How to start investing in professional development in the workplace

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Deciding to spend more money or take time off on work productivity might not seem wise in times of inflation, but investing in workplace development can give your organization the edge you’ve been looking for. Professional development is a valuable business that can increase employee engagement, morale, and performance. If you’re thinking about investing in professional development, here are some suggestions.

Identify areas of weakness and opportunity

At first, you may not need to add professional development programs throughout the organization. If teams or individuals are showing signs of declining morale or engagement, weaker performance, or expressing a desire to improve in certain areas, watch out. Check with managers, individuals, and even new hires, to identify where more energy and investment might be needed.

Pay attention to industry leaders

Be inspired by what large, established companies offer their employees. Shopify offers employees a monthly budget for books alone, Amazon covers training for some employees, and Schneider Electric has created its own “academic” platform of energy efficiency and data resources. With these ideas in mind, your organization may be inspired to develop relevant learning programs or create small budgets to invest in your workforce.

Every little contribution

Professional development doesn’t have to involve a 6-week, all-expenses-paid training retreat. Offering short, convenient “Lunch and Learns” (which could be offered by an existing employee), or allocating 1 hour per week to individual employees to work on skills development during company time can be enough to increase the commitment and improvement. Alternatively, a one-day training session can create a bond, a lasting impression and an improvement in your team’s skills, without spending too much time or money. These low-budget options allow employees to develop their skills without a heavy financial burden.

Competitive compensation

If your organization is ready to take the plunge, implementing continuous professional development programs can be an effective strategy for attracting and retaining high performers interested in lifelong learning. Offering individuals annual or monthly stipends (for books, courses, attending or presenting at conferences, tuition, and continuing education) can be part of your compensation packages and could set you apart from the competition.

After implementation, review how your efforts have improved or affected your employees’ performance and engagement. Reach out to your team members and leaders through conversations, surveys, and evaluations to determine the effectiveness of these programs and continue to adapt them for the future.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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