Leadership

Fostering Professional Development for Your Team and Yourself

CFOs want employees motivated to learn new skills, but companies need to do their part, too.

The motivation to learn new skills is the characteristic CFOs feel employees most need to be successful, research from our company found. While placing this expectation on staff, many organizations aren’t helping their employees as much as they could – or should.

As an example, 86 percent of financial executives in a Robert Half Management Resources survey said strategic-thinking skills are important for accounting and finance professionals. However, 46 percent do not provide their employees professional development in this area.

Staff development tips for managers

Without a doubt, building a robust professional development program requires an investment of resources and time. But the payoff is worth it: You’ll strengthen your team, build loyalty among staff and make your company more attractive as an employer.

Following are ways to create professional development opportunities for your team:

  • Send employees to industry events. Pay for them to attend national or regional conferences. When they return, ask them to share what they learned to help their colleagues benefit, too.
  • Facilitate group activities. Conduct team-building events, such as off-site luncheons and volunteering together. To inspire innovation, do more than just talk shop. Encourage staff to play, socialize and bounce around ideas.
  • Assign research projects. Educate workers and develop their leadership skills at the same time by asking one employee each month to research a topic and give a presentation on it during the next staff meeting.
  • Break down silos. You want your employees to develop a big-picture view of the company. What better way to do that than have them work with members of other departments? Develop a program where accounting and finance staff shadow their colleagues in IT, marketing, legal and other divisions.
  • Subscribe to a learning platform. Many online education providers’ main focus is on technical topics such as Excel, but some companies also offer professional development for soft skills ranging from leadership to time management. By buying a subscription for your entire team, you make it easy for workers to learn what they need at a time that suits them best.

Professional development tips for employees

For professionals, there’s no need to wait for your boss to hand you professional development courses. There’s plenty you can do to expand your skills and expertise.

Here are five steps you can take:

  1. Join a professional association. Get involved in the local chapter of a professional organization, such as Financial Executives International. When you become a member, take advantage of the many educational, networking and leadership opportunities.
  2. Register with a staffing firm. Gain access to professional development courses by joining a specialized staffing firm. Look for one that offers registered consultants and candidates free online trainings.
  3. Hone your speaking skills. If you shy away from the podium, confront that fear and join an organization like Toastmasters, which gives members practice speaking in public. The more you use your communication skills, the more comfortable you’ll be presenting.
  4. Volunteer. Nonprofit organizations need your expertise. When you give back to your community, you’ll not only be assisting worthwhile causes but also gaining business knowledge, sharpening your skills and growing your network.
  5. Offer to lead. The next time your supervisor asks for someone to head up a project, raise your hand. Besides enhancing your leadership skills, you’ll gain visibility within the organization, which could help lead to a promotion down the road.

Tim Hird is the executive director of Robert Half Management Resources.