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Employers Should Take Responsibility for Employee Development

It can be difficult for employers to swallow the costs associated with employee professional development, but ultimately the company benefits when its employees have the capacity to embrace change and innovate.

The question as to who should be responsible for an employee’s professional development is an easy one to answer; it is the Employer. However, the challenges of today’s business climate make the reality of answering the increasingly more complex and difficult for most companies.

Long-term individual development is still the responsibility of the potential employee. But once the individual has been hired, professional development becomes the responsibility of the organization. Although the employee was hired with a certain set of knowledge, skills and abilities, if the roles and responsibilities of the position change—and they will—the employer has a “corporate social responsibility” to invest in their human capital. Employees are investing in their companies by working longer hours, by handling evolving tasks and assuming increased responsibilities. Is it fair to expect the employee to also assume the cost of their professional development?

Organizations that understand the true value of professional development, culture, innovation and creativity also recognize the value of continuously educating their employee base. These organizations are the ones that will be better positioned to adapt to the rapidly changing demands of today’s work environment. Incorporating professional development within the overall corporate strategy, with so many competing interests and tight budgets, is the challenge.

Many organizations have survived by understanding that the investment in talent development is part of their outlay into human capital as it pertains to skill development for job advancement. Less forward thinking organizations believe the investment is part of overall rewards, recognition and retention programs. Some even require a time commitment from employees for the company’s investment in their learning. Professional development may well be a way to reward or recognize good employees, but this is a risky and myopic view.

Most leaders would agree there is a requirement and benefit to developing their employees. Yet this benefit may be hard to quantify; when a company is looking to cut costs, professional development could all too easily become the casualty. Given the economic environment of the past half-decade in particular, we have seen a dramatic decline in organizational employee development investiture. However, if we hope to promote a culture of innovation and creativity, organizations need to look differently at their investment in employee development.

Rypple, an innovative software company, has integrated professional development into its business model. It promotes this philosophy on its website stating: “…. we’re always experimenting and constantly learning. We have a healthy disregard for the “impossible” & “the way things are done”. We practice what we preach”.

We must also consider the cost of NOT developing our people. Do companies that have a record of promoting development get better quality hires? Long-time business leader General Electric boasts the following about its Leadership and Learning Programs: “At GE, learning is more than a classroom activity. It’s how we come together to embrace change, develop skills to change things for the better, and get energized about it all.”

The answer is an easy one. The responsibility to develop employees lies with the employer. How your organization actually solves the question, however, is the real challenge.


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