Dynamic Professional Development Deserves Dynamic Promotion
August 28, 2017 by guest author, Bryan Crotaz
Guest Post: Trey Hicks, Visix
Companies that offer professional development will get a better range of applicants, and applicants today are starting to require this before they will seriously consider a company. New digital tools already exist to make this a more interesting, varied and cost-effective experience.
More access to more information has led to different learning habits, and the modern internet-connected world has changed these habits even more. People have certain expectations when interacting with digital data, and the younger generations have a very different set of assumptions than older ones. Yet these different generations – Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials, and now Generation Z, are all in the workforce together right now. Attitudes and expectations are changing across the board.
And then there’s what’s called the “gig” economy, where a large part of a company’s workforce is made up of independent contractors, sometimes working short-term projects and then moving on. A report by Intuit says that 34% of the US workforce is currently made up of contract workers, and that’s expected to rise to 43% by the year 2020. These sorts of workers are hired because they already have certain skills; they aren’t hired and then given the skills.
As a result, learning new skills in the workplace is becoming more important to today’s workers. According to Gallup, 59% of Millennials say opportunities to learn and grow are an important part of their decision-making process when applying for a job, either long- or short-term (44% of Gen Xers say the same thing, and 41% of Boomers).
Another Gallup study says 87% of Millennials say career growth opportunities are “very important”. The American Staffing Association finds that 55% of employees across all currently working generations say that, if they were offered more training opportunities, they could advance professionally.
Edenred went further, discovering that 68% of workers say training and development is the most important workplace policy, followed by working hours flexibility (74%) and promotion of health at work (72%). More skills mean more employment and advancement opportunities for people, especially if they work on a freelance basis. A company that offers learning opportunities is likely to attract motivated workers who want to improve to increase their own prospects in the future.
Schools are starting to see the importance of this, partly because the current state of the employment market affects student attitudes. Ellucian says 97% of higher education institutions feel that personal development programs for all employees have an effect on student success. And companies are starting to get the message – CareerBuilder says that 68% of employers offer training programs; 71% offer soft skills and 72% offer hard skills.
The business world loves acronyms and jargon, and professional development is no exception. In recent years, there’s been buzz about Professional Development (PD), or Learning and Development (L&D) in various terms, making a veritable alphabet soup. One thing is certain – the old mindset that L&D is just an occasional seminar or workshop is gone, being replaced with more dynamic ideas:
- CPD (Continuous Professional Development) – an approach to L&D that views skills development as an ongoing process that integrates into the daily work flow, to help professionals not only do their jobs better, but keep abreast of new ideas and innovations, and future developments in the industry. Includes:
- Daily input and interactions with others in the same field, often via the web
- Sharing insights and both successes and failures with others, adding to the collective knowledge pool
- MPL (Modern Professional Learning) – Mainly self-led on-demand problem solving and continuous development, often outside of work hours and on the web. Includes:
- Career Planning
- Continuous improvement
- Keeping up to date with innovations and new ideas in the industry
- Solving performance and learning problems
- Maximizing each day’s work
- MWL (Modern Workplace Learning) – modern approach to training and e-learning that takes into account how people learn today, and helps foster a social organization that values learning that comes from cooperative work. Includes:
- Flexible resources
- Social learning and collaboration
- Developing skills relevant in the modern context
- ELL (Employee-Led Learning) – supported by the organization, professionals manage their own learning aligned with organizational goals and share the results with others. Includes:
- Professional networks and events
- Online communities
- Leveraging and sharing external resources
All of these different approaches interconnect and can even support one another. And all of them can give at least some control to the professionals themselves, which increases their focus and satisfaction at work, as well as their productivity.
Many organizations outsource training to external HR companies. And many of those companies report that the majority of an organization’s workers remain unaware of professional development opportunities available to them.
Even if some or all of L&D is outsourced, the idea is to create an atmosphere in which professional improvement is valued and woven into the very fabric of the organization. This is where digital signage comes in handy. It’s already everywhere, and employees are used to looking at the screens to get all kinds of information – from company-wide and departmental announcements to progress towards goals to weather and traffic updates.
Just add some professional development messages into your playlist, and suddenly the whole tenor of the workplace changes. Several times a day, employees will be reminded of L&D options they can access, while seeing that it’s a priority for the organization. Digital signage messages can be used to reinforce what’s already out there, and promote new initiatives.
If a company has a training hub on the intranet, messages on digital signs can remind people of this, and new courses and opportunities can be highlighted. Reimbursement schemes are also becoming more popular – some companies have a certain amount of money per employee for L&D, but the employee decides what to use it for. For example, a company that does a lot of international business might offer to reimburse employees who take language lessons and pass a test certifying a certain level of proficiency.
Inspirational quotes are often inserted into playlists, and that’s not a bad idea. But add something of immediate value to them, like a short URL or QR code to a relevant online training module, or web or intranet page. Encourage employees to go out there and improve themselves, with the company’s support. And don’t forget to recognize those who achieve their goals – put up a list of courses completed, certifications and other congratulations for those who participate.
Gamified solutions can not only tell people what’s available and get them actively interested, but add a fun sense of competition to the entire L&D process. Let’s say management decides they’d like managers to be better informed about some aspect of the business, and there’s a training module for that. Run a two-week campaign promoting that module, and then run a quiz on your digital signage screens. Any individuals or departments that score highest on the quiz get some sort of tangible reward.
If you have interactive screens, you can offer quick training modules, videos and quizzes that people can complete right at the screen. Something as simple as tablets in a break room can entice people to participate when they have a few spare minutes.
Professional development has come a long way from boring presentations in a stuffy conference room and mandatory classes. It’s an ongoing dynamic and individualized process that is constantly evolving to meet the needs and interests of the participants. And the perfect way to promote and reinforce modern L&D efforts is with another dynamic information delivery system – corporate digital signage.