Helping Your Team Grow Professionally 

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Looking to support your best workers and retain top talent? Consider investing in them by planning for their long-term growth! Investing in your employees’ professional development is an important part of managing a successful team.  

The key? Make career development conversations a two-way street. Start by understanding their aspirations and strengths.  

  • What are their career goals?  
  • How do they align with company goals and organizational or team needs?  
  • Where can they improve to become promotion-ready?  
  • What can you do to help them level up their hard and soft skills for the job?  

After you’ve worked together to understand their goals, partner together to create a development plan that you revisit regularly—perhaps as part of their regular reviews.  

Why Are Career Advancement Opportunities Important? 

Creating career advancement opportunities benefits both employees and employers.  

Employees can enjoy having a clear path toward achieving their career goals, allowing them to envision a future with their employer instead of exploring other options. 

Building career advancement opportunities into your current operations can also make your company much more appealing to ambitious, qualified candidates. Professional growth can keep employees motivated and encourage them to continually hone their skills. As a result, employers can enjoy having a dedicated, committed team with extensive institutional knowledge and well-developed skill sets. 

RELATED: Impact of Team Culture on Efficiency and Productivity

How Do You Help Your Team Grow Professionally? 

Begin by letting them know that this is an open conversation where both of you come to the table with ideas as well as questions and concerns. Emphasize the collaborative nature of professional development. It shows that you are a supportive manager who wants to help them grow, while also highlighting the importance of their input, goals, and impact. Let’s dive into some specifics.  

Understand Their Goals and Strengths  

Offering career development opportunities to your team members is likely most impactful when those opportunities align with their goals and interests. Some employees may want to advance within their own teams, while others may want to explore completely different departments, roles, or industries. Some may simply want to become more efficient and productive in their current role. To understand the nuances, it’s time to get curious.  

  • Speak with each member of your team individually. 
  • Understand their career ambitions. 
  • Develop opportunities that align with their goals and interests. 
  • Share any obstacles in their path, like budget limitations or skill development needs. 

Understanding your employees’ career ambitions can help you develop opportunities for each employee and develop a plan.  

Provide Actionable Feedback 

Once you understand the long-term professional goals of each employee, give them feedback and guidance on how they can move toward them. For example, an employee may need to earn a certain certification or become proficient in a specific skill to be ready for the promotion they want. 

  • During performance reviews, check in on progress to achieve their goals.  
  • Set realistic expectations based on their progress. 
  • If they are consistently missing their goals, it’s time to ask more questions. Do they feel they are being setting up for success? Are they getting the support and tools they need? Do the original goals still make sense? What needs to change? 

Host Training Sessions 

Ask your employees to research what training they need to achieve their goals while you review what your team has to offer internally. Could you offer them training sessions or professional upskilling programs that target in-demand skills? This could range from official certification classes to training programs to informal lunch-and-learn opportunities.  

Consider setting up a knowledge-sharing program where employees can lead sessions about topics within their areas of expertise. This can help your employees practice their leadership, presentation skills, and project management while also sharing valuable knowledge with their colleagues.  

Encourage Networking 

This can be happening internally with folks at your company as well as externally in the industry or your community. Networking can lead to a variety of opportunities beyond meeting new people—like learning about emerging trends or finding mentors. If your people are new to networking, you can share some basics like how to introduce yourself and start a conversation, give an elevator pitch, build rapport, and follow up with a new connection.  

Internal networking: 

  • Encourage them to participate in cross-functional projects.  
  • Help them find opportunities where they can engage with ERG groups or participate in volunteer projects.  
  • Connect them with a mentor if you have a formal program or introduce them to colleagues in different departments or senior positions. 

External networking: 

  • Help them identify key industry events, conferences, or groups. 
  • Plan to attend with other colleagues or knowledge share after the gathering or event. 
  • Arrange budget to cover registration costs for key events. 

Networking and building professional relationships take time, whether that’s in attending an event or in creating connections, so make the space for that.  

RELATED: Creating a Culture of Curiosity

Advocate For Your Team 

Advocate for your team members when you notice a position or opportunity within your company that would be a good fit for their abilities, interests, skills, and ambitions. This could range from sharing a recommendation with another manager to referring them to leadership trainings. You can build relationships with your team members while also guiding them towards valuable opportunities for their careers. 

Encourage cross-team collaboration 

Collaboration builds relationships and encourages team building. It also improves engagement because employees can connect with business goals and the impact their work has. It also gives them opportunities to share ideas with peers and other leaders across the company. 

Establish a culture of curiosity  

There are many benefits to creating a work environment that encourages curiosity and innovation. Leaders can create a safe space for experimentation and failure and encourage employees to ask questions and challenge assumptions. By doing so, they can cultivate a culture of curiosity that leads to new ideas and innovation.  

Track Goals and Progress  

Setting goals is essential, but tracking progress against them is crucial to success. Especially if you’ve tied these goals to success metrics in their annual reviews. Make time to hear how they’re doing on their professional goals and provide frequent, specific, timely, and constructive feedback. This allows team members to improve continuously by adjusting their strategies, tactics, and behaviors. 

Implement Succession Planning Strategies 

To make career advancement a core value of your team, be proactive about succession planning. This means cross-training members of your team and preparing to fill roles when other employees earn promotions. Having that plan in place makes it easier to think ahead to fill gaps or open positions for any reason (even attrition). 

Promoting Professional Growth on Your Team 

By making professional development and career advancement a priority on your team, you can cultivate a motivated, skilled, and loyal workforce. By not having these conversations, you risk creating fewer engaged employees. Investing your time into their professional growth shows you’re committed to your team and care about having a mutually beneficial relationship with all your employees. 

If you’re looking to not only provide additional job satisfaction to your current employees but also stand out in the recruiting process, leveraging a professional development program for your team may be the answer for both.

Let’s explore ways to create a plan that develops your staffers’ skills, inspires innovation, and helps to build succession plans.

Why is professional development so important?

It’s also important to consider the competitive marketplace as you search for new talent. When you promote your commitment to professional development, your organization can stand out in the recruiting process for highly motivated candidates seeking a solid career path.

Employees appreciate a variety of opportunities and clear pathways to hone their existing skills and cultivate new ones. Think everything from upskilling to developing networking opportunities to conference attendance; it’s designed to help them build their abilities and your bench strength at the same time.

And while there have been movements away from hiring and managing generalists to specialists in recent years, many companies have seen the benefits of having both. With team members cross-trained when attrition happens or simply when another staffer has to be out for any reason, it can build resiliency into your business.

Assess your professional team’s needs and goals

Understand where your team members are from the outset. Ask them how they would like to improve their skills and how that relates to their career goals.

Identify areas of improvement

Identify any common themes and requests among your team members. Look for patterns that show what your employees want to learn and how they want to grow. How can you develop programs that can serve more than one person in a specific area if many members of your team want to grow their talents.

Some areas might include the following:

  • Technical expertise
  • Leadership development
  • Communication skills
  • Industry-specific knowledge

Align goals with organizational objectives

Keep your organizational goals and objectives in mind throughout the assessment process. By incorporating these into your analysis, you can help align your professional development plans with your overarching strategic objectives.

Additional ways you can provide meaningful and ongoing professional development include the following:

  • Mentoring and coaching
  • Measuring progress and effectiveness via feedback, pre-and post-assessments, and tracking performance metrics
  • Engaging in strategic succession planning by identifying leadership potential and providing targeted professional development opportunities
  • Ensuring that managers and supervisors lead by example, sharing relevant learning experiences and regularly participating in training programs
  • Recognizing and rewarding progress

Develop a comprehensive professional development plan for your team

Outline the skills and knowledge to develop: Build a list of specific skills and knowledge areas that need attention. Include both soft skills like communication and hard skills like technology or coding languages that are crucial for individual and team success.

Set short-term and long-term goals: Create categories of objectives for long- and short-term goals and objectives. Short-term goals might include attending workshops, seminars, and webinars, while long-term goals might focus on specialized training for a high-level promotion or leadership position.

Determine the timeline for implementation: Come up with a realistic timeline for your professional development plan. Consider the fact that some skills may require longer training periods or continuous training. Other skills may require short-term or single-session courses. Develop a schedule and strategy that allows for professional growth and the ability to attend to daily responsibilities.

Consider internal and external educational options: Explore options for internal and external training. Internal training sessions might involve sessions led by internal or guest subject matter experts (SMEs). External options might include training programs, graduate programs, conferences, workshops, or online courses like Coursera or LinkedIn Learning.

Develop and foster a culture focused on continuous learning: Encourage employees to make use of their time to commit to learning something new. Create a culture that encourages your employees to share knowledge and mentor each other daily. Build a library of professional development books, a list of industry-related or leadership podcasts, and other learning resources.

Offer cross-functional training opportunities: Cross-functional development allows employees to learn about the specific tasks of other employees’ jobs, adding layers to their abilities. Here are some ways to provide cross-functional opportunities:

  1. Encourage project rotations.
  2. Allow job shadowing.
  3. Facilitate task-swapping.

It can help build a more well-rounded team with awareness of and insights into the team’s and organization’s functions.

Challenges associated with professional development plans

While the idea of professional development is appealing and beneficial to everyone, it does come with some challenges.

Let’s look at a few:

  • Time constraints and budgetary limitations
  • Development of a meaningful one-size-fits-all approach for a large team
  • Inability to align professional development with organizational goals
  • Employees’ resistance to change
  • Successful measurement of effectiveness
  • Retention and application of knowledge

Wherever you are in developing and retaining your current team, it can be important to develop a clear plan to build their skills and grow their talents while they’re with you. Especially if you are in a hiring freeze or struggling to fill key roles.

If you could use a helping hand when it comes to penning a compelling job description or sourcing and vetting talent before you take time to interview them, Insight Global can help. Head over to the Insight Global hiring page and we’ll help you add top talent right away.

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