receives compensation from some of the companies listed on this page. Advertising Disclosure
World's Best Boss

Do you have the world's best boss?Enter them to win two tickets to Sandals!

BDC Hamburger Icon


BDC Logo
Search Icon
Updated Mar 06, 2024

How Offering Professional Development Opportunities to Employees Helps Your Small Business

author image
Matt D'Angelo, Contributing Writer

Table of Contents

Open row

In today’s competitive job market, businesses must strategically develop their workforce by offering attractive benefits that extend beyond the traditional offerings. By doing so, employers improve recruitment efforts, boost employee retention and increase morale. 

No benefit does a better job of checking these boxes than employee professional development. Examples of development opportunities include online learning platforms, paid junkets to seminars, workshops and employer-sponsored schooling. 

When businesses invest in employee training, employees can grow their expertise, pursue professional goals, and integrate new knowledge and skills into their day-to-day work responsibilities. We’ll explore how professional development benefits employers and employees and how you can incorporate these programs into your small business.

Editor’s note: Looking for the right PEO to help you offer professional development and other employee programs? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs. 

What is professional development in the workplace?

Employees are constantly growing once they begin their designated role at your business. It’s a company’s responsibility to help facilitate that growth and ensure its workers are afforded the opportunities to advance professionally. 

This isn’t just about providing avenues for promotion or traditional advancement. It means giving your workers the tools they need to learn and grow. By prioritizing the long game with your workers, you can foster a dynamic work environment where employees aren’t content with remaining stagnant.

Professional development should introduce employees to new skills while allowing them to hone existing ones. The program should be oriented around your company’s overall mission to create an environment where all workers move toward a common end goal. 

Keep in mind that if you don’t coordinate your development strategy around shared goals that align with your business’s overall mission, your employees may feel forced to sit through boring “advancement” seminars. 

Bottom LineBottom line

The key to building a professional development program within your organization is to tailor it to each employee and align it with your company’s overall mission.

What are the benefits of professional development for employees?

Professional development opportunities include online learning, workplace-hosted events, off-site seminars, and workshops and memberships to professional organizations. Professional development can also include employer support for schooling costs.

Access to new skill sets

Employees can leverage professional development tools to build their skill sets, which can increase employee satisfaction while bringing more value to their role.

Many employers offer access to online learning platforms, such as LinkedIn Learning or Degreed. These platforms allow employees to guide their learning with preset pathways while allowing managers to create pathways to help employees grow in their roles. They typically include reward or gamification opportunities to incentivize learning.

According to the recent Employee Benefits Survey from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), approximately 80 percent of the employers surveyed offer formal training or educational resources for updating current skills and learning new ones. Many also cover the costs of professional organization memberships, licensure and certification or recertification.

Cost savings through tuition reimbursement

Another common professional development benefit is tuition reimbursement. In the same SHRM 2023 Employee Benefits Survey, 48 percent of employers said they offer tuition assistance to their employees. Employers can obtain a tax write-off for up to $5,250 of educational assistance benefits per employee every year. Employees save on educational costs and may consider the savings a major perk of working for a company.

You can entice the right talent by advertising the tuition reimbursement plan to prospective job candidates. Not all candidates may take advantage of the tuition reimbursement, but they will appreciate that it’s available to them.

Expanded professional network

Conferences, workshops and other educational events allow employees to meet a variety of industry experts and thus broaden their professional network. These opportunities can yield great results for both employees and employers by opening doors to mentorship and providing the support employees need to feel confident in their roles and grow.

The rise of digital platforms has significantly expanded access to these learning opportunities by allowing people to connect from anywhere.

TipBottom line

As part of a successful hiring process, craft a clear and specific job description, identify promising internal candidates and contact references early in the process.

How does professional development help small businesses?

There are four significant ways professional development opportunities benefit employers. 

1. Educational programs are a recruitment perk.

Aaron Filous, strategy lead at Enova International, said that in an environment where employees move from job to job quickly, professional development opportunities can attract new talent.

“Whether an employee stays for decades or not, offering continuing education is still worth it,” Filous said. “It is a nice perk for recruiting that shows the company cares about the employee’s growth, and even if the employee is only there for a couple of years, it’s better to have more highly skilled employees for the same price.”

In addition to attracting new talent, professional development programs increase the skill sets of current staff, which can increase both performance and engagement. This means those employees are more productive and less likely to quit their positions, which saves employers an average turnover cost of six to nine months of an employee’s salary, according to Gitnux.

“Hiring is expensive and time-consuming,” Filous said. “It is often easier and cheaper to retain your own talent or hire from within. Training or upskilling employees opens an additional talent pool for the employer that they already had.”

Did You Know?Did you know

The four primary recruiting models are traditional recruiting, outsourced recruiting, light internal recruiting and heavy internal recruiting.

2. Development programs boost employee retention.

Professional development gives your current workers an extra reason to stay on the job; it’s a way to empower your staff. Every professional development opportunity you provide allows employees to enhance their resumes and gain the skills to advance into another position within your business. Instead of hiring externally, you can promote someone who’s already familiar with the company.

One of the most significant reasons professional development encourages employees to stay with the company is that it makes them feel valued. Your employees will be pleased that you’re investing in their future. Instead of looking elsewhere for advancement, they may remain loyal to your business. Employee morale improves when they can expand their skill sets and add more value to their resumes.

FYIDid you know

Flextime is another morale-boosting perk because it gives employees the autonomy to create a work schedule that leads to a better work-life balance.

3. Professional development cultivates hard and soft skills.

Professional development is a clear benefit to employees who want to improve their skills and value in the marketplace. However, it is also a boon for employers, who reap the benefits of a more skilled, satisfied workforce.

Professional development helps employees stay on top of new skills, especially in the tech field. Technology evolves at a lightning-fast pace, and employer-sponsored professional development programs can train staff on the latest programs and tools. This keeps your employees and your company up to date in the market.

4. Development opportunities help prepare your future workforce. 

As your business grows, it’s important to actively prepare and train employees for long-term success. Providing educational opportunities to employees — particularly those who show leadership potential — can be a great motivator. It demonstrates your commitment to their professional growth and future with the company, which, in turn, can boost employee loyalty and productivity.

Additionally, offering development opportunities enables you to customize training to meet specific business requirements and instill preferred practices. This way, employees are well aligned with your company’s operational standards. 

TipBottom line

To identify a leader in your organization, observe their character and work ethic, test them in a small leadership role and get recommendations from co-workers.

3 types of professional development programs employees want

It’s essential to understand the types of programs and opportunities your workers want to utilize. By communicating directly with employees, you can build a program that works for everyone. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Online training sessions and webinars

Online training is one of the most common professional development opportunities. These sessions come with many advantages, including the ability to track employee progress directly. Online training sessions are often low-cost and flexible; workers can attend online sessions as their schedules permit. 

The downside to online training and webinar learning is that it’s hard to connect directly with employees. Sometimes, it’s more effective to work with employees in person.

Manager coaching and mentorship

Manager mentorship is arguably the most effective professional development method because it allows teams to grow closer while employees advance their skills and careers. 

Whereas online training sessions are more of a one-size-fits-all approach, manager mentorship provides specific, targeted development to individual employees. This means employees feel heard and are given career direction. 

By prioritizing manager coaching, you ensure your workers’ professional development opportunities are being met. The biggest challenge with this type of development, however, is making sure you have excellent managers in place to provide the coaching.

TipBottom line

To improve relationships between managers and employees, promote a culture of workplace cooperation, bring teams together through incentives and rewards, and listen closely to feedback.

Stretch assignments

It’s easy for workers to lose focus when they grow stagnant and perform the same duties every day. When given a chance to “stretch” their abilities, employees can learn and grow while showing management they have the initiative and ability to contribute more meaningfully to the organization. 

The downside of stretch assignments is that they are energy-intensive for both the employee and the manager. To set up the employee for success, you must ensure that the stretch assignment aligns with the employee’s skill set and that you give them enough time to plan and complete the project. It’s also helpful to give the employee access to resources and team support.

Sean Peek and Adam Uzialko contributed to this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

author image
Matt D'Angelo, Contributing Writer
I've worked for newspapers, magazines and various online platforms as both a writer and copy editor. Currently, I am a freelance writer living in NYC. I cover various small business topics, including technology, financing and marketing on and Business News Daily.
BDC Logo

Get Weekly 5-Minute Business Advice

B. newsletter is your digest of bite-sized news, thought & brand leadership, and entertainment. All in one email.

Back to top