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11 Low-Cost Ways to Encourage Employee Development

Professional development is a cornerstone of employee happiness and retention. We outline low-cost (and even free) ways to make that happen.

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Kris Hoppe
Sep 09, 20164 minutes
How to encourage professional development on your team.

Employee development doesn’t always involve learning advanced spreadsheet skills. What’s most important is igniting the creative spark.

By leveraging employee curiosity into an asset for your company, you’ll find that professional development in a skill-sharing framework will allow the company to flourish. It’s also a long-lasting retention strategy.

As Ken Robinson, a leader in the development of creativity in business has put it, “You can’t just give someone a creativity injection. You have to create an environment for curiosity and a way to encourage people and get the best out of them.”

11 Professional Development Ideas to Boost Staff Retention

These ideas will help you get the best out of your employees.

We’ve built a comprehensive guide with even more ways to increase employee retention on a budget. You can download it here.

Teach an In-House Writing Workshop

Proficient writing skills are crucial for excelling in most roles. See if a team content guru is willing to offer a writing workshop for interested employees.

Even if you don’t decide to focus solely on email composition or brand messaging, the workshop could have a positive trickle-down effect on the rest of your company’s communications.

Sponsor Language Classes

Schools like FluentCity help employees to expand their horizons (and maybe even use those language skills for business prospects). According to a study by the University of Illinois, young adults proficient in two different languages have better concentration and attention span than those who only speak one language — which translates into big productivity wins for your company.

Host a Design Date Night

Every month, Justworks’ design team sponsors an outing to a special art exhibit or cultural experience that everyone can enjoy. It’s a great way to look at design from a different perspective and encourage arts and culture in the workplace.

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Get a Membership for Online Courses

Online classes from websites like Coursera or Udemy are low-cost ways to impart your employees with tons of knowledge. The classes also span a wide variety of subject matters, like Adobe Photoshop or Ruby on Rails. This is perfect for someone who wants to build on their skills without taking the time or commitment to go to a physical class.

Produce a Lunch-and-Learn Series

Everyone at your company has specialized knowledge to offer. Knowledge shared over food is always a winner, and will make your employees feel like they can make a difference. Select people to present on a rotating basis about skills they’ve picked up at the job — like how to raise company NPS or create a one-minute video with Screenflow.

Start a Club

Not only are they free, but they build great camaraderie. Justworks has a monthly book club and everyone votes on what we’re going to read next. You could choose books focused on work themes, or just what people are generally interested in. If you’re looking for other ideas, here are a few:

  • Film Club - Wine and Cheese Club - Art Club - Creative Writing Club

Cover Subscriptions to Online Publications

The New York Times, Atlantic, Forbes, and Business Insider are always winners.

Employee engagement ideas

Give a Book Buying Budget

Officevibe has shareable Kindles that employees can rent, while other companies offer a stipend for book purchases on Amazon. This is also a great way to encourage attendance at your company’s book club if you decide to have one.

Build Out a Library

A University of Sussex study found that reading even for six minutes can reduce stress levels by up to 68% — and employees who are less stressed are also less likely to churn. If you have spare books on business strategy or even creative fiction, make a nook where everyone in the company can enjoy.

Volunteer Together

Block out one to two days a year where your employees all do something constructive together, like going to a soup kitchen or cleaning up a park. Not only does it send a positive message to the community, but it will make your employees feel great about their jobs as well.

Teach Refined Skills in Small Groups

Schedule some time for a free intro course on programs like Photoshop or SQL for other employees to take advantage. It’s the perfect way to impart daily skills on a larger scale than one-on-one instruction.

This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.