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How Offering Professional Development Opportunities to Employees Helps Your Small Business editorial staff editorial staff

Continuing education platforms are a great way to develop employee skills, boost morale and improve recruitment efforts.

  • Continuing education is an option to enhance hard and soft skills within your workforce. E-learning platforms provide a low-cost way to train employees.
  • Employee retention and recruitment statistics tend to improve in companies that offer professional development courses. Retention rates are an average of 34% higher at jobs with professional development classes.
  • Tuition reimbursement is a perk for both employees and employers. The employee saves on educational costs, while the employer writes off the reimbursement on taxes.

Employers are often on the hunt for job benefits that they can add at a low cost to improve recruitment efforts and boost employee morale. When these benefits also positively impact productivity, they're a win-win for worker and employer.

No benefit does a better job of checking all these boxes than professional development opportunities for your employees. These include online learning platforms, paid junkets to seminars and workshops, and even employer-sponsored schooling. Educational opportunities allow employees to grow their skills and pursue their professional goals, while also integrating what they've learned into their day-to-day responsibilities in the workplace.


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Professional development opportunities include online learning, workplace-hosted events, offsite seminars and workshops, and membership in professional organizations. Professional development can also include employer support for schooling costs in some cases.

Access to new skill sets

"Today's employees are unmistakably anxious to learn and get new skills, and the appropriation of innovation to empower employees' learning enables associations to lift worker bliss while enhancing their capacity to hold ability," said Alley Jones, a technical writer for SysTools.

Many employers also offer access to online learning platforms, such as Lynda or Degreed. These platforms allow employees to guide their own learning with preset pathways, while also allowing managers to create their own pathways to help employees grow in their organizational roles. They typically include reward or gamification opportunities to incentivize learning.

According to the 2017 Employee Benefits Report from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the most common types of educational and professional development opportunities employers offer include professional organization memberships, offsite events, and workplace training or courses.

Cost savings through tuition reimbursement

Another common professional development benefit is tuition reimbursement. A survey of 2,000 employees conducted by Better Buys found that 53% of respondents had access to tuition reimbursement programs sponsored by their employer. Employers can obtain a tax write-off for up to $5,250 of educational assistance benefits every year. Employees save on educational costs and may consider the savings a major perk of working for a company.

In exchange for a potentially reduced salary, you can entice the right talent by advertising the tuition reimbursement plan to prospective job candidates. Not all candidates may take advantage of the tuition reimbursement plan, but they will appreciate that it's available to them.  

"Regardless of how you plan to make continued education a part of your business growth, you need to do it," Jones said. "Investing in your employees is one of the best ways to show you care about them personally."

How does professional development benefit employers?

There are three major ways professional development opportunities come back to employers. These benefits help employers recruit new talent, retain their existing employees, and cultivate skills that will be used for the benefit of the company.


Aaron Filous, CEO of Promotable, said that in an environment where employees move from job to job quickly, professional development opportunities are an attractive draw for new talent. 

"Whether an employee stays for decades or not, offering continuing education is still worth it," Filous said. "It is a nice perk for recruiting that shows the company cares about the employee's growth, and even if the employee is only there for a couple of years, it's better to have more highly skilled employees for the same price."

In SHRM's report, 48% of HR professionals cited training and education programs as the most effective recruiting tool at their disposal. The Better Buys survey found that 78% of respondents currently have access to professional development, while 92% believe access is important or very important. According to the survey results, employees with access to professional development opportunities are 15% more engaged in their jobs, which led to a 34% higher retention rate. This means those employees are not only more productive day to day, but less likely to leave their positions, which saves employers an average turnover cost of 6-9 months of an employee's salary.

"Hiring is expensive and time-consuming," Filous said. "It is often easier and cheaper to retain your own talent, or hire from within. Training or upskilling employees opens an additional talent pool for the employer that they already had."

Employee retention

Professional development gives your current workers an extra reason to stay on the job. Every professional development opportunity you provide allows them to enhance their resumes and also gives them the skills to advance into another position within your business. Instead of hiring externally, you can promote someone who is already familiar with the company.

One of the most significant reasons that employees stay due to professional development is that it makes them feel valued. Your employees will be pleased that you're investing in their future. Instead of looking elsewhere for advancement, they could remain loyal to your business. Employee morale improves when they have opportunities to expand their skill sets and add more value to their resumes.

Hard and soft skill cultivation

Professional development is a clear benefit to employees who want to improve their skills and value in the marketplace. It can help them earn a promotion internally or continue pursuing their career goals elsewhere, as their marketability to employers increases. However, it is also a boon for employers, who reap the benefits of a more skilled, satisfied workforce and an attractive tool for drawing in new, intrinsically motivated employees. Professional development helps employees stay on top of new skills, especially in the tech field. Technology evolves at a lightning-fast pace, and it's essential to train staff on the latest programs and tools. Employer-sponsored professional development opportunities are the definition of a win-win.

Image Credit: fizkes / Getty Images editorial staff editorial staff Member
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