Three Budget-Friendly Strategies for Staff Professional Development
Professional development plays a significant role in attracting, retaining, and growing staff. One expert shares ways associations can prioritize learning and development without breaking the bank.
Recruitment and retention remain top-of-mind concerns for employers in 2023. Research has shown that for many employees, the decision to stay or leave is influenced by whether an organization offers staff professional development opportunities.
According to the Emeritus Global Workplace Skills Study 2023 of 6,600 professionals worldwide, 74 percent would choose to work at an organization that invested in their education over one that didn’t. In addition, 80 percent said that upskilling would help them stand out in the job market.
“Professional development helps employees feel valued by their organization,” said Elissa Jessup, HR knowledge advisor for the Society for Human Resource Management. “And if professional development isn’t a priority, employees will look for jobs at other places where they feel supported.”
Even if your association has limited funds for professional development, there are many internal and external opportunities to give employees educational and learning experiences that will help them develop skills.
Turn to Online Resources
If you’re working on a small budget, online resources should be your new best friends. YouTube has a wealth of videos in different fields and topics for employees at any career level. Jessup also recommends inexpensive webinars, videos, and training courses through LinkedIn Learning and Ted Talks.
She also suggests employers look at educational courses offered at nearby universities or public libraries that often have free online learning platforms.
“Professional podcasts are another great option,” Jessup said. “They’re free, and there are topics on just about everything you can think of. Just make sure you have someone on staff review the content first before recommending it to your employees.”
Encourage Knowledge Sharing
Another inexpensive professional development option is to promote internal knowledge sharing among staff. It can be as simple as purchasing relevant books for a few employees, and then having them share what they learned with coworkers.
“We’ve utilized successful lunch-and-learn sessions where employees can bring their lunch to a conference room and someone shares on the topic and major takeaways,” Jessup said. “It’s cost-effective and time effective.”
To plan an effective lunch-and-learn, Jessup suggests making it interactive by organizing small group discussions or holding Q&A at the end. It’s a good idea to provide handouts or additional resources for employees if they want to dig deeper into a topic.
Employers can also form a learning club at their organizations. For formal programs, employers can provide learning materials on topics that benefit the organization or a specific department and determine if employees are learning important information through assessments and quizzes.
“A learning club can help employees connect across the association and help employers identify the employees who are interested in learning and growing,” Jessup said.
Promote Internal Growth
There are also opportunities that employers can take advantage of within their organization to provide staff with upskilling and growth experiences.
For example, job rotation—the practice of moving employees between different tasks to promote experience and variety—allows employees to gain new skills and exposure to different positions within the association.
“Job rotation can help reduce employee boredom or burnout,” Jessup said. “It also helps the organization make sure that the right people are in the right seats, so cross-training can be great for everyone involved.”
Associations can also provide mentorship programs for employees. Having more experienced staff serve as mentors for newer employees can help recent hires grow in their field or discover interests in new areas, especially if the mentor is in a different department.
In addition, Jessup recommends organizations embrace internal transfers and job promotions. In these situations, employers make it a priority to fill positions internally before posting an opening on external sites.
“This helps employees feel valued, because they’re being recognized and are given the chance before others to learn a new skill, grow in their career, or change their field,” she said. “Internal transfers and promotions help employees grow and help employers cut down on external recruitment costs.”