laptop on table with books
From assigning a short-term project to offering ongoing mentorship, providing your employees with development opportunities can be done both formally and informally. — Getty Images/Nutthaseth Vanchaichana

Continuing professional development is the process of developing and maintaining your professional skills and competency. Industries change very quickly, and the goal of professional development is to be continually growing and learning new skills to enhance your creativity and innovation in the workplace.

However, most people find that it also benefits them on a personal level. As technology continues to change at a rapid pace, it’s more important than ever to ensure that you and your employees have the skills needed for your industry. The right professional development plan ensures that your knowledge and skills are up to date.

[Read more: Top 8 Business Development Skills]

3 types of continuing professional development

Unless you’re trying to meet specific industry requirements, there are no hard and fast rules about how to engage in continuing professional development. The type of training you choose depends on your business, your employees and what you’re trying to accomplish.

Most professional development plans involve some combination of formal and informal learning. If you’re looking for ideas on how to get started, the Human Resource Management Department at Buffalo State outlined the following three strategies:

  • Skills-based training: Skills-based training is a type of formal learning. It focuses on teaching concepts or behaviors that you need to thrive in the workplace. You’ll learn the new skills or behavior, practice it and then receive feedback on your performance.
  • Learning on the job: Many people prefer to learn through real-world examples. This strategy focuses on learning by doing. This could involve taking on a short-term project or stepping into an entirely new role altogether. The point is that the activity stretches you and puts you in an environment where you have to think and act differently.
  • Learning through others: Professional development can also involve learning through feedback or help from other people. This can involve an assessment, training or some kind of ongoing mentorship. The focus is on receiving support and feedback so you can continue to grow professionally.

[Read more: 7 Smart Ways to Motivate Your Employees]

Professional development can entail formal learning, like a training course, or informal learning, like coaching or mentorship.

How to get started with professional development

It can be hard enough to focus on your own professional development, much less implement it for other people. But working with your employees to create a plan for professional development will benefit your business and help them grow and evolve.

The best way to start is by talking to your employees and figuring out what they need to work on. You can conduct an employee review and speak to their co-workers and manager to figure out what their skills are and what they need to work on.

From there, you can work with that person to decide the type of professional development they need. Professional development can entail formal learning, like a training course, or informal learning, like coaching or mentorship.

As this article points out, it’s essential to allow your employees to be responsible for their own professional development and implementing what they’ve learned. You can provide them with growth opportunities and assist them during this process, but you can’t do the work for them.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published June 11, 2020