As most of us already know, learning doesn’t end right after we waive our caps in the air during graduation. Not only do employers now encourage professional development, they expect it. More than ever, ongoing learning is proving to be the edge employees need for continued career growth.
Recent research shows 70 percent of bosses feel that employees need continuous learning just to keep up with the duties and functions of their jobs. While employers want to see their workers learn more business and interpersonal skills, few provide the resources or tools to do so. Sadly, only a small percentage of employers partner with a college or university to offer in-class professional development to their employees.
Continuous learning for both employees and companies alike is essential for success in today’s marketplace. Many employers already provide financial support for education and some offer financial benefits. However, scholarships or grants designed for the traditional master’s or doctorate degree is just one option promoting professional development, and recently specialized certificate programs have become increasingly popular.
Increased productivity, happier employees and higher retention rates
Some employers report that many colleges and universities lack customized programs tailored to the specific needs of their company or industry. However, professional development programs do exist at the collegiate level and can have a significant impact on productivity, growth and job satisfaction levels for employees who engage in continuous learning.
Benefits of professional development programs include:
- Increased loyalty from one’s employees — Workers feel happier at their jobs when bosses care about their success and goals beyond the company. Younger employees, particularly millennials, highly value workplaces that focus on mentorship and help them reach new heights in their career.
- Higher retention rates and improved productivity — Due to the demands of a constantly shifting business environment, some companies no longer feel as responsible for their employees, assuming most will leave within five years. While people do move from job to job more quickly in today’s economy, companies that foster continuous learning see higher retention rates. Also, higher-skilled workers are more productive, compared to lower-skilled workers who waste time and cost businesses money.
- Retaining top talent is necessary for long-term profits and success — Lack of opportunities for advancement or growth is one of the main reasons employees leave their position. High-achieving, ambitious employees cite career development support as a key priority when looking for a new job, but they don’t always get it. The best forward-thinking employees are able to take what they learn in a professional development class and apply it to themselves AND the company they work for.
- Helping an employee improve is much easier than replacing them — In the instance that employers do need to let someone go, costs include severance pay, unemployment taxes and the loss of valuable time and energy incurred when looking for a replacement. Opt to spend money elevating your current employees as opposed to hiring new ones.
Companies that focus on ‘learning’ on par with profits
Smart companies realize that not only do they need to make professional development a main focus of their business, they must go a step further: become a “learning organization,” which this Harvard Business Review story defines as “an organization made up of employees skilled at creating, acquiring, and transferring knowledge.”
According to the Harvard Business Review, companies can benefit greatly by adopting a growth mindset and focusing more on an employee’s potential over past performance. Companies often have a fear of failure, when in fact trying something new without explicit regard for ROI is one way we grow and learn.
Companies that adopt the mentality that they are a “learning organization” can impact both employee success and their business’ bottom line in multiple ways:
- By harnessing the shared knowledge of the team, solutions to tricky problems quickly become apparent.
- Businesses that place an emphasis on continuous learning are better at attracting key players in the industry.
- In order to conquer new challenges in the marketplace, companies need employees with interdisciplinary skills who can adapt to changes with confidence and efficiency.
How to create a team of lifelong learners
Some employers might feel that there aren’t enough professional development programs designed specifically for their needs. However, there are many ways companies can create a work environment that fosters lifelong learning.
Companies can invest in professional development workshops, seminars, off-site training and programs offered by colleges and universities. Formal education options like these are a wise investment for companies who aspire to become leaders in their industry.
Combating the ‘we can’t afford it’ excuse
From the perspective of both an employee and an employer, it’s easy to see why more companies should consider professional development as an important part of their success. And yet, many businesses continue to neglect this crucial aspect of their own growth as a company. Some claim that they simply don’t have the funds to offer learning programs for their employees. Businesses often focus more on making money now, rather than investing in their team for the future.
However, feedback from employees has shown time and time again that professional development is one the things they value most. Employees want the tools to do their job well and learn new skills in the process. They want to feel that their employers care about their success both on the job and in through multiple careers. Like the high school teacher who takes the extra time to ensure their students excel in college, the yearn for support and encouragement in our careers never goes away.
Unique programs that seek to elevate employees to the next level
Options for companies seeking professional development programs and alternative forms of higher education are continuing to expand. Outside of on-site job training and traditional degree programs, there are now new ways businesses can aid employees in career development. One of the fastest-growing programs at universities are those that provide certificates for mid-level professionals.
Employers that partner with a college or university to create professional development programs customized to their industry see a host of positive outcomes for both employees and their business. Not only do employees get top-level training from experts in their field, they also feel encouraged by their employer’s investment in their future. Additionally, higher education programs challenge employees to think about how their company could operate differently — it’s an opportunity to analyze their business from an outsider’s perspective.
Vail Centre offers certificate programs from top universities, including Yale, Cornell and Duke University. At Vail Centre, esteemed professors are flown in for an intensive three-day or week-long course, where they teach the exact program offered on campus. Certificate programs for 2017 include Essential Skills for Leadership in Hospitality from Cornell University and a course on Nonprofit Management from Duke University. Contact Vail Centre to learn more about the benefits of professional development and how companies can encourage continued success for both their employees and their business.