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Professional Development & Employees

Woman studying for professional development

If an organization is only as good as its talent, then perhaps a leader is only as good as their commitment to developing that talent. Canada’s employment landscape is shifting with tectonic force. As the bulk of the labour force, the Baby Boomer Generation, continues to work well into old age, the younger, less populous generations are left underemployed or unemployed, unable to gain the experience they’ll need when the Baby Boomers finally do leave job openings – more than can be filled, in fact. Add to this issue the promiscuous attitude Millennials have towards the companies that do hire them, and Canada could be in for a hiring crisis of Krakatoan proportions.

Nonetheless, there are ways for Canadian businesses to placate the employment gods before it’s too late, namely by investing in the professional development of their employees – particularly the younger ones with the potential for leadership.

Ways of fostering professional development

When you foster professional development, you foster skills development, and overall employee development; you allow your employees to learn more about how to help run the business today while at the same time cultivating the confidence and loyalty they’ll need to actually run it tomorrow. There are several ways to implement this level of professional development:

  • Keep them up-to-date on industry developments
    Provide your employees with the latest news in your industry during meetings, give them access to relevant publications, and encourage them to attend industry events. The more they know, the more they can take on.
  • Give them more demanding tasks
    Giving your employees the opportunity to tackle responsibilities above and beyond their normal workloads is a tried-and-true way to cultivate both skills development and overall employee development. Not only will they learn new skills, but they’ll feel trusted and valued, build confidence, and develop an appreciation for accountability. Just remember to keep the workload increases incremental and to stop before they become overwhelming. You should also make a point of celebrating associated accomplishments to reinforce your confidence and spark motivation.
  • Allow for job rotation and lateral movement
    While providing employees with more demanding tasks is a productive skills development technique, it still focuses on fostering those skills that fall within an employee’s particular department or field of expertise. Some employees, however, may benefit from experiencing a wider variety of your business’ aspects. Job rotation allows employees to temporarily swap roles so that each one gains an appreciation for and understanding of the other’s daily tasks, ultimately producing more communicative, well-rounded employees with higher leadership potential. With lateral movement, the employee does not return to their previous position; they move from one position to the next at the same level within the hierarchy. Lateral movement is sometimes used as a strategy to keep valuable employees who are growing weary of their current roles and who don’t have the opportunity to move up the corporate ladder just yet.
  • Provide training, coaching, and mentoring opportunities
    Skills development means practice. Some skills can be learned as a job is performed, but some require more preliminary development. Most larger organizations have libraries worth of training content, but not all of it is mandatory beyond the standard onboarding material. If you’re at such an organization, search for, identify, and promote materials you feel will benefit your employees. If you’re at a smaller organization without such resources, make a point of coming up with some materials and/or setting aside time to train your employees firsthand. That kind of firsthand focus on skills development is called coaching. Mentoring is a slightly different leadership task that broadens the focus to the more holistic issue of employee development, incorporating philosophical and social elements, such as attitude, behaviour, ambition, and individual fulfillment. Coaching and mentoring are not limited to smaller organizations, however, and so training materials should never be considered a substitute for either.
  • Provide and publicize promotions
    Finally, with all the professional development they’ll undergo, employees need to know there’s a payoff. It’s important to have a clearly defined promotion structure that’s also clearly communicated throughout your organization so that employees know what they need to do to move up. Of course, there also needs to be the opportunity to move up, so make sure your employees actually see their colleagues being promoted. Otherwise, the perception will be that the promotion structure is nothing but a carrot on a stick.

The bottom line of professional development

As discussed above, Canadian organizations face unprecedented hiring challenges ahead due to an uneasy mix of societal and economic factors. To weather this potential storm, employers need to invest in the professional development of their employees, particularly the younger ones. Professional development is achieved by fostering a mix of skills development and personal growth aimed at increasing the loyalty, morale, and leadership that are imperative to any organization’s succession planning and continued prosperity.

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