How to Encourage Career Development Opportunities for Employees

Job training and career development are key to a psychologically healthy workplace, according to a recently released survey. Career expert Barbara Mitchell offers some tips on how to prioritize them.

Employees who don’t have their supervisors’ support in career development are more likely to distrust them—and even make plans to leave the organization within the coming year.

That’s according to the 2017 Job Skills Training and Career Development Survey [PDF], released last week by the American Psychological Association’s Center for Organizational Excellence.

“Employee growth and development is a key element of a psychologically healthy workplace, but it’s often overlooked in employers’ workplace well-being efforts,” said David Ballard, head of APA’s Center for Organizational Excellence, in a press release. “Our surveys of the U.S. workforce consistently find that training and development is one of the areas employees are least satisfied with. The lack of opportunity for growth and advancement is second only to low pay as a source of work stress.”

With that said, Associations Now spoke with Barbara Mitchell, author of The Conflict Resolution Phrase Book and a blogger over at ASAE’s Association CareerHQ, for some ideas on bolstering employee growth and development opportunities at associations.

Create a culture that embraces job training and career development. “As with all culture changes, it starts at the top. It starts with the director—or whoever is in charge—who creates a culture where people are encouraged to take time to learn something new,” Mitchell said. But as organizations have gotten leaner and prioritized cost reduction, she said that training is one of the first budget line items that goes. “That sends a message right away to your employees that ‘Well, I guess learning isn’t important,’” she said.

Encourage employees to take the time for training and development. Organizations need to constantly reinforce the idea that they want their employees to take the time during the workday for training and development. But Mitchell said that those opportunities don’t have to be time- or even cost-intensive. It could be as easy as a supervisor encouraging an employee to watch a half-hour video that is relevant and interesting. “It doesn’t have to be a five-day, labor-intensive, go-off-to-a-seminar type of thing,” she said. “You can learn in short bursts, which honestly I think works better for most people.”

Allow employees to apply what they’ve learned. If employees come back to the office excited by the new ideas and skills they picked up at a conference or workshop, supervisors should encourage them to share what they’ve learned or even apply it to their jobs. If managers don’t do this, “Then what is the point?” Mitchell asked. “And I think that’s where a lot of this breaks down. And that’s really the bottom line on this study—unless managers constantly reinforce or encourage, first of all, go learn something new, then let them come back and try it or apply what they’ve learned to their job,” they’re missing out on the full benefits of the development opportunity.

Build it into your performance appraisal system. One of the questions asked during performance appraisal should be, “What have you learned this year that you didn’t know last year about your job?” Mitchell said. “If you were asked that question at least every year, in your appraisal, I think you might know that your managers wanted you to learn something, but also that you were going to be evaluated on what you learned.”

(Jirsak/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Emily Bratcher

By Emily Bratcher

Emily Bratcher is a Contributing Editor for Associations Now. MORE

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