Creating a Culture of Professional Development

People often spend their workdays stuck in the “important and urgent” mindset—things that need to happen and need to happen now. With budgets, deadlines and pressing client requests, it can be difficult to find time for anything else. But spending too much of your workday stuck here limits professional growth and development.

Successful professional development is key to employee satisfaction, not to mention retention and performance. Professional development means making the time for the “important but not urgent” activities that nonetheless will help employees grow both professionally and personally.

Learning and honing new skills and areas of expertise may not be considered urgent in terms of demanding immediate attention, but it’s incredibly important for long-term happiness and keeping employees on the fast track of success.

Strong professional development allows companies to become a platform for talented employees to build their own expertise and do work that matters to them, both personally and professionally.

To build and support this success, companies need to focus on making professional development part of their culture. It affirms that they believe in their people; that they will prepare them for ever-increasing responsibilities and opportunities and that they are committed to developing the talent they’ve attracted through continuous improvement.

One key to successful professional development is letting it to be team-directed. A rigid professional development program in which employees don’t have any influence on the types of training they receive can feel a little bit like enforced recreation. Allow employees to have a say in how the professional development program is structured so they can be passionate and engaged participants.

Learning and professional development are core to maintaining a positive work environment and keeping employees satisfied. It’s important to make sure employees have the right tools to build and expand their expertise. Here are a few tips on how you can create a strong professional development program that accounts for job satisfaction, employee retention and business success:

1. Encourage “learning by doing.” Invest in professional development outside the walls of your agency. Encourage staff to attend industry events, panel discussions and trades shows. Ask employees to share what they learned and how they can translate these real world experiences into daily (PR) life.

2. Invest in all levels. From interns to senior management, elevate the importance of professional development by allocating a percentage of each person’s time on the job to developing new skills. Free up time for people to fulfill their curiosity or new areas of expertise and personal growth areas that are important to each individual.

3. Understand what motivates people. No one wants a professional development program to feel like “forced fun.” Take the time to find out what employees are passionate about. Provide a level of flexibility for employees to pursue those areas of interest.

4. Put people in charge of their own career path. Empower employees to be in charge of their own career development. Make sure each individual feels a responsibility for moving their career forward as well as being a participant in the success of the company.

5. Pay it forward. If you know something, teach it. If you want to learn something, ask about it. Everyone at all levels has skills to teach and skills to learn. It’s important to have a company culture of encouraged idea sharing, creativity and collaboration for everyone on a team.

6. Encourage curiosity…and conversation. You can “do” all of the things in the world to build a culture of professional development, but unless it feels relevant in the lives of your team, you won’t gain the full benefit. How does your team talk about current industry happenings? Do you encourage conversations in staff meetings or informal settings? Bringing teams together to explore, critique, talk about what’s happening in your industry can be every bit as valuable as structured learning. How can you get employees to share their insights and ideas with each other, and collect a few new thoughts in return?

With these best practices in place, you can create a culture of professional development program that enhances employee satisfaction and improves internal communication. PRN


Small_HSBarbara Bates is CEO and founder of Eastwick Communications. She can be reached at



This article originally appeared in the November 18 issue of PR News.