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The Gift of Professional Growth and Inspiration

Make it your New Year's workplace resolution

By Kathleen Quinn Votaw

Here’s a quote worth thinking about: “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young”--Henry Ford. Since this is the time of year that’s synonymous with sharing and giving, with traditions and legacy, why not spread the gift of professional growth and inspiration around the office? There are many reasons why this would be a worthy resolution.

First of all, professional development usually happens when the boss sees a lack of skills, knowledge or character in someone, or when there’s a crisis and someone needs to learn something ASAP. What if we reversed that way of workplace thinking and continuously encouraged people to learn—and put some money behind their professional growth? Or, in the words of career development professional Michele Martin, “What if professional development came from inspiration, not desperation?”

Expectations for life have changed

Not many of us would like to go back a few decades to, say, whatever our parents’ time was, when life was much slower and more predictable in every way. That wasn’t so long ago, after all. Life, and expectations for life, have changed dramatically over a relatively few short years:

  •  We no longer work for the same company for a lifetime. Most of us change employers and even careers an average of 10 to 12 times—often through acquisitions, economics or some other reason we might not choose.
  •  Advancement is more likely to come across industries and companies than within a single company, driving people to move on in order to move up.
  •  We are as likely to be told that our specialty limits us as that our skills are too general. The expectation is that we need to be both specialists and generalists.
  •  Diversity and change are all around us. We need to be comfortable interacting with people of all ages and skills, to understand data and digital, and use our imaginations and creativity as well.
  •  We’re global, meaning that we are as likely to communicate with the person across the room as across the world.

A gift with many happy returns

My question is, in today’s exciting, dynamic workplace, how do we create a sense of security and wellbeing for our employees? How do we give everyone a shot of youthful inspiration? I propose that it is by giving the gift of professional development. This is a gift that lasts a lifetime, providing opportunity and the personal satisfaction of lifelong learning

Professional growth enables personal growth, and vice versa. Both build confidence and self-esteem; make us more adaptable and less risk averse; and challenge our beliefs and ideas. Professional growth makes us more current and flexible, hones our skills, makes us worldlier, and increases our earnings potential and competitiveness when we need to change jobs.

A New Year’s resolution to make professional growth and inspiration a priority in your culture is a legacy to be proud of. And you may just want to keep these gifted people in your employ for years to come. If, for whatever reason, you must lose some of them, both you and they will know that they are highly employable elsewhere. Either way, you’ll get many happy returns.

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