Despite the economic fallout from the pandemic, the balance of power has shifted in many respects. At 5.2% unemployment, it would seem to be an employer’s market—at first glance. However, much of the power is in the hands of the employee.
“People are our number one asset,” say just about all CEOs. Well, have you told them lately? Professional growth isn’t just about training for technical skills. There is much more to it: It’s how you build your business for future sustainability and develop happy, productive employees. Employees are rethinking the companies they work for, and the values that they hold. They are much more likely to walk away than to work for organizations that aren’t showing them much love.
Companies are finding that when they make a commitment to their employees, employees feel committed in return. Companies can demonstrate this commitment by investing in their employees’ professional growth. But the investment must be for mutual benefit. There are ways to aid and encourage professional growth so that both the company and the employees thrive.
What Keeps Employees Loyal?
Professional growth is the acquisition of skills and experiences that help an employee advance in their career. This could mean that they are promoted, change career paths, or become more of an expert in their current role. It’s a way to stay abreast of current trends, identify areas for innovation, and perform at a higher level. Not everyone is interested in progressing from their current role. Even if they aren’t, most people enjoy feeling more competent and gaining the respect of their peers.
LinkedIn interviewed more than 5,000 professionals in 27 countries in its 2021 Workforce Learning Report. Researchers found that 94% of those interviewed reported that they would stay longer with a company that invested in helping them learn. Ninety-four percent! You can’t always know what gets people engaged and excited about their jobs. But if anything will, professional development has the greatest chance of success.
The Benefits of Professional Growth
According to the World Economic Forum, 54% of all employees will require significant upskilling by 2022. That’s the rapidly changing world we live in. Upskilling refers to employees learning new skills due to a technology-related shift in the company. Employees recognize that becoming irrelevant is the quickest route to the unemployment line. Here are just some of the reasons why professional growth is becoming increasingly important to employees:
New opportunities: It opens up additional career opportunities, giving employees the flexibility to advance or even switch gears.
Boosts confidence: It provides successes that encourage employees to achieve at higher levels.
Competitive advantage: It gives employees an edge over other employees and allows them to keep up with the ever-changing market.
Productivity: It increases output, making employees more valuable to the company.
Increases satisfaction: It makes work more fulfilling, effective, and efficient, and it reduces frustration.
Enhances reputation: It creates subject matter experts who have knowledge that can help others.
Of course, benefits accrue to companies, as well. The talent market is tough. But, professional growth is the best way to build the company brand and ensure a sustainable business model for the future. The benefits include the following:
Bridging the skills gap: As mentioned, the marketplace is changing. There are tech skill shortages in every industry. Employees will need new skills to compete.
Keeping up with industry trends: Disrupters are everywhere. No company can afford to be caught flat-footed with no understanding of where the industry is headed.
Increasing employee engagement: Engaged employees are not only more likely to be high-performers, but they also produce superior outputs.
Increasing retention: When companies invest in professional growth, employees feel appreciated and are more likely to stick around.
Attracting better talent: The best professionals understand the need for continued development. If your company doesn’t meet their development needs, they may find a company that does.
Identifying future leaders: Every company needs to pay attention to succession planning. This means identifying and developing the next generation of leaders early on.
Spurring innovation: Whether or not you believe that innovation can be taught, one thing is certain, innovation requires inspiration. That inspiration could come from any source of new thoughts and ideas.
Areas of Professional Growth
Companies can certainly organize formal training initiatives. However, one of the best ways to jump-start professional growth efforts is by encouraging employees to take ownership of their plans. Every employee should develop and execute a professional growth plan. Ideally, these plans are periodically reviewed and renewed to reflect progress and new goals. For maximum impact, tie these objectives to the company objectives, as well. Recognize and reward employees as they meet their goals.
Here are four key areas where employees can focus as they cultivate professional growth, as well as a sampling of activities that support these aspirations. They include the following:
Expand their professional network.
Join professional associations.
Pursue volunteer opportunities.
Reach out to alumni associations.
Update LinkedIn profile.
Look for collaboration opportunities with other departments.
Increase industry knowledge.
Cross-train in various positions.
Read trade publications and books.
Attend trade shows.
Listen to industry-related podcasts.
Contribute to industry-related online forums.
Enhance leadership skills.
Volunteer for special assignments and task forces.
Start a work-related club.
Volunteer in a community organization.
Seek feedback from followers.
Improve business expertise.
Take in-person and online training classes.
Find a mentor.
Earn a business degree or certificate.
These are just a few examples. There are many methods that can be used. For more information, read the other articles in this series. They are packed with ideas on how to cultivate professional growth. The topics include the following:
How to Be a Leader
Although the terms “leader” and “manager” are used interchangeably, they are fundamentally different. Managers are assigned to a position by the company. Of course, managers should be able to provide leadership, as well, although this isn’t always the case. A manager is in charge of planning, organization, staffing, directing and controlling.
Leaders can be managers, but the term actually refers to inherent qualities a person has. These qualities include the ability to influence others to work toward a specific goal. One of the highest objectives of professional growth is to develop leadership skills. Not everyone is born a leader, but that doesn’t mean that the skills can’t be acquired. This article defines leadership and outlines the competencies the best leaders cultivate.
Habits Successful People Have in Common
Successful people don’t happen by accident. They make smart professional and personal, as well as financial, decisions and live a certain lifestyle. Most start at a young age, but some people are late bloomers. Some also stumble through failure before they find their way to prosperity.
Anyone can learn these habits. Like leadership, some people are naturally endowed with the traits for success. But many others have to create new habits. Those who do it well are intentional about it, understanding that they must make changes. In this article, we’ll identify some of the habits successful people share, including getting up early and goal-setting. We’ll also provide clues on the techniques others use to develop these traits.
How to Brand Yourself
Employees who never speak up for themselves may assume that their results will speak for them. Unfortunately, most people are too busy doing their own job and promoting their own accomplishments to notice the heads-down workers. It’s something that most successful people do easily. Some may find self-promotion distasteful. It doesn’t have to be.
Everyone has a brand, whether they were actively involved in creating it or not. There are many ways for employees to modify that brand while doing things they enjoy. It’s about building relationships, demonstrating interest, and saying yes to great opportunities. It’s important for companies to help employees understand how to build their brands. Those who take the time to brand themselves will be more engaged and a better asset to the company, as well.
Business Books Every Entrepreneur Should Read — According to CEOs
Some organizations, like tech companies Bufferand Twilio, encourage employees to read. They have a reading culture. Reading is a good self-development activity that promotes continuous learning. This article names the top business books for entrepreneurs. But it’s not just entrepreneurs who’ll enjoy them. They also have tips for every professional. Of course, any must-read list is bound to include a few classics as well as some newer titles that are circulating among the power readers. Check out this article to see what books top leaders recommend.
Professional Growth Is a Win for Employees and Companies
Investing in employees through professional growth is one of the best ways to demonstrate commitment to them. It’s important, both for the employees and for the longevity of the company. Even those who seem content to remain where they are can become re-energized through professional development activities. Employees enjoy new opportunities, greater confidence, and higher levels of job satisfaction. Companies benefit by enhancing their talent pool with new skills, staying on top of current trends and attracting the best and brightest people.
SetSchedule strives to create communities of professionals who are looking to connect with their prospects more efficiently, using technology and when possible, for free.
Pamela Michaels Fay is a business, financial, technology, legal and lifestyle writer, whose work is informed by over 20 years of strategy, leadership and organizational development consulting for Fortune 500 companies.