Any human resources (HR) professional knows that good talent is hard to find. But the truth is that talent is even harder to develop. And yet the demands of the modern workplace are constantly growing, constantly evolving.
That means that your team must also grow and evolve. In today’s highly competitive global business environment, complacency and stasis simply aren’t an option. This has, perhaps, never been truer than today, as the UK economy strives to resist falling into a recession in the wake of the pandemic.
Encouraging your employees to pursue ongoing professional development, however, is about far more than maintaining a competitive advantage in an ever-shifting professional landscape. When you support your staff’s professional development, you’re also helping to cultivate a happier, more engaged, more motivated, and, indeed, a more loyal workforce.
This article provides strategies for encouraging your employees to pursue ongoing external professional development — both for their sake and for the sake of your business.
1. Overcoming Inertia
Perhaps one of the most significant hurdles you will face in encouraging your team to engage in ongoing professional development is simply inertia. Team members may feel that landing their job means they already possess the skills they need to do their jobs effectively. They may feel that their hard work every day is sufficient to demonstrate their professional aptitude.
Above all, they may simply feel they already invest so much of their lives in their work, they just don’t have the time, energy, or resources to add more work-related training outside of office hours. After all, studies show that the British work, on average, 42,5 hours per week, among the highest in Europe.
This is where you come in. Motivating your employees to capitalise on development opportunities begins with learning the reasons why they might resist and then addressing those obstacles, one at a time.
For example, if your employees feel that they just don’t have the time or the money to pursue more advanced training, work with them to establish a manageable plan. If your employees are considering online classes, for instance, you might partner with them to develop a work, home, and study schedule that will meet their needs and promote their successes.
Offering flextime or telecommuting options can make the pursuit of a degree or certification more feasible and attractive. Likewise, offering PTO time for every hour of coursework can be a terrific incentive from time management and work/life balance perspectives. You might also include paid time for remote study or time to attend on-ground courses during the workday, provided the employee maintains a specific minimum grade point average (GPA).
2. Appeal to Their Self-Interest
Your work doesn’t end with helping your employees establish an actionable strategy for integrating professional development effectively into their personal and professional lives, however. You must also help to ensure your staff understands what’s in it for them.
One of the best techniques for igniting your employees’ interest in professional development is to fold this advanced training into a more comprehensive career planning strategy. Work with your employees to help them define their short- and long-term professional goals. Support them in envisioning what they want for their careers in 5, 10, and 20 years. And then work with them to define a professional development strategy that aligns with their career advancement goals.
As you’re partnering with your employees to develop their individual career plans, though, it is also essential that the strategy you devise together aligns with the overall strategy of your organisation. As noted in an article published by Lucidchart, “Depending on the business goals and immediate initiatives, it may be necessary to train employees on new skill sets. Some employees may resist additional roles and responsibilities, so the role of HR in these situations is to both evangelize additional training and ensure teams are developed to keep pace with shifting needs.”
A career advancement plan linked to professional development is going to tie your employees’ success with the success of the company. There’s perhaps no better way to promote engagement, loyalty, and motivation than that. And in an environment in which workers in the UK change jobs every five years on average, investing in your employees for the long term can provide a unique competitive advantage.
3. Give Them Options
It’s important to remember that professional development doesn’t have to involve a commitment to years of study in pursuit of an advanced degree, licensure, or certification. There are countless ways for your staff to increase and refine their skills.
So if your employees aren’t interested in a long-term commitment to training and development, offer them less taxing alternatives. There are thousands of short-term training courses available at low or no cost. These courses cover practically any skill your employees may need across nearly every industry.
It’s helpful to get creative when it comes to your team’s training and development. You don’t just have to confine these options to formal courses. You can encourage your staff to pursue hands-on, skills-based training opportunities that can then be applied to their career development plans. For example, you might offer financial or other incentives to your team to do volunteer work with a local charity, such as helping the organisation with its accounting processes. The skills they develop can then be applied to their work for your company!
In an increasingly competitive global business environment, encouraging your team to pursue ongoing professional development is often the key to success. Professional development is a tremendous motivational tool, inspiring employees’ loyalty and engagement. It’s not always easy to encourage your employees to take advantage of training and development opportunities, however. Nevertheless, with strategy, support, and collaboration, you can set your staff on a trajectory that promotes excellence for them and your entire organisation.
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