Professional sitting at desk smiling

How to support professional development

A combined effort between employer and employee

3 minute read
Professional sitting at desk smiling

Professional development can allow employees to perform their jobs better, gain more knowledge of their field and advance their career to new heights.

Many employees undertake such initiatives on their own but, according to workplace experts, professional development should be a joint effort, with workplaces offering courses or opportunities to help their employees, as well as themselves.

Developing both the employee and the workplace

AIM WA Chief Executive Officer Gary Martin FAIM said undergoing professional development is a great asset for the employees doing it, as well as aiding the workplace at large.

“For people who want to progress in their careers, the learning they undertake through professional development programs helps to support their career track or advancement,” he said.

“It also helps to bolster productivity in the workplace if they have staff who are continually learning and enhancing their performance.

“If you offer professional development to staff, it shows you are investing in them.”

Engaging with professional development goes two ways

With professional development helping both employers and employees, it is the responsibility of both sides to engage with it.

“Professional development can be part of a mentoring program, reading materials or work placement – there are multiple types that people can engage with, where some are the responsibility of the employers and some of the individuals,” Professor Martin said.

“Sometimes employers believe professional development has high costs. However, it doesn’t have to be expensive – there can be simple programs you develop such as training programs using in-house expertise."

“You can access online materials as well and, of course, there’s a whole range of face-to-face coursework that is available and reasonably priced.”

People and culture expert Tanya Eales FAIM said for employees to support their own development, they needed to have a plan and the workplace had to support that plan.

“It’s really important that individuals have a career plan and a goal about different types of roles or experiences they’re looking for,” she said.

“It’s the employee’s responsibility to be sharing those goals with both their line manager and other people in the business, so they can be aware of those things to help when the business is looking at issues like succession planning, next roles and where team members’ desire for work is.

“It’s also the line manager’s responsibility to have conversations with their team members about their career and what they’re doing now versus what they’d like to be doing in the future.

“If there is development needed, the line manager should check the team member has a development plan, so they can work towards those things and review them.”

Ms Eales said it was important to ensure employees felt like they could ask for development, and for managers to be able to discuss an employee’s development frankly.

“Some people want development, but they’re a bit afraid to ask for it,” she said.

“There’s a fear of not wanting to tell their employer that they don’t know how to do something.

“We have to break down some of those barriers and talk about development as a positive thing, and people wanting to better themselves.”

Professional development is for every level

Professor Martin said it was equally important for people at all levels to engage in professional development, rather than only entry-level to mid-level employees and some senior managers.

“In the last five years, we’ve seen a trend of many senior executives looking to provide professional development opportunities for those who report to them, however, there has been a trend away from senior executives actually engaging in such opportunities,” he said.

“We need to see more senior executives involved in professional development of all shapes and sizes.

“Being exposed to meaningful, relevant practices can improve performance at all levels, not simply the mid-level management tier.”

Oil the wheels of professional development by checking in

Once a professional development strategy is up and running, it is important to track how well it is doing and to tweak it if necessary.

“If employers and organisations are investing in professional development, they should also be thinking about ways they can measure or gauge their return on investment,” Professor Martin said.

“If you’re in a large organisation with an extensive training budget, you want to know the training has paid off in some shape or form.

“Trying to link professional development to organisational goals or key performance indicators is something we should be doing a lot more of.”