Professional development has been part of the American business landscape for generations. All sorts of professional jobs offer opportunities to learn new skills, obtain new certifications, and even go back to college. If your employer offered professional development benefits, would you utilize them?
This actually isn’t a random question. Data from a 2022 benefit survey conducted by the Society for Human Resources Management indicates that roughly 78% of U.S. employers provide some sort of professional development benefit. Approximately 65% consider such benefits important.
It would be curious to know how many of their employers actually take advantage of the benefits. Professional development is generally considered a good thing, but it does require time and effort – two things that employees don’t necessarily have excess to spare.
Professional Development in Many Forms
Employers deciding to offer professional development benefits have an advantage in that professional development itself can take many forms. They do not have to settle on just one thing.
At the upper end of the scale, an employer might choose to cover the full cost of sending employees back to school to earn advanced degrees. As the thinking goes, doing so increases employee loyalty. Pay for a year or two worth of schooling and an employee is likely to stick around.
Other options include:
- partial tuition reimbursement
- free vocational training
- free certification programs
- onsite training opportunities.
Employers can offer any combination of professional development options. They can cover as little or as much of those options as they choose. It is a matter of what they can afford and what their accountants recommend from a tax perspective.
Beyond Employee Loyalty
Offering professional development benefits can certainly increase employee loyalty by demonstrating that a company is generally interested in helping workers improve their prospects. But according to Dallas-based BenefitMall, there are other things to consider. BenefitMall offers broker services and is a nationwide general agency.
They suggest that professional development makes good employees better. As an individual develops professionally, they learn new skills that could prove invaluable to the workplace. Gradually, a company whose employees take advantage of professional development benefits becomes a more skilled company able to better serve its customers.
Professional development also encourages employees to take more ownership over their careers. For instance, going back to school to earn a degree puts an employee in a position of directing their own career instead of just hanging out and going with the flow of the current job.
Whatever It Takes in a Competitive Market
Another way to look at the professional development benefit question is competing in a tight labor market. When a company needs a bunch of skilled workers but cannot find enough applicants to fill those jobs, things can get desperate. HR managers might have to pull out all the stops to attract top talent.
The same principle is true in the other direction. As some employees within a given organization take advantage of professional development opportunities, those who choose not to are essentially making themselves less valuable through their inaction. If they want to compete for raises and promotions, they need to keep up with those who have made a commitment to professional development.
Either way, professional development has become particularly important in certain industries. It is important enough that the majority of American companies now offer some sort of benefit to their employees. That is above and beyond standard health insurance and a retirement plan.
If companies are willing to invest in professional development, it must be important to them. Is it important to you, as an employee?