• Elana Duffy

Positive Vibes to Positive Profits: Professional Development that Works


- Stacey Ebert

Professional development can be a trial. No one wants to sit through monotone presentations or worse, click-through online training that takes them away from the mounting pile of work sitting on their desk. That’s true no matter how strong our love for broadening horizons and expanding our knowledge.

The irony is that professional development is critical to employee engagement, yet it often comes across as dull, mindless, and lacking energy. If those presentations had more value and meaning, if they were directly applicable to the things we needed to do every day, and maybe got those things done a little faster, wouldn’t they trigger more effort? If the participants had more of a say in what was happening, wouldn’t they be more interested in the material, learn it better, and actually apply it?

As a former educator, I can say the answer to both of those questions is a resounding “yes.” Teaching high school is remarkably similar to teaching professional development training, and working on those professional development programs. Professional development is basically a curriculum of ideas and techniques (and some required coursework) to help someone move forward in life. While we aren’t preparing our employees to leave home for college, we are training them to be better, more efficient workers eligible for promotions and bigger, better things.

In fact, many of the changes needed in both teaching high school and in business professional development are very similar and require surprisingly little effort to implement.

Positive engagement will merit happy, successful employees. For your business, that means a better bottom line. Here are four tips for injecting more energy and value into your professional development:

#1: Involve staff

Today’s education arenas have top-down management with a ‘do this’ type of attitude rather than asking those in the front lines what they need or what they believe would make life better, more productive for their students. Wanting to feel valued and part of the process is not only an educator’s need, but also a human one. Tap into those leadership skills evident in your employees to create a committee or to find a team leader to assist in the planning of development training. Feeling empowered and part of the process will elicit a more positive attitude from your staff as a whole.

#2: Vary the time of day, length of time, and type of engagement

Many schools today work on block scheduling varying the time students have one class on different days. Remember how you acted differently in your high school first period class as opposed to the one directly after lunch? Imagine how much more difficult it was for your first period teacher to grab your attention than that of the teacher of last class of the day. The working world is no different. Be mindful of those employees who can’t truly function as well as they can later in the day before they’ve had that fundamental first cup of coffee. Fluctuating your development times and types will allow for a greater amount of people to be at their peak during the presentations.

#3: Nourish the body as well as the mind

Raise your hand if you ever been to a networking event where there wasn’t some form of liquid refreshment or nibbles. People pay more attention when they’re not hungry and often focus better when they’ve had something to eat or drink. Nothing more than a small bottle of water and some vegetables and cheese is really necessary, but providing something for your staff will perhaps make them slightly more apt to provide something in return.

#4: Tap into staff’s talent base to create a valuable session

Do you remember a favorite project you did in school? Can you recall that student who used her guitar playing skills to create a song instead of a boring paper for a project? Did more people listen to their peer incorporating her interesting talent or the teacher when he read from the paper? Peer-led workshops or presentations are often held in high regard. Perhaps your staff members have even more talents to add to your bottom line.

The idea is to take the monotony out of continuing education. Turn it into something that breaks up the work day and provides a lasting impact, not something that is regarded as a chore that only adds to the workload. Developing employees should be a bonus to everyone, but therefore needs to be something that people look forward to rather than begrudge every minute. Turn it into a fun study hall instead of another boring common core requirement.

Positive engagement will merit happy, successful employees. For your business, that will turn positive vibes into positive profits.

If you are interested in more information on specifics of continuing education for employee engagement, check out the articles in both HR World and Forbes.com.

Stacey Ebert is a former educator and event planner. She is currently making her way around the world as a travel blogger and freelance writer, with articles in Rolf Potts Vagabonding and Wandering Educator and published in American Camping Association Camping, tourism sites, Elephant Journal and more. Follow Stacey's adventures on The Gift of Travel.

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