Professional development training is overlooked and underappreciated as an employee retention and recruitment tool. In fact, it’s often one of the first things to go when budgets get cut. Here are some reasons why investing in the growth and development of employees is a smart idea that is evergreen.

Offering professional development training programs allows employees to perform better and prepares them for positions of greater responsibility. But it can also help employers attract top job candidates, retain their best workers and identify future leaders. Moreover, ongoing professional development is very appealing to many employees today who are looking to keep their skills relevant in a rapidly changing world.

Investing in each of your workers is beneficial to the whole organization and can boost the bottom line. Following are six rewards you can realize if you support or provide professional development training initiatives:

1. You increase the collective knowledge of your team

Encouraging your employees to train in relevant subjects and applications — an advanced course in a software program they use daily, for example — can have an immediate effect on productivity. Professional development can also help raise overall staff expertise when employees with vastly different backgrounds and levels of experience are encouraged to share information.

Idea: Consider supporting continuing education by offering tuition reimbursement or covering the costs associated with pursuing industry certifications. Paying for employees to take a course offered by a local university or technical school can be a simple but invaluable way to help them grow their skills. You also might invest in a group membership to an e-learning training site, or simply allow employees to view educational webinars during working hours.

2. You boost employees’ job satisfaction

When staff members can do their jobs more effectively, they become more confident. This leads to greater job satisfaction and improved employee retention. There are a range of low-cost professional development training options to choose from, including mentorships, job shadowing and cross training.

Idea: Leverage the expertise you already have within your office. A mentor, for instance, can serve as guide and teacher and help mentees sharpen both their soft skills and technical abilities. Gaining practical knowledge, institutional insights and hands-on guidance is a highly effective way for mentees to become more valuable and versatile employees.

3. You make your company more appealing

When you offer training and development opportunities, you’re building a positive reputation as an employer that cares about its workforce and strives to employ only the best. Your customers and clients will benefit, too, from the high level of efficient service they receive. And keep in mind that your employees are your brand ambassadors. When they attend conferences and seminars, they represent and reflect all that’s good about your organization.

Idea: To encourage knowledge sharing after events, have brownbag lunches or ask team members to lead a meeting to share what they learned at an industry conference. Beyond helping the employee sharpen his or her presentation and teaching skills, these gatherings can boost the group’s knowledge base and help establish a greater sense of camaraderie.

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4. You attract the right kind of in-demand candidates

Do you want to attract the most highly driven and career-focused candidates when you post a job opening? Offer them more than just a competitive salary and benefits; paint an enticing picture of how they can grow professionally or expand the career avenues available to them if they come to work for you.

Idea: In job postings and during interviews, actively promote that your company does all it can to help employees develop and refine their skills. But you should also play up your company’s learning culture and commitment to professional development training when meeting with potential employees at career fairs, conferences, networking lunches and other industry events.

5. You aid your retention strategy

Your workers want to feel like they’re appreciated and making a difference. But they also want to feel like they’re gaining expertise and becoming more well-rounded. If your team members don’t feel challenged, or they sense stagnation in their careers, they'll look for advancement opportunities elsewhere. Lifelong learning exposes your employees to new experiences and keeps them engaged in their work. Professional development training helps build and maintain enthusiasm, but it also inspires loyalty.

Idea: Make sure employees know that you care about their evolving professional interests and objectives. Check in regularly and communicate your desire to help them build a long-term career with your firm. Giving high-potential team members challenging “stretch assignments” along with ongoing professional development and skill-building opportunities is a winning combination for improved retention.

6. You make succession planning easier

Do you feel like some employees clearly fall into the management material category? Leadership development programs are tools for grooming future leaders for your organization. If you’d like to be able to promote staff to managerial positions in the future, targeted training now can help you ensure your best and brightest are prepared to move up.

Idea: Sending top employees to accredited leadership training seminars and conferences can be a great move. But it’s also important to expose promising candidates for executive- and management-level roles to different parts of your organization. These individuals may even work for other functions temporarily under the tutelage of seasoned leaders in those departments. The purpose of this type of professional development training is to help future leaders gain a more complete understanding of how the business operates, and to acquire a broad set of skills that will help them guide the firm through change.

Finally, set a good example. Reinforce your commitment to professional development training by seeking educational opportunities for yourself. Research from the Center for Creative Leadership finds that it’s increasingly important for company leaders to take charge of their own learning. Plus, your promotion of professional development training to employees will be more impactful if it’s clear that you practice what you preach.

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