop the ability to adapt or troubleshoot.

Another theory? Adult learning modalities, developed by Walter Barbe and Michael Milone. It describes three learning styles: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. The best professional development opportunities have content for each. For visual learners, create diagrams and illustrations. Give auditory learners discussion opportunities. Finally, for kinesthetic learners, include the chance to role play a scenario!

apple on stack of books next to ABC blocksFinally, consider the adult learning assumptions set forth by Malcolm Knowles. He suggests that adult learners differ from children in key ways. These inform how professional development should differ from school. For instance, adults prefer more control over their learning. Offer employees a choice of trainings to attend. In addition, adults have experience. Connect the content of new trainings with employees’ experience. Thirdly, adults are problem-oriented. Information from several subjects can be combined if it all addresses one issue. And finally, adult learners want knowledge that’s useful. Make sure your employees are learning skills they’ll apply in their jobs.

How to Make the Most of Upskilling

Once an organization has professional development opportunities planned, this video suggests best practices to make them happen. Firstly, facilitators should start and end on time. It’s important to respect employees’ time. For the same reason, provide an agenda. As mentioned above, employees’ should get the chance to engage with the presentation, and questions should be addressed thoughtfully. The PwC video also recommends promoting a growth mindset. This will encourage employees to be open to gaining new knowledge and skills.

What if you’re an employee whose employer isn’t great at supporting professional development yet? Don’t worry. Fortunately, you can take control of your own continued learning. This Forbes article suggests activities like listening to podcasts or building your network. Plus, you can read articles about new technologies, like this blog post on Pyrus workflows for business processes. Finally, don’t be afraid to learn new tools! Check out Pyrus for a software solution to boost your communication, collaboration, and much more!