How Professional Development Improves Employee Engagement

Walsh College
August 09, 2018 - 9:45 am
Employee Interaction

(Image Credit: Dreamstime)


Employee engagement has been a hot topic in leadership circles for more than a few years. With Gallup reporting that only 32 percent of employees are engaged at the office, management teams are continually seeking ways to create stronger employee connections, grow staff loyalty and encourage team initiative.

According to Dr. Lee Meadows, Professor of Management at Walsh, providing leadership and professional development opportunities for your employees is a one of the best ways to address this engagement challenge.

“We know that employees stay motivated when they receive the right kinds of developmental attention from their immediate supervisor. And it has to be the kind of developmental attention that goes beyond productivity and includes strategies to help them grow. In the process of that growth, they become more connected to the organization,” Dr. Meadows said. 

To address both employee engagement and professional development, how can a small-to mid-sized organization support their team members in skills growth?


Develop a leadership development curriculum

According to Dr. Meadows, “When an organization takes time to create their own leadership development curriculum, they increase the likelihood that they can both retain employees and fill their own leadership talent pipeline. I recommend a prescriptive approach to developing leaders. That means you create training that’s intentional, purposeful and reflective of the organization. It’s best to build a custom curriculum, then ensure that the same content is also included in the training of managers and supervisors.”

By creating a custom curriculum, the management team can spell out the critical skill areas to be covered and tie the company’s mission and values into the training.

“It’s a long-term commitment, which can be challenging for smaller companies,” noted Dr. Meadows. “When they take on that challenge, it’s a good indicator that the organization is really serious about leadership development.”

Dr. Meadows emphasized the importance of ensuring that managers and supervisors are able to demonstrate the skills from the curriculum to the employees who are trying to acquire them. Team members, once trained, will still need support when they return to the office, “It's not just building the curriculum and making sure you send people to learn it. When they get back to their desks, their managers or directors need to hold them accountable to practice those skills in the workplace.”


Approach a local educational institution

When exploring how to best create a professional development curriculum, consider your local education institutions. Universities and colleges, like Walsh, will often work with companies to create a customized program of courses, based on the specific desired skills. Those who complete the program can be awarded a certificate from the school.

This approach ensures that training is standardized and delivered by an expert in a classroom environment. Start your inquiry by contacting the chairman of the business or management department.


Bring in a learning consultant

Another option for leadership training is a learning consultant who specializes in the subject matter on which you’re focused. With this approach, the consultant meets with your leadership team, designs a curriculum and trains your staff. “The curriculum is typically delivered in modules that are no more than two hours,” noted Dr. Meadows, “The consultant should be skillful and focused on the specific topic.”

It’s important to interview consultants for their fit to your culture. While a trainer may be very good at delivering educational content, consider whether they are a fit for delivering it to your specific audience, particularly if your team includes technical specialists, like engineers or architects. “It’s important that the trainer is flexible and knowledgeable enough to know how to work with your unique audience,” Dr. Meadows added.


Training reimbursement program

A third option for professional development is a training reimbursement program. Each employee is given an annual budget — for example, $1,000 — which they can use on training that’s related to their position. Employees are typically allowed to use this budget on course tuition, workshop attendance or conference fees, along with related expenses like travel and materials. 

With this option, each staff member selects training they’d like to take, providing a rationale and getting approval from management to attend. They then get reimbursed up to the annual per-person budget. When the employee returns, they may be required to present material they learned at a team meeting or share the knowledge they gained with the team in another way.

“I’m surprised that more companies don’t do this,” Dr. Meadows commented. “It’s an inexpensive way to tell to your employees that they’re important. Managers get to talk through how an employee wants to use their training funds, so they can make sure what they’re learning can be tied back to the workplace. This is something more companies should consider.”


Learn more about Walsh College, Detroit’s all-business school.

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