Education and Professional Development

Professional Development: It’s Just Not An Employee Thing
by, Dr. Deborah Pacheco

Professional development (PD) is a concept that is widely accepted and promoted in educational and health care environments; however, other workplaces could also benefit from incorporating PD practices.

The premise of PD is that one must continue to learn and develop new skills throughout the span of a career in order to meaningfully contribute to the accomplishment of organizational goals.
As an example, medicine is highly evolving and approaches to diagnosis and treatment change rather rapidly. The health care workforce must keep pace with technology, pharmaceuticals and peer-reviewed scientific literature. I argue that most professions are experiencing the same pressures to keep current and stay relevant; however, most organizations expect their employees to figure out the process of doing so on their own. Don’t stay current or relevant? There’s the door! I think this is a huge mistake for a couple of reasons.

First, it is not possible for employees to know what skills employers want them to have if the employer doesn’t lay it out for the employee. When I work with organizations, I recommend that we develop a knowledge, skills and abilities (KSA) rubric specific to a position. Next, the employee’s knowledge, skills and abilities are evaluated against the position’s KSA rubric. From there, a specific professional development plan is developed for that employee. The plan could include formal mentoring, informal learning, cross-training, formal education or informal learning. Importantly, the employee’s professional development plan informs the employee of the organization’s expectations.

Second, if the employer leaves PD entirely up to the employee, the organization will certainly not be as efficient as it could be. Lack of professional development planning can increase employee turnover rates, lead to costly operational blunders, higher overhead costs, and limit the development of the organization - all of which reduce profitability. Many of the world's leading companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Lockheed Martin, and Disney have implemented highly organized professional development programs. These companies know that when properly planned and implemented, professional development program performance metrics point towards improved profits.

While an employee ultimately does own his or her own professional development, organizations would do well to be curious about the concepts of professional development programs and the specific ways in which they might benefit from these. Do you know your company's professional development performance metrics and how these are tracking? I think it's worth checking into.

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