How to develop an engaging professional development program

Kerrie-Anne Chinn, Content & Editorial Manager

We recently looked at the importance of Professional Development Programs for staff and the many benefits they bring to employees, as well as organizations overall.

As a manager, you can use Professional Development Programs (PDPs) to help your team members develop the professional skills and abilities they need to achieve their career goals. Continuing to be challenged in their roles is a very important part of employees feeling satisfied, rewarded and energized at work. 


When creating development programs for staff, you want them to be as engaging as possible, something more than just a stack of papers to be signed off as a standard HR procedure or token gesture. 

Online training courses such as Managing Professional Development have been created specifically for managers, to provide you with the skills and techniques you need to develop yourself and your workforce. For anyone in a managerial role, taking the time to learn more about professional development is well worth the investment. 

Here are some other ideas you may like to consider when creating professional development programs for your team.

Foster a Learning Community and Culture

Emphasize the importance of ongoing learning in your organization’s culture.

A 2015 study by Deloitte revealed that companies with high performing learning environments rank in the top for employee engagement – demonstrating how important learning is to engaging and empowering people.

Engage your teams regularly in discussions about their learnings and current projects – make it an informal environment so staff can feel relaxed and look forward to sharing knowledge with each other freely. You might like to schedule a weekly walk with your team, or lunch in the park for these discussion sessions.

Make sure you lead by example. Pass on books or online articles you’ve found interesting to your team and encourage them to share industry news or projects that they find inspiring. Keep people reading and learning.

Stay Relevant with Staff Training

Learning and development needs to stay relevant to be of any use. These days, new skills and knowledge can become not so new in a matter of months, particularly in technical roles and creative industries.

This emphasizes the importance of ongoing training for employees. Invest in your staff’s professional development with regular courses, workshops and seminars – whether online or face-to-face, or a combination of both. Provide individuals with plenty of opportunities to constantly refresh their skills and acquire new ones.

Make Learning Flexible and Accessible

In an article about improving employee development programs, the Harvard Business Review recommends companies focus on providing flexible learning options to staff.

“Telling employees they need to engage in more learning and development activities with their already heavy workload often leaves them feeling overwhelmed… Companies must respond by adopting on-demand and mobile solutions that make learning opportunities more readily accessible for your people.”

Make sure staff have the resources and skills to access flexible training tools and allow people to learn in the best way possible for their specific needs and learning styles.

Support Work Across Cross-Functional Teams 

Another way to energize staff and give them the opportunity to develop their skill sets is to support movement across cross-functional teams – that is, teams that support common organizational goals, through different skill sets.

Encouraging an employee in your marketing team, for example, to spend some time with the digital media team will allow them to learn new skills, share organizational knowledge and be inspired by fresh faces. You never know what exciting new projects may be sparked by different teams collaborating on information and ideas.

Encourage Staff to Be Honest About their Goals

In previous years, professional development tended to be more a case of patiently moving up the same ladder at the same company, one rung at a time. But that’s not the reality for today’s workforce. It’s very likely that you have employees in your team whose aspirations lie beyond their current employer. And that’s okay!

Let your staff know that it’s acceptable to discuss career goals outside of the company, and encourage them to include those goals in their PDP. You’ll show your genuine interest in their growth and future, even if that future lies outside your company. Good managers will want the best for their staff, even if that means taking their career in a new direction.

Promote Volunteering and Mentoring Opportunities

Talk to your team about looking into volunteer opportunities or mentor programs. Both will present new and exciting challenges, and a way for employees to learn different skills, build their professional networks and feel re-energized in their career.

Through volunteer work, your organization will also be giving back to the community and assisting positive change. Meaning you’ll be helping others in need, as well as your own staff.

Hopefully this article has given you some useful information and highlighted the importance of bringing fresh energy and ideas to professional development. By applying a modern approach to PDPs and taking the time to talk genuinely with your staff about their futures, you’ll increase their engagement and ultimately their performance, making it a win-win situation for all.


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