In every serious professional discipline, knowledge is not static – it grows and changes regularly. In law or teaching, for example, it is recognised across professional organisations and the industry that it is vital that individuals keep their skills up to date.
For those of us that work in technology, staying up to date with new developments is arguably even more important. The landscape of products, services and tools changes so quickly so it’s important that you stay up to date with these changes to remain effective in your role.
For companies – whether technology is their core business activity or not – IT specialists are crucial to their day-to-day operation. As a result, investing in the professional development of those staff is vital to ensure that they remain effective and the business is able to operate.
Having the right development opportunities available to IT teams can have a transformative impact on an organisation, allowing it to expand its capabilities and grow organically. The most effective way to foster that culture of best practice is to encourage staff to keep abreast of new developments and to share their expertise across the company. Ignoring this investment puts a business at risk of losing its edge in the market place and lagging behind its competitors.
Within the IT and technology industries it is recognised that industry qualifications are important and companies already support their staff to gain the necessary credentials. This is a positive first step but now organizations need to take this further and adopt a consistent approach towards professional development by supporting their employees in maintaining their skills and knowledge throughout their careers.
In adopting this consistent approach, formal programmes for IT teams can help to identify and address skills gaps, they can feed into internal staff development and growth programmes – and provide the foundations from which to grow individuals, teams and entire business functions.
Professional development can start with sending a team on a training course; it’s about developing and evolving professional knowledge and skills using a range of activities including coaching, mentoring, networking, community participation, self-study and practical experience. It means that employees can rise to meet new challenges and emerging business needs – and can be far more cost effective than hiring outside the business for specific skills sets.
There is a huge appetite for a more formal approach to career and skills development. This ties into the other key benefit of ensuring your IT specialists have access to a formal professional development programme – staff retention and loyalty.
Employees with structured development programmes that meet their needs, as well as those of the business, have been shown to be more dedicated and less likely to look for new roles. This is particularly important for small-to-medium sized technology businesses, where key team members often hold business-critical technical knowledge and skills.
We know that for most, having a formal professional development programme in place isn’t just about developing their knowledge – because for many, that is already a key part of their professional psyche. It’s about having access to a mechanism that allows them to plan, record, evaluate and, most importantly, demonstrate that learning to others.
That same toolset has key benefits for employers – enabling companies to carefully track the development of their team and ensure that they are growing in the right direction. A good formal structure can provide a benchmark to evaluate against, meaning that organisations can better management recruitment and development of key talent.
Embedding ‘best practice’ professional development into a company culture can be a huge challenge – employees at all levels will have differing expectations and needs. However, the benefits for both employers and employees can be enormous, transforming professional careers and entire businesses through improving delivery and resilience.
Sourced from Peter Hepworth, CEO, AXELOS