With enough tenure in a role or organization, it can be surprisingly easy to forget why professional development matters, to say nothing of finding enough time to focus on it. Between your to-do list and work responsibilities, learning can be the last thing on your mind. But there is a compelling enough argument for seeking out new opportunities to learn that making time for it now will pay dividends for you, your team and your organization in the long run.
So, if it’s been a while since you went to a professional conference, sharpened your technical skills with a formal continuing education credit or just gave your undivided attention to a 30-minute webinar on soft skills, it's time to take a fresh look at why jumping back into professional learning is well worth your time. If you don't, you could be forfeiting opportunities that run the gamut from better career prospects to increased employee satisfaction. So, here's a look at why professional development matters, where you can find it and how you to make the time to prioritize it.
The Importance of Professional Development for Leaders
Usually, the topic of learning and development in the professional world centers around how leaders can deliver it to the workers they manage. Whether the goal is talent development or meeting compliance mandates, the focus is mostly down-org. By the numbers, some research puts the percentage of businesses that have implemented professional development programs for leadership at all levels at just five percent.
While being invested in employee development is a great leadership and business practice, it shouldn't come at the expense of your own growth. There are a lot of great reasons to never stop learning. Here are four:
Keep your Knowledge and Skills up to Date
Industries, roles and technologies all change. The World Economic Forum found that businesses estimate that about 40 percent of current workers will need up to six months of reskilling to be effective in their current roles. This doesn’t magically change once a certain level of seniority is achieved. If anything, it's even more true! The more time you spend on coaching and high-level strategy, the less "in-the-loop" you're likely to be about the rigors of day-to-day work within your industry or role.
Build a Diverse and Collaborative Professional Network
Networking isn’t just about finding a job. Many professionals use networking as an opportunity to gain a sounding board in their industry or job function. This can be especially important for professionals who don’t have a colleague they can turn to in their company, or new managers looking for a mentor.
Increase Your Earning Potential and Future Career Prospects
Even if you're happy in your current position, it's never a bad idea to have a contingency plan. Reorganizations, unforeseen personal circumstances and changing professional priorities mean that you could find yourself updating your resume someday. Even if you never need to look for something new outside of your company, ongoing professional development can help. It makes you a more attractive candidate if an internal position opens and you know you'd be a great fit the role — and it bolsters your position in promotion and pay raise negotiations if you stay put.
Reap the Benefits of Personal Development, Too
Even if you're up-to-date on all the skills your role requires and have minted every possible credential to help you excel at work, there's always personal development to attend to. The difference between personal and professional development has a lot to do with what we generally consider to be "soft skills". In professional development, the focus is often on hard and soft skills that benefit you and your team in the position you hold currently: project management methodologies, for instance, or learning a specific software module.
Personal development casts a slightly wider net. When you seek out opportunities to increase your emotional intelligence, resolve conflicts effectively, procrastinate less or supercharge your productivity, you're making an investment in your personal development. Often, you'll discover that the benefits you reap from personal development extend to your performance at work, too.
A Few Examples of Professional Development to Consider
There are many ways to seek out and participate in professional and career development — and just as many types of professional development opportunities to pursue. If you're not sure where to start, here are a few of the most common:
Formal education: professional development that culminates in a diploma or degree
Webinars: virtual seminars — usually about 30-60 minutes long — covering a single topic in-depth
Trade shows and conferences: workshops, product announcements, and cutting-edge exhibitions relevant to your profession or industry taking place over the course of a few days
Learning platforms: massive online open courses (MOOCs), like LinkedIn Learning, Coursera and Udemy, typically accessible via subscription
Continuing education: compliance-related required units of formal education that do not result in a formal degree or diploma
Certifications and accreditations: passing a compliance evaluation process or processes, similar to licensure, except voluntary
Mentoring: participating in a relationship where a senior team member advises or guides a junior member of the team
3 Ways Career Development Contributes to the Success of Your Company
Professional development doesn't just benefit the individual. When leaders build a culture of curiosity and constant improvement, the result is
Professional Development Helps You Attract and Retain Top Talent
Increasingly, job seekers are looking for mutual investment from employers, and it's become apparent that offering education benefits and professional development helps employees feel valued. Competition for talent gets fiercer every day, and 66 percent of job seekers say that if a potential employer offers coverage for online skills development, they'll choose that employer over one that doesn't. Statistics like that make offering such coverage a no-brainer, and so does this: 94 percent of employees say they would stay with an employer that offered the learning opportunities they wanted most.
Develops a Leadership Pipeline for Succession Planning
Research summarized in the Harvard Business Review showed that despite the tendency of organizations to seek C-suite successors outside of the company, companies that source that talent internally consistently outperform those that don't. It makes sense — think of all the institutional knowledge that could go with departing leaders if it hasn't been documented correctly, or how much shorter of a runway an internal candidate needs in companies that have dealt with institutional knowledge head on.
So why continue to look outside? Often, it's a problem of pipeline supply — it's tough to find someone within the company that's credentialed and well-prepared to take over. By investing in leadership development within your organization through the career development of junior teammates, you're playing the succession planning long game, which can only pay off later.
Build a Company Culture That Rewards Innovation
Curiosity and the learning that satisfies it is fundamental to innovation. When your organization encourages both through training programs and employee development opportunities, your team gets out of its comfort zone and supercharges its collective strategic thinking and problem-solving skills. It's hard to think of a better way to facilitate an atmosphere where innovation is rewarded, and no issue is too large to tackle as a team. A healthy organizational culture is the last frontier demonstrating why professional development matters in all organizations of all sizes.
How to Prioritize the Importance of Professional Development
As you prepare your goals and projects each year, find and schedule relevant conferences and get approval right away. By blocking off this time in advance, you’ll find it’s much easier to keep your goal of making learning a priority. Outside of larger conferences, schedule time each week to focus on learning a new skill that will pump up your resume, whether that is through articles, podcasts or free webinars.
If you don’t have the budget for out-of-town conferences, focus on opportunities to learn close to home. What events are coming to your city, or are there virtual events you can attend from your desk? Even exploring topics that pique your interest through LinkedIn Learning can keep your skills fresh without the added expense of a conference.
Whatever else is on your plate, it's imperative to know why professional development matters, so making time for your — and your team's — professional and personal development is an investment that pays dividends. Personiv has nearly four decades of helping teams just like yours make investments just like that. Learn more about how we do it — and how we can help you get it done when you check out our solutions or get in touch with one of our experts today.