As a leader, you have a pretty good idea of where skills gaps exist on your team. While it may seem easier to simply bring on a new employee who comes armed with those skills, the competitiveness of hiring in today’s talent market can make that challenging. For leaders, it’s important to not overlook your current team members as the possible solution to your skill needs. Traditionally, departments underspend on professional development. Why not put that budget to good use?
To promote development within your team, it’s important to first understand why your employees may be hesitating to continue their education and to grow their skill base.
Here are some common barriers that may deter employees from taking up professional development activities.
1. They’re unsure whether their organization will support them.
While most companies have a professional development budget, it’s often unclear what’s classified as eligible for reimbursement. Employees may not know if a course they’re interested in taking would be covered until they make the request. As a leader, you should ensure your employees understand that professional development is a priority, which will help alleviate the fear they feel when making a request.
2. They’re unclear about the company’s needs.
Even though you may be aware of the skills gaps on your team, your employees may not be. By communicating the long-term needs of the department, you can help spark your team members’ interest in professional development. As a bonus, including employees in long-term planning to achieve the company’s goals will help better connect them to projects, increasing engagement and retention.
3. They’re anxious about re-entering the education system.
This is especially true for employees who have been out of school for some time. When they’re not immersed in the world of education, it more quickly becomes a faded memory. Putting themselves out there and reentering the world of academics can be an intimidating experience for many. Sharing stories from colleagues who have successfully made that leap can go a long way in giving hesitant employees the confidence they need to invest in professional development.
4. They don’t feel they have the time.
Work is busy. Life is busy. Trying to figure out how to carve out a few hours every week to do coursework may seem like an overwhelming obstacle. To overcome it, your company can consider providing dedicated time each week for employees to use for skill building and professional development. Other solutions may include offering flexible working hours, so employees feel supported in their goals. Regardless of what time you provide, celebrating and supporting an employee’s efforts in pursuing professional development is key.
5. They’re worried how it would affect their job security.
Some team members may be afraid to rock the boat. They worry that by requesting or asking to continue their development journey, their manager may take that as a sign of dissatisfaction with their current role. Even if that is the case, it’s crucial to remember that providing career development opportunities to support internal mobility can help keep employees engaged within the organization and reduce turnover in the long run.
Your team will constantly need fresh skills to remain competitive, and it can be significantly more cost effective to build the skills you need with the talent you already have. Demystify the professional development process and begin an open dialogue with your team about the department’s needs and your wish for them to be part of organizational growth.
The best way to understand why an employee isn’t taking advantage of professional development activities is to ask them. You may be surprised at what you’ll learn.
Interested in simplifying how employees access professional development activities that align to your departmental needs? Check out D2L Wave! As a free-to-use upskilling education platform, employers only pay for the courses their employees take. D2L Wave streamlines how employees search, request, register, and pay for professional development activities.