For many employees, personal development plays a significant role in their lives. It’s what helps them feel as though they’re moving forward, even if they’re in a process-driven job. Building professional skills in the workplace is also part and parcel of having an active career and remaining engaged.
Even before the current crisis, many workers did not feel engaged in what they were doing. More than 50 percent of the nation’s employees were either failing to apply themselves fully to their roles or actively disengaged in them.
Crises have a habit of revealing weaknesses in individual companies and business models, and this current outbreak is no different. If your workers aren’t committed to your mission, the evidence will come through thick and fast from now onwards.
Professional development is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal to keep people engaged. What’s more, with the lull in business, your workers probably have more time to practice their skills.
It might seem like a strange time to be thinking about training, but the current crisis will pass. And when it does, you want to energy from it with all cylinders firing. Don’t underestimate how much pent-up demand there is out there. People are desperate to get on with their lives again already. Once the government ends the lockdowns, we will see a boom the likes of which the economy has never seen before.
Here are some of the reasons why employee development is critical, even in times of crisis.
It Forces You To Invest In Your Future
It sounds like a cliche, but it is true: far too many businesses focus on the profitability of the next quarter, not how much money they will make ten years from now. And that puts them at a disadvantage. It means that they’re always thinking short-term, undermining their capacity to succeed over the long-term.
When you engage in employee development, you’re not actually spending money in the traditional sense – you’re investing it. You’re putting it into a candidate with potential so that they will be able to work faster and more effectively in the future.
You should think about it a little bit like buying a new machine. Yes, there’s an upfront cost, but once the equipment starts producing, there’s a long-term payoff.
Employees are, in many ways, more valuable than standard equipment. With a machine, the upside is finite. With a person, you never know what genius you might awaken.
It Keeps Your Workers Engaged, Even While They’re Not At Work
Employee motivation is difficult at the best of times. In today’s economic tribulations, it is even more difficult. People are much less likely to feel engaged working from home, even compared to the office.
Businesses, therefore, need to use this time wisely. If your business is continuing at full pace, then you may not have time to engage in professional development. If, however, demand is temporarily slacking off, then training could be the perfect way to keep people active and interested in their work.
It is unlikely that the world will ever be the same again after this crisis. Employees, therefore, may need to adjust to a strange new reality. Learning skills like flexibility and adaptation are part and parcel of employee development and fundamental to the success of your enterprise. Teaching essential skills like that will help to keep all the people on your team interested in their projects and work towards the good of your firm.
It Makes You More Future-Focused
Being a future-focused enterprise is helpful in an economy undergoing dramatic technological and societal change. Smart leaders know that the strategies that they employ today do not guarantee them success in the future. Everything could turn on a dime – as we’ve seen in the current crisis.
Professional development naturally forces you to keep one eye on the future. It makes you think two, three, and even five years ahead about what your business might look like.
You find yourself asking the following questions:
- What type of corporate culture do I want to create over the long-term?
- What kind of leaders will I need to nurture for the future of my business?
- What skills should I impart to workers, and will I need them in the future?
Notice how many aspects of business strategy, the above questions invoke. Not only do you need to think about the shape of your business in the future, but the type of people who can best lead it and the technology that might change how you operate.
Bearing all this in mind can have a range of positive, unintended consequences. One of those is buffering yourself against disruptive changes in your industry. If you have one eye on the future, you can prepare for the inevitable changes that are coming your way, instead of having to react to them at a moment’s notice.
Fundamentally, employee training forces you to rethink the path that your business will take. While you might discount the value of development today, it is likely to become increasingly important in the future. Skills will need to shift, and workers adapt to new environments. Beginning the process now can make you more agile once market conditions force you in a particular direction.
Remember, you don’t have to be some prophet to work out what is coming down the line. Just a few simple observations on how technology will change can give you enough data on what to do next. Restaurant businesses, for example, might want to increase their training for staff to take and process online orders.
It Keeps Talent In Your Business
Retaining talent is incredibly challenging. People who are at the top of their game are very willing to switch roles if they spot an opportunity.
Executives know that replacing highly-skilled employees is next to impossible. If they leave, it could take months to find a suitable candidate. And, in many cases, they won’t be as good.
Professional development, therefore, is a powerful tool that helps you win the fight to keep your most valuable employees. It is not a panacea, but it is just about the closest thing that you have.
Remember, data suggest that talented employees in the millennial generation want career progression more than they do higher pay. Status and power matter to these individuals. Training and development, therefore, is a chance for them to get this and feel like their lives have meaning. They want to know that they are on the right trajectory in their lives, especially during a time of crisis where all bets are off.
It Makes It Much Easier To Attract Great People Too
Not only does professional development help to retain quality employees, but it also makes it much easier to appeal to talent outside your organization too. Everybody wants to work at companies that offer a clear progression path and add value to existing employees.
Robust employee development programs offer a host of benefits:
- Improves your reputation. Companies need great brands for two reasons: to sell products and attract talented people. The second of these reasons, however, is sometimes forgotten by executives. It is not just perceptions of your products that are important, but the way that people in the labor market view you too. If they see you as an employer who doesn’t take care of staff or promote their development, then they’re much less likely to apply to become a member of your team.
- It creates loyalty. Very few companies attempt to lock people into contracts that say that they MUST stay with the firm if they receive professional development, but most don’t have to. When you give a worker training, they feel as though they should reciprocate. They want to pay you back for the investment that you have made in them and will feel a sense of loyalty. Of course, if other aspects of the job are a nightmare, they won’t stick around. But if you provide an otherwise decent environment, it can help to create pressure to stay.
- You can sell it as a benefit. Strictly speaking, you should not view professional development as a benefit. But you can spin it that way if you like. After all, it is something that benefits both workers and the business as a whole. Employees want perks, often more than pay rises. So it can pay dividends in the future offering to improve their skills.
The times we’re living through right now are, arguably, the most uncertain since WWII. We’re in the midst of a genuine human and economic crisis. It is critical, therefore, that firms use this period of transition to build the robustness of their enterprise. That means giving staff the training and development that they need to help your company emerge from this crisis in a healthier and better position.
Remember, thinking strategically is all about considering the long-term. Employees aren’t disposable. Even in unskilled or low-skilled jobs, your best people generate the lion’s share of value for your firm. In short, you need them.