Is Your Professional Development Program Working?

Professional development, like many other topics in organizational management, seems like an easy one.  Just pick the topics you want and have people that are good at them develop a class and teach it.  Easy enough, right?  Well, mostly professional development programs are not effective.  They lack direction, vision, and most of all they are only focused on in chunks.

An excellent professional development program should hit a few key areas.

  1. A deliberate approach to the development of the employees. If you are taking the time to invest in your people, you should take the time to decide what attributes are going to contribute to the goals of the organization or reinforce the behaviors the organization deems valuable.
  2. Evaluate the program. Take time to observe the professional development courses being taught.
  3. Refine the courses and ensure they support the organization’s vision. If you don’t write down the organizational vision, it is easy just to assume you are making decisions that support your decision.  But the opposite is usually true.  If your vision is to create “experts” at whatever job your organization does, but you also create policies that are designed to keep your people from making fundamental decisions, your policies are not supporting your vision of creating experts.  Experts do not need policies to keep from making mistakes with basic functions.  And beginners need room to make mistakes so they can learn from them and the experts.

If your people find your topics boring and there is little support for these professional development events, perhaps you have failed to show they are important.  Also, it is possible they are not interested in these areas because the organization does not value the topics.  They are probably not focused on when looking at performance appraisals or top-performer awards.  If the organization does not value the topics you are trying to develop, the people of the organization will not value the professional development.

Attitude is everything.  Most of a successful professional development program is about the attitude of the people involved.  Having people with a positive attitude and showing enthusiasm about professional development is easier said than done.  But there are ways to create this environment.  The first few classes should have a hand-picked audience.  The audience should be the employees with the best attitude.  By picking those with the best attitude, they will spread the word after the seminar that the material was worth it and they learned something.  At this point, you will have momentum, and you can continue to build off of this success.

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