When an employee is engaged and feels valued, everything they do is infused with purpose, energy and enthusiasm. This greatly reduces staff turnover, increases productivity and efficiency, improves customer service, and enables a company to grow gracefully.

One of the best ways to retain an engaged and productive workforce is to emphasize professional and personal development. It’s basic human nature to want to be recognized, feel appreciated and know there is a career path at work. In today’s digital work environment, employee recognition and development is more important than ever and leads to a positive workplace culture, greater employee engagement and retention.

For the employee, it promotes loyalty, engagement, builds self-efficacy and stimulates more creative and productive work. For the company, highlighting good work and growing from within produces more dedicated, engaged and effective teams. Employees who feel valued and see a strategic growth plan within the company won’t want to leave.

Invest in Diversified Professional Development

Professional development is often thought of too narrowly. In addition to the skills-based certifications and trainings employees can achieve in their current roles, offer employees a variety of unique growth opportunities to broaden their skills outside of their job description.

These opportunities could include:

  • Collaboration techniques and conflict resolution training.
  • Improv classes to help hone public speaking skills in a fun way.
  • Management and leadership training programs.
  • Professional networking opportunities and conferences.
  • Memberships to associations and clubs, both professional and social, to build networks.
  • Subscriptions to online learning platforms.

It’s especially important to consider the impact professional development can have on employees in a remote or hybrid environment. With less face-to-face interaction, employees may feel they lack the learnings that come from daily face-to-face opportunities working with teams and functions in a more organic setting. Professional development courses can help employees grow and engage outside of their realm of expertise, even from home.

Encourage Transparency, Respect and Cross-Team Collaboration

One of the greatest ways employees can develop new skills is by learning “on the job.” Don’t let working in silos stifle employee growth. Rather, create opportunities for cross-team collaboration, where employees can learn from one another and contribute their strengths to a bigger project.

Two key factors for encouraging collaboration are transparency and respect. Sometimes transparency can feel uncomfortable for a leader, but when you share the “bigger picture” with your team, employees are armed with the information they need to devise creative ideas and develop strategic plans to meet the company goals.

When respect is present, employees feel comfortable bringing those creative ideas to the table. Both are essential to creating the cross-team collaboration that drives both employee and company growth.

Consider these examples of collaboration, transparency, and respect in the workplace:

  • Host regularly scheduled roundtable discussions with a cross-functional group of leaders and team members to facilitate dialogue on company news and issues.
  • Share meeting notes and recordings from non-confidential leadership meetings with the entire team so employees feel they are “in the loop” on company happenings.
  • Diffuse decision-making throughout the organization to empower employees to make decisions within their realm of expertise.

Emphasize the Personal with the Professional

Burnout among employees is very real, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic lingers. According to a Gallup poll, one in three employees reported feeling burnt out “very often” or “always” while working remotely, which clearly can have negative consequences for employee retention and team productivity.

To counter the widespread burnout and churn among employees, we must emphasize a people-first approach to business. When you get smart people together and give them the tools they need to succeed, they will deliver great results. One of those tools is making the time for employees to pursue positive life experiences. It may seem counterintuitive, but employees with time and confidence to enjoy life outside of work are much more likely to invest their best effort into their work.

Here are a few ways a business can make space for their employees’ personal development:

  • Flexible working hours are now table stakes, and employers shouldn’t dictate flexible hours. Allowing team members to collaborate and develop a system that works for all of them will build trust and increase productivity.
  • Offer generous paid time off, including for major life events. This includes births, deaths, weddings, even milestone birthdays and anniversaries. Determine what matters to your employees.
  • Consider an annual “experience bonus” for the pursuit of life-giving experiences, like travel, fast passes at an amusement park or painting lessons.
  • Create a culture where enjoying life outside of work is celebrated, encouraged and shared with teammates, so employees feel more comfortable when taking the time to do it.

It’s been proven time and time again that the companies that thrive are the ones that make their employees feel valued. Professional and personal development opportunities are key to building a corporate culture where employees feel engaged and invested in.

As we continue to forge into the future of remote work, intentionally cultivating development opportunities for employees will be essential to a company’s success in recruiting and retaining top talent.