Don’t freeze professional development

Don’t freeze professional development

As a nice segue from my last column about the grim state of employee retention programs, this column focuses on how you can keep professional development on the employee goals table without spending a fortune. Figuring out a way to keep some consistency and forward movement in staff development is critical to keeping your company goals moving forward.

I’ve been able to take advantage of some great professional development opportunities so far this year that were either free or low-cost. If money is the only issue, there are lots of free or low-cost opportunities out there if you look around.

If employee time is the issue, then find a way to move some duties around so that everyone can participate in development and training. Keep it fair and raise the morale bar for everyone in the process.

The two seminars I attended that prompted my last column were expertly produced by Express Professional Services and were offered free of charge. These two events were great for human resource professionals, sales, marketing and company leaders.

Last week, I finished my third and final year of the Western Association of Chamber Executives’ Academy program. It is a three-and-a-half-day intensive training for industry personnel. Was it free? No, but I did plan ahead, apply and win a scholarship to attend.

During our classes last week, we frequently discussed how to provide incentive and motivation to overworked staff and volunteers. Professional development initiatives should be built into annual budgets and your corporate culture. If the budget isn’t possible, you can still find a way to foster a culture of personal growth.

And as we’re learning more every day, this culture can mean different things to generational workers. It’s important to stay aware of that when seeking opportunities that will maximize their goals, build their strengths and maintain a creative environment.

Here are some ideas:

• Napa Valley College provides a robust schedule of business development classes, from social media to office programs, photography, graphic art and accounting.

• The Napa Valley College Adult Education program is a great resource, as is the new Business and Entrepreneurship Center.

• Local companies that provide products and services also teach about them, often at no cost, as with the employment professionals’ seminars.

• Look for sponsorship opportunities at business events and negotiate tickets for your appropriate staff members to attend.

• Monitor industry associations and take advantage of webinars, online resources and events.

Work with other companies to share event hotel space or webinar venues.

• Google a lot. Look for opportunities outside of your area as well. Often you can find precise training within a short drive.

Remember to be creative and open. Talk to your employees about their personal goals and find ways to help achieve them. Your company will benefit from it on many levels.

By Katherine Zimmer, Napa Valley Register.
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