As kids everywhere head back to school, it’s a good time to look at what you’re doing to further your own education, and that of your staff. Just because you’re long past your school bus riding days, doesn’t mean that your learning days are over. Whether you call it professional development or continuing education, it’s important to invest in yourself, and your team.

Why is it important?

What if you train them and they leave? What if you don’t and they stay?

Professional development goes hand in hand with increasing employee engagement which leads to higher levels of retention. This is especially true in industries that often see higher turnover rates as well as with millennials who generally have an insatiable thirst for knowledge, as a result of growing up with Google and YouTube at their fingertips. This generation wants to grow and learn while feeling useful in the workplace in a way that feels meaningful to them.

In fact, 87% of millennials have stated that professional development is important while 70% of respondents in a nationwide survey spanning three generations, reported that the availability of training opportunities has a huge influence in their decision to stay in their current role. Employees feel more valued when employers invest in their training and development.

Furthermore, it’s expensive and time consuming to hire new employees – it can cost up to 33% of an employee’s salary to replace him or her. As technologies and necessary skills evolve, why not send your current employees for additional training in order to bridge the skill gap rather than starting from scratch?

Just as the old marketing adage says, “you’ve got to spend money to make money,” the same can be said for investing in your employees. Indeed, small businesses who invest in employee training and increasing engagement are more likely to see growth in their business with up to a 20% increase in sales.

But how?

The easiest way to encourage professional development amongst your staff is obviously to send them to conferences, trade shows, or other networking events but sometimes that’s not always financially possible. Below are a few cost-effective ways employers can still further the development of your staff.

This is the easiest way to encourage growth. Rather than placing employees in a silo where they only train for their job function, provide opportunities for them to learn new skills and gain additional experiences. Let them see how you do inventory, or how you create a budget. Ask their opinions and involve them in processes you might ordinarily just speed through on your own.

Lunch & Learns
Tap into your network and allow employees the opportunity to learn from senior company leaders, industry leaders, or community leaders. The RMA network is a robust community of professionals, invite someone you’ve met at a Connect@ or reach out on The Community for RMA experts on specific topics. Many people are happy to share their knowledge and experience.

Go Digital
You’d be surprised how many budget-friendly resources are available online. A few favorites include:

  • HubSpot Academy offers free, online training on sought-after business skills on marketing, sales, and customer service topics.
  • Skillshare is an online learning community with thousands of interactive classes in design, business, tech, and more. They also offer customized team plans for businesses that are looking for something more comprehensive.
  • Udemy’s more than 100,000 courses cover nearly every topic imaginable from topics as broad as basic excel to specific niches including Understanding Rooms Division Profit & Loss for Hotels.

Look to Your Community
Locally, there are tons of resources for professional development including:

  • CreativeMornings and Encorepreneur both feature breakfast lecture series programs that are designed to educate and inspire.
  • Parallel Management offers a Member to Member Deal for companies looking to utilize the DiSC system of personal development within their teams.