business

How HR Can Encourage Professional Development

Businesses both large and small can reap the benefits of a more educated workforce. Employees who want to keep up with the latest developments in their field will be interested in continuing their education, and employers who encourage them may ultimately enjoy a more productive workforce. One study conducted by The EvoLLLution revealed that 96 percent of employers reported that continuing education improves job performance. The same study also found that 87 percent of employers said that continuing education was directly linked to higher worker salaries. In a competitive global economy, companies who value employee education—and the employees themselves—can expect to fare better overall.

Traditionally, professional development through continuing education has been reserved for professionals such as attorneys, doctors, engineers, and others who are required to take continuing education units (CEUs) to renew professional licenses. However, in recent years, companies in a variety of industries have begun to encourage their employees to pursue professional development and continued learning. These organizations understand that more education usually results in more productive and happy staff members.

Some employers have been slow to promote continuing education for their employees, mostly due to fears about the cost and the tangible benefits to their bottom line. Other employers worry that providing a comprehensive continuing education program—or simply encouraging employees to pursue education on their own—could prompt them to take their newfound skills and knowledge to a competitor. While these concerns are valid, ignoring professional development is not a good idea. Here, we’ll go over the main benefits of continuing education and some ways your organization can provide access to it.

 

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Continuing Education Encourages Employee Commitment

One of the biggest problems companies face is high turnover. Many organizations have an issue attracting talent and getting top performers to remain with the company over the long term. Very few of today’s employees stay with the same company throughout their career, so employers are always looking for ways to increase employee longevity. The typical reasons why employees leave jobs include lack of appreciation from their manager, low motivation, distrust of their employer fueled by a lack of transparency, and limited or no growth potential.

One way to combat the problem of dissatisfied employees is to encourage them to pursue further education. This can be accomplished through workshops, seminars, in-house training, continuing education classes, certification programs, or incentives to return to junior college, university, or other institutions. HR can assist in developing education and training programs that will not only give employees the skills to perform their current jobs more effectively, but will also help them grow professionally.

 

Explore Education Options

There are several options once a company decides to implement a professional development or continuing education initiative. From online classes to tuition reimbursement, there are multiple ways to encourage employees to obtain further education.

Providing access to online classes can be beneficial for both the employee and the employer. Online courses allow individuals to proceed at their own pace, and they can access these classes anywhere, at any time, via a variety of devices. Although many online courses are offered through colleges and universities, several online learning platforms have sprung up in recent years that allow individuals to learn everything from web development to marketing through easy-to-access, module-based classes. Many of these classes are reasonably priced, costing far less than a traditional university.

Employers can encourage professional development by offering incentives as well. One popular incentive is tuition reimbursement, which helps offset the cost of continuing education. Typically, employers will require employees to maintain a certain GPA or agree to continue working for the company for a pre-defined period of time after the program is complete. Other organizations promise their employees higher pay upon completion, or encourage employees to step into roles with more responsibility once they complete coursework.

 

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Encourage Mentorship Programs

One of the best and most cost-effective ways to encourage professional development is a mentorship program. Many of the country’s top business leaders have had mentors who helped guide their careers, and mentoring can be a great way to expand employees’ knowledge. Organizational needs change constantly, and a mentor serves as an expert who can help up-and-coming employees navigate professional challenges more effectively.

By implementing a mentorship program within your organization, you can encourage teamwork and deliver real-world training that employees can use right away. Mentorship programs can also help promising employees develop the leadership skills they need to move into roles with more responsibility, including C-suite positions. If your company is known as one that cares about employee development and promotes from within, it may be easier to attract top talent.

Additionally, mentorship programs can enhance company culture by enabling experienced employees to share their knowledge with newer hires. The mentor-mentee relationship typically brings together individuals who may have otherwise had very little interaction with each other. These relationships help new employees feel more welcome and demonstrate that the employer cares about their overall success. Mentoring can also help ensure that a senior-level employee’s institutional knowledge is not completely lost when he or she leaves the organization.

Professional development means more than just an incentive program or a professional development class, however. It requires true collaboration between employers and employees. HR departments should work with upper management to develop a continuing education strategy that is cost-conscious and that gives employees the skills they need to excel. Employees should also take responsibility for their own professional growth by seeking new learning opportunities and bringing ideas to management.

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