How Professional Development Can Boost Employee Engagement

Concept of two coworkers interacting in an office

Attracting and retaining talent has always been important, but it’s likely to become an increasingly critical business strategy due to labor shortages. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released findings at the end of December 2022, which stated that there were 11 million job openings. 

While workforce issues are complex, these numbers illustrate that labor shortages are an undeniable problem. They also demonstrate why it’s essential for companies to focus on engaging and retaining talent. Investing in employees by providing professional development opportunities is a mutually beneficial way to achieve this goal. 

Professional development empowers employees with new skills and knowledge. This helps them perform better, boosts morale, and creates a more engaging environment. Companies benefit from a more skilled workforce, increased employee satisfaction, and less turnover.

Let’s look closer at professional development and its role in improving outcomes for employees and organizations. 

What Is Professional Development?

Professional development refers to the ongoing education employees seek to help them grow their skills and further their career. It is not limited to gaining new technical skills but also includes working on soft skills like communication, critical thinking, and leadership. There are many paths to achieve this, including mentoring and cross-training between departments within an organization.

Other types of professional development activities include:

  • Workshops: One-time events that offer in-depth training on a specific skill or topic.
  • Conferences: Multi-day events that feature keynote speakers, breakout sessions, and networking opportunities.
  • Online courses: Classes that are completed remotely via the internet.
  • Coaching and mentoring: One-on-one sessions with a coach or mentor who provides personalized guidance and feedback.
  • On-the-job training: Learning that takes place during the course of daily work activities.
  • Certifications: Formal credentials demonstrating expertise in a particular skill or field.
  • Team building activities: Group activities designed to build relationships, improve communication, and foster collaboration.
  • Job shadowing: Observation and training with a more experienced employee to learn new skills or gain new perspectives.
  • Job rotation: Moving employees through different roles and departments to develop a wider range of skills and gain broader business perspectives.

Benefits of Professional Development for Employees

The importance of professional development is significant in career growth and success. When employees participate in professional development programs, they gain skills that can help them become more efficient and effective in their roles. This, in turn, can lead to increased job satisfaction as employees feel more confident in their ability to meet the demands of their work. 

Professional development can also help employees stay up-to-date with the latest trends and best practices in their field. This may improve their chances of earning a promotion or make them a more attractive candidate for future career opportunities. 

Additionally, participating in professional development programs can provide a sense of accomplishment and self-improvement, contributing to greater motivation and engagement in their work.

Benefits of Professional Development for Employers

Employers have a lot to gain from investing in their employees’ professional development. One clear advantage is that continued education provides organizations with a more skilled and knowledgeable workforce. This can help companies improve processes, become more efficient, and competitive. Offering growth and learning opportunities also demonstrates a commitment to their employees’ success, which can boost worker morale. 

Employees are also more likely to stay when companies understand the importance of professional development. Companies can attract and retain top talent more readily by investing in their employees. A recent large-scale Gallup study found that 68% of workers believe employer-provided upskilling is crucial when considering a new job. Additionally, 48% say they would switch to a new job if it offered skills training opportunities. 

Six Ways Professional Development Can Boost Engagement

Professional development does more than help companies recruit and keep talent. It also helps keep them engaged with their work. Here are some ways offering professional development opportunities can help workers feel connected and stay engaged: 

  1. Increased job satisfaction: When employees can learn and develop new skills, they are likely to feel more satisfied with their job and the company they work for.
  2. Increased motivation and productivity: Learning new skills and knowledge can give employees the confidence and motivation needed to take on new challenges and improve their performance.
  3. Increased innovation: As workers broaden their knowledge and develop new skills, they can infuse an organization with innovative ideas and solutions. 
  4. Create a sense of loyalty: Offering professional development opportunities demonstrates to employees that their employer cares about their career growth which can create a sense of loyalty and commitment.
  5. Encourage collaboration: Professional development opportunities can bring employees together, encouraging collaboration and the exchange of ideas.
  6. Enhanced career prospects: Developing new skills and knowledge may help employees advance within the company, boosting their commitment to their role. 

Where You Can Take Professional Development Courses

Taking courses and participating in training sessions provides a clear and straightforward path toward professional development. And since many in-person and online courses are available, it is one of the most convenient methods, too. For instance, local trade or industry organizations may have workshops and classes you can take. There are also workshops, seminars, bootcamps and conferences that provide skills and knowledge-building opportunities.

Additionally, online courses make professional development even more convenient and accessible. These cover a broad range of topics and help those living in areas with limited resources get vital career skills. For example, you can develop hard and soft career skills by taking courses through Wharton Online. Learn more about professional development through Wharton’s Online Leadership and Management Certificate Program and Courses.