Work force development Featured

7:57am EDT February 28, 2006

The customer service representatives have disagreements without resolution, the people in production are feeling that they are not part of the team and the absenteeism rate for a number of key managers is climbing. Meanwhile, the shareholders are expecting big returns.

What is the quickest way to make things right again? According to many experts the answer may be as simple as implementing a professional development program.

It is a win-win proposition for both employers and employees. Today’s high school graduates will have 15 distinctive careers during their lifetime. They — and their employers — will need to recognize that workers can never stop preparing. That’s why businesses and industry need to execute training and development strategies for lifelong learning,

The effort will pay off. Providing leadership development courses is one major way to improve recruitment, retention and morale. “We know that Generation X and Y look for opportunities to grow and develop and want to work for companies who can help them reach their goals,” says Amy Shannon, executive director of Corporate College’s Professional Development Institute.

Professional development courses can fill both employers’ and employees’ need for training and education. These courses focus on improving and enhancing the skill levels of current employees who can make or break a business — depending on their competency in key areas.

Introverts, poor communicators and workers who don’t understand how to be team players can all benefit from classes including customer service training, leadership training, teamwork training, time-management training, writing and communications, finance and payroll, management and business planning courses such as strategic planning, administrative professional skills, diversity awareness and human resources training.

Professional development has two definitions, according to Shannon. “We delineate between soft skills (i.e. teamwork and communication), and the hard skills such as continuing education for nurses, financial planners, attorneys and others who need coursework to maintain their licenses and certifications,” she says.

Many local colleges and institutes offer both levels of courses towards the goal of cross-training and up-skilling workers so they can remain competitive in the job market of the new economy as well as add value to the company.

Shannon offers the following tips for choosing a professional development vendor.

  • Look for a provider that performs a needs analysis and customizes a flexible training program. A consultant should listen to your needs and objectives, before offering solutions.

  • Stay away from canned, training-in-a-box catalog offerings. An off-the-shelf class won’t always meet specific needs.

  • Look at reputation and robustness in terms of the size and experience level of the instructors and staff.

  • Talk to other clients and ask for customer testimonials. In some cases, it is not necessary that a provider has done exactly the same work for someone else, but it is important that the prior clients are satisfied with the results.

  • Choose a company that will work as a partner with your business — someone who seeks to learn and understand your specific needs and corporate culture.

“It’s important that the professional consultants meet with every new client and conduct a needs assessment to understand the client’s organizational culture, vision and strategic direction. Only then do they identify the skills gaps and design courses to close the gaps,” says Shannon.

“The training can then help organizations by enhancing individual job performance, teamwork, and overall corporate competitiveness. Many times clients ask for a variety of delivery systems including traditional, instructor-led courses, e-learning and distance learning programs to maximize their employee’s time management. In the hierarchy of business, not everyone can play a leading role. But successful organizations know that employees at all levels need to develop the critical skills necessary to do their jobs efficiently,” adds Shannon.

Denise Reading is president of Corporate College. For further information on Corporate College and the Professional Development Institue, visit or call (866) 806-2677.