How to Encourage Professional Development Across Your Team

A recent survey found that upwards of 42% of Canadian employees are considering changing their job or career in the next year. The cause: a mix of burnout and stagnation.

The pandemic has caused a shift in life priorities and employees are no longer willing to put their mental health on the back-burner. Especially when the job market is hungry for talent.

To better support (and retain) employees in their day-to-day activities, businesses should work to understand their needs and desires long-term. You want employees that grow with your company, but they need to be given the room and tools in order to do so.

In the immediate future, encourage staff to take breaks and ample time away from their screens. It might even be worth offering some extra days off and an extended holiday vacation.

Then, with employees well-rested and back in the saddle, you can work to keep them engaged and curious in their roles with the company. Here are some ways to encourage professional development and make career advancement a pillar of team culture.

Hold Regular One-on-Ones

Scheduling employee one-on-ones may be well-intentioned, but they can easily become routinely rescheduled blocks on the calendar every week. If you’re going to make a point of holding regular check-in meetings with your employees, make sure they’re useful.

Incorporating discussions around professional development is a great way to do this. Reserve at least one check-in meeting every month to talk about your employee’s long-term goals and continued education.

If an employee is currently enrolled in a training program, debrief with them on what they’re learning and how it might be applied to your team’s current initiatives. Use one-on-ones to actively brainstorm career possibilities for your employees and they’ll become more engaged as a result.

Make Time for Knowledge Sharing

Another way to engage your employees and advance their professional pursuits would be to hold regular knowledge sharing events. “Lunch and learns” are one example of this, where different members of the team can volunteer to present and answer questions on their areas of expertise.

You can also organize group events around one-off guest speakers, seminars, or educational workshops. Staples’ Spotlight Space has a packed calendar every month with virtual sessions covering everything from financial planning to doodling exercises. Employees can meet afterwards to debrief or share their biggest takeaways via a communal Slack channel. With fewer opportunities to meet face-to-face conversations, these moments of virtual engagement go a long way in helping teams feel more connected.

Build it Into KPIs

What better way to normalize professional development support than to make it part of your employees’ KPIs. Individualize goals around not only specific business objectives but the personal objectives and interests of your team.

For example, let’s take that same employee who’s interested in graphic design. In Q1, encourage them to find and present to you a design class or program they want to take. Through the rest of the year, their subsequent professional development goals can be focused on finishing the course and applying their newly-developed skills to a team project.

Provide Guidance, Not Strict Boundaries

In developing your business’ policies around professional development, try not to ground them in strict rules and restrictions. Of course, you want the skills an employee chooses to explore to have relevance in the workplace, but you shouldn’t limit their pursuits to their current field.

If a customer service rep, for example, has interests in marketing, give them space to explore that. They can meet with your current marketing team and get a feel for the different skill sets they find most valuable now and in the future.

Encouraging these pursuits makes you better equipped to hire from within and support the career advancement goals of your people. Help them succeed first and foremost, and watch your business thrive.

By Staples Canada

October 25, 2021