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Professional development

Professional development

Table of Contents

Staying ahead of the curve in today’s ultra-competitive job market is challenging but necessary. That’s where professional development comes in.

Whether you’re an employee yearning for career growth or an employer seeking a more productive, satisfied, and loyal workforce, professional development holds the key.

But how can organizations optimize professional development programs? What’s the best way to deliver development opportunities?

Our guide covers all your burning questions about professional development, including:

  • What professional development is
  • Why it’s so crucial to modern companies 
  • The benefits of professional development programs 
  • Hows to take advantage of professional development opportunities.


What is professional development?

Professional development is the continuing education, training, and certification an employee undertakes after joining the workforce. 

Participating in professional development opportunities allows professionals to increase their skill sets, acquire new knowledge and competencies, and achieve their career goals. 

In some fields, such as healthcare, participating in continuing education is necessary to keep a certification or a license. 

Even when this is not a requirement, many people choose to pursue professional development and learning opportunities on their own to increase their competitiveness in the job market. 

Often, employers offer these professional learning opportunities. Employers have a vested interest in the skill sets and knowledge. So, offering training programs (either in person or via online courses) is a way to increase employee know-how. 

Professional development is more than just employee training, though. It encompasses any kind of training offered as part of a learning and development program. 

It also includes learning experiences outside the company, such as industry certificates, workshops, seminars, and even continuing higher education. 

Another important difference between employee training and professional development is that professional development is usually voluntary. Nevertheless, employers should encourage employees to participate in professional development opportunities (we’ll explain the benefits later).

Up next, we’ll see why professional development is so important.

Why is professional development important?

We live in a knowledge economy. So what does that mean exactly? It means continuing education and learning are necessary to stay competitive. 

This goes for both employers and employees. 

Learning and development initiatives are all the rage in many companies today. And it’s easy to see why. Here are some eye-opening stats: according to the statistics portal Statista, 51% of millennial workers want to learn new skills, compared to only 23% of those in the baby boomer generation. 

Also, according to LinkedIn’s Workplace Learning Report for 2019, 94% of employees would stay at a company longer if it provided professional development opportunities. 

As new technologies rapidly transform the business landscape, investing in upskilling and reskilling makes a lot of sense for pretty much every company out there.

So, that’s the importance of professional development for employers. How about employees? 

More knowledge and new skills are a prerequisite for taking advantage of career opportunities and staying competitive in the job market. Markets and technology move fast—so you need to keep up if you want career growth. 

A professional development plan can help you receive better opportunities for career advancement, such as promotions or lateral transfers. 

In the next section of our guide, we’ll drill down into what kind of benefits professional development offers.


Four professional development benefits you should know

You already know professional development is a must in today’s fast-paced business landscape. 

But what exactly will you gain from investing in it? After all, L&D budgets are usually limited, so it’s good to know what kind of return you can expect.

Well, don’t worry—we’ll get right into it with four important benefits of professional development.


Benefit #1: Expands knowledge

This first benefit is a bit of a no-brainer. Professional development is all about learning opportunities and learning experiences. So, of course, one benefit of that would be expanded knowledge. 

Don’t underestimate the power of knowledge, though. 

Expanding your employees’ knowledge base exposes them to new ideas,  solidifies what they already know, and increases their expertise. Most industries move very fast, so expanding knowledge helps everyone stay on top of trends and embrace cool new technologies.

And it’s not just for newbies; experienced employees can benefit too.

So, whether you want to empower the sales team or sharpen everyone’s soft skills, it all begins with expanding the knowledge base of your employees. 


Benefit #2: Increases job opportunities

Professional development increases hireability and career opportunities significantly.

Why? Because workers of all experience levels can increase their knowledge, pick up new skills, and acquire new competencies. In the process, they become valuable assets to current and future employers.

Professional certifications, credentials, and online designations that are some examples of professional development. These programs can give you a competitive edge whether you’re applying for a promotion or a new role.

Professional development events, such as workshops or webinars, are a great networking opportunity. So, don’t miss out. 


Benefit #3: Boosts confidence

Confidence is key, both in life and at work. 

It’s so important that a study by the Harvard Business Review found 60% of top executives ranked confidence as more important than competence when promoting employees to leadership positions.

Professional development gives employees the confidence to excel in their jobs and grab new opportunities.

As their knowledge expands through training sessions and other types of professional development, they gain a better understanding of their roles and become more confident in performing them.

Plus, confident employees are more motivated and eager to participate in further training efforts—whether it’s compliance or sales training or whatever else you need to teach them.


Benefit #4: Increases productivity

Employees who receive professional development opportunities are more satisfied with their jobs.

This satisfaction translates into higher productivity. 

More knowledge leads to higher productivity because employees gain the skills and resources needed to do their jobs better. 

So, employers that encourage employees to attend webinars, get certifications, do leadership skills workshops, etc., enjoy the benefits of a more productive workforce. It’s a win-win.

That’s why many employers now offer their team members learning and development stipends that they can use for professional development courses. 

In the next part of this guide, we look at the six ways you can improve your professional development. 


Six ways of improving professional development

If we had to sum up professional development in a word, it’d be indispensable. Professional development is the linchpin whether you’re a professional trying to advance your career or an organization looking to empower your workforce.

So, why wait any longer? Here are six ways to improve professional development today. 


#1: Attend or offer seminars

Industry-related seminars and webinars are a great way to jump-start your professional development. 

These events offer useful insights into industry trends and are a great opportunity to network with other like-minded professionals.

Many organizations offer these seminars to establish themselves as thought leaders and share industry knowledge and trends. 

Companies can also offer seminars to their employees to foster a learning culture and offer career development opportunities. 

If you plan to offer webinars, you’ll want a Learning Management System (LMS) in your tech stack. With an LMS, L&D teams can organize and monitor webinar sessions and seminars. 

In addition, since top LMSs, such as Docebo, integrate with leading webinar tools, you can manage every part of the process from one platform.

Employees simply need to log into the LMS to access the seminar and any supplementary material you have uploaded to the learning platform.

#2: Participate in or offer workshops

Workshops are a fun and interactive professional development tool. 

Whether you’re an employee looking to expand your knowledge or a company trying to foster a learning culture, workshops can offer a more hands-on approach to professional development. They’re also a good opportunity to encourage social learning and get employees engaging and interacting with each other.

As an employer, you can organize workshops as part of your professional development programs or give employees the opportunity to sign up for relevant seminars on their own.

Plus, regular workshops are a great way to foster a learning culture in your organization.


#3: Leverage microlearning

Microlearning is an incredibly effective way to deliver professional development training because it breaks complex and dense information into manageable chunks. This makes it easier for employees to engage, assimilate, and retain training content, resulting in better learning outcomes. 

It also means employees can quickly review training content at the time of need without having to click through an entire e-learning course or dig out their old notebook.

Microlearning is most commonly delivered through an LMS so that employees can access relevant information anytime and from any location. 

One way to leverage microlearning for professional development is to create employee knowledge bases within your LMS. Then, employees simply log into the learning portal to access microlearning content, such as short video tutorials, guides, and FAQs.


#4: Use or provide access to on-demand learning platforms

On-demand learning is an excellent professional development tool because it offers employees a flexible and accessible way to learn at their own pace. As a result, employees can fit learning around their schedules and are more likely to make it part of their lives.

On-demand learning covers diverse training topics and styles, so employees can choose the skills and knowledge they want to develop. This empowers learners to tailor their personal development experience by focusing on the topics and content style that best suits their needs and goals.

Some examples of learning-on-demand platforms include Coursera, Skillshare, Udemy, and Edx.

On-demand learning is also a cost-effective delivery method for professional development. 

Many on-demand platforms offer a pay-per-course model or subscription options so employees can access a range of e-learning courses for a fixed price. This can reduce many costs associated with traditional classroom-based learning, such as travel expenses and instructor fees.

Alternatively, your organization can create its own on-demand training content and deliver it via a learning platform like Docebo.

#5: Take on or offer new roles

Learning by doing is one of the best ways to develop skills and knowledge. What better way to learn by doing than by taking on new roles and responsibilities within your current position? Talking to your manager and showing interest in trying out some tasks from a related job role shows initiative and a commitment to professional growth. 

Employers can also benefit from promoting this type of learning. By creating a strong learning culture, you empower your employees to develop their skills and add more value to the business. 

On top of a more skilled workforce, learning by doing engages employees and encourages innovation.

Communication is essential for this approach to be a success. So, make sure HR and L&D teams communicate that these opportunities are available and what is expected of employees who request more responsibilities. 


#6: Continue higher education

You knew this one was coming. 

Your mom was right. You should go back and finish that degree! 

Of course, if you have already finished it, you can always go one step higher. In many cases, a higher degree is an excellent career step that unlocks new opportunities for advancement. 

That said, many people hesitate to go back to further education due to financial reasons.

Employers can play a pivotal role in supporting employees to reach their academic goals. By investing in higher education, your organization reaps the rewards of a more skilled workforce, enhanced productivity, and reduced staff turnover rates. It also demonstrates your commitment to your employees’ professional development.

Up next, it’s time to wrap it up and recap what we’ve learned.


Next steps

Professional development takes many forms. It’s everything from reading a book to participating in a workshop to getting a new degree. 

Both employees and employers reap the rewards of professional development, including better productivity, less turnover, and more job satisfaction. 

A well-rounded LMS is the keystone of any great professional development plan. Organizations can create, manage, deliver, training and development activities at scale and track results. Plus, LMS features like gamification, social learning, and mobile learning make development opportunities accessible and engaging for employees.

Want to know more? Unlock your organization’s full potential with our L&D glossary.