Assigning “development dollars” has become a popular practice in recent years as more organizations donate part of the budget to pay for employees to attend conferences, buy books, take online courses, and more. This is a great practice that helps develop employees and shows the organization cares about their future.
But you’re not maximizing the value of those dollars if the learning is constrained to the single employee. By reshaping these personal development funds into a team-learning opportunity, you stretch the value of your dollar much further.
As employees construct their learning and development plan, they need to understand:
Not all companies offer development funds, so this opportunity should be viewed as a bonus and should not be taken lightly or viewed as a vacation.
For example, let’s take a look at one of the most popular development opportunities: the annual industry or trade show conference. Organizations can typically only send a select few individuals to these events, but there are ways for those employees to share what they learned once they return.
Allow the employees to take some time to recover and organize their thoughts. After three or four weeks, have them share their findings and what stood out to them over lunch. Encourage all team members to attend if possible.
Few situations create better networking opportunities than conferences, where employees interact with industry leaders and fellow professionals in the crowd. As they gather contact information and business cards, have employees think about what team member should get in touch with each individual they meet.
Maybe a new acquaintance has a special skill that a coworker has been trying to acquire, and the two should get on a call together. Consider creating a database or shared document with a list of contacts that everyone on the team can reference.
Just because the entire team can’t attend the conference doesn’t mean they can’t all learn from it. Have attending employees type up notes that all team members can look through. This allows the attendees to add their perspectives and holds them accountable because they’re expected to come back with valuable information.
Conferences typically post sessions and schedules ahead of time. As the attendees build their agendas, encourage other team members to suggest sessions. For instance, if there’s a social media topic that greatly interests a member of the marketing team, the attending employee can go to the session, take notes, and deliver valuable information to the employee who didn’t go.
Give the attendees goals to keep top of mind and get the most out of the conference. This is not a vacation or a few days off. You are investing a lot of money in this trip, and you want to see results upon their return.
This is but one example of how an employee learning and development plan can benefit the entire team, not just the individual. The same practices can be applied to books purchased, speaking engagements attended, and more. For more information about how to coach employees and accelerate development, check out our free resource, 3 Keys to Effective Employee Coaching.