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Employee Professional Development: How To Do It Right

Every company wants to bring out the best in its workforce by offering employees professional development opportunities. Not only does this help with employee retention, but it also helps the bottom line. But what’s the best way to do this?

Feedback? Mentoring? Tuition credits?

Management trends come and go, but the idea of training your employees to diversify their skills and improve their performance has stuck around. Despite the fact that management training can be prone to fads and trends, there is literally 100+ years of evidence that demonstrates clear benefits from training done right from which we can learn big-picture lessons.

Are we sure that employee professional development training really works?

YES! Extensive research finds conclusively that even across different companies, different industries, and different types of work, workplace training can successfully teach employees new information, problem-solving, leadership, and other more cognitive skills (according to post-training testing).

So what? Research also consistently finds supervisors see the improvement in employees’ work and the company sees it in their bottom line. The results are nearly as positive for workplace training focused on Interpersonal Skills (e.g., team-building, conflict management) as they are for specific skills (e.g., 3D model building, sandwich assembly).

How should I provide employees with professional development training?

This is where things can get complicated. Depending on what you want your employees to learn, some professional development techniques can work better than others. But there are also some broad patterns of effect. So, let’s start there.

PowerPoint aficionados rejoice: lecture is vindicated by research. Lecture can be a relatively simple and cost-effective method to teach employees subject knowledge or other cognitive skills and it is also effective for interpersonal skills and specific skills.

That said, there can be some details to keep in mind. Lecture is generally more effective when combined with other engaging features, such as discussion or audio/visual presentations. This can be especially critical for those more behavior-based specific skills. Seeing or practicing greatly increases the effectiveness of learning how to do something from a lecture.

The research also shows a pattern that lecture replacements are more hit or miss. Popping in a movie (audio/visual presentations alone) holds up pretty well, but pre-recorded lectures and even “interactive” computer-based workplace training have much more inconsistent results. Some studies find them quite effective, some not at all, and exactly why is poorly understood. Suffice it to say, some of those details of industry/company/job-type are more relevant here.

That’s it? That’s what 100 years of research tells us about employee professional development?

Not even close. So far, we’ve just scratched the surface, primarily focusing on the delivery features of the training. Much more psychological research has focused on personality differences that predict training success, or the interactive process of how the employee’s own motivation, pre-existing skills and capabilities, the feedback dynamic in the training or supervisory relationship affects their professional development.

Sounds complicated.

It can be, more than this single post can describe. Broad patterns aside, learning is really about the complex interaction of the person, the information, and means of delivery.

That’s why Cangrade’s technology is so powerful. We measure your employees’ unique skills and attributes and identify promising, customized directions for their professional development. The suggestions are powered by artificial intelligence, so they are constantly evolving to apply new information based on your employees’ performance.

So put employee professional development first in your organization,and unlock the potential capabilities of your workforce.