From Goals to Gains
“On-the-job professional development is a nearly perfect solution to many of the problems facing companies today.” This is a bold statement, but Harvard Business Review article author, Erica Keswin, goes on to support the claim by citing evidence that not only do employees want professional development, but that it’s also good for business. How exactly is it good for business? And as we set out to make personal and professional goals in the new year, how do we carve out time for professional development?
Indeed.com defines professional development as, “improving yourself through learning and training to advance your career.” In practice, there are a wide variety of ways to engage in professional development, both on a day-to-day basis and as part of longer-term career goals. For example, professional development can take the form of attending or presenting at a professional conference, attending a lunch-and-learn or an industry webinar, watching an assigned training presentation, or reading through a journal article or an industry-specific newsletter like The Standard. Wherever you are in your career, there are numerous opportunities to continue to learn.
Investment in employee learning contributes to a positive workplace culture by building employee morale and nurturing employee loyalty. According to the 2023 LinkedIn Global Talent Trends Report, “employees consider career-development opportunities to be one of the top reasons to stay at – or leave – their company.” A 2022 study by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 76% of respondents reported being, “more likely to stay with a company that offers continuous training.” Professional development not only benefits business through increasing employee engagement and retention, but it also expands the employee knowledge base and consequently increases company efficacy. This can be especially relevant to remain competitive in the rapidly changing landscapes of today’s workplaces.
Despite the many ways in which to engage in professional development, and the business-impacting reasons to prioritize it, it can be hard to build into our regular practice. At LinkedIn’s 2023 Talent Connect Conference, an informal survey of the industry leaders in talent acquisition and development revealed that, “even learning professionals often find that day-to-day tasks take priority over learning.” If the professionals can’t find the time, how do we all make it a priority? It will take intention and accountability, both personally and institutionally.
As you create your goals for the new year, intentionally build time and opportunities for professional development into your routine. I am thinking of the public address announcement that I hear each week while I’m grocery shopping that reminds the store employees of the daily morning stretch break starting in 15 minutes in the produce section. I am thinking of the “Drop Everything and Read (DEAR)” days that some of us may have experienced in school when you were encouraged to cuddle up in your classroom with a stack of good books! Decades after my own DEAR days, I witnessed a “Drop Everything and Code” day with students using Scratch to code a simple pong game. LinkedIn has applied this idea as part of the professional workplace and highlights it as a key employee benefit called InDay. Employees are provided one workday a month to invest in their own personal and professional growth by pursuing a passion. Similarly, the online teaching and learning platform Udemy has established a “Drop Everything and Learn” Hour each month to provide employees a programmed time to learn while at work. In the new year, I challenge us all within our own workplaces to intentionally set aside time for professional development. Maybe it looks like 15 minutes a day to read an article about a new technology – think of it as a daily stretch break for your mind. Maybe it looks like registering for a lunchtime webinar or signing up for a leadership workshop – think of it as your own “Drop Everything and Learn” day. When we prioritize professional development, we will all benefit!