Continuing education platforms are a great way to develop employee skills, boost morale and improve recruitment efforts.
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 at checking all these boxes than professional development opportunities for your employees. These include things like 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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What are some popular professional development benefits?
Professional development opportunities come in many shapes and sizes. They 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.
"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 Software.
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, as well as for managers to create their own pathways that could help employees grow in their organizational roles. They also include reward or gamification opportunities to further 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.
Another common professional development benefit is tuition reimbursement. A survey of 2,000 employees conducted by Better Buys found that 53 percent 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.
"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. Professional development 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. [Interested in professional employer organizations, which often offer professional development programs? Check out our best picks.]
"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."
According to SHRM's report, 48 percent of HR professionals cited training and education programs as the most effective recruiting tool at their disposal.
The Better Buys survey found that 78 percent of respondents currently have access to professional development, while 92 percent of respondents believe access is important or very important. According to the survey results, employees with access to professional development opportunities are 15 percent more engaged in their jobs, which led to a 34 percent 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."
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. Employer-sponsored professional development opportunities are the definition of a win-win.