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6 Professional Development Topics You Can’t Afford to Neglect

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Up until 2020, the level of executive support and allocated budget for professional learning and development had been on the rise. But then COVID-19 hit, and nearly half of the respondents in a Deloitte study experienced cuts in their professional development and learning budgets. In fact, three out of every four organizations surveyed had their budgets in this area cut by more than 20%.

While this may have been necessary at the time, two years have passed, and we are no longer in survival mode. Rather, we have moved onto the phase in which we must adapt to the new normal. 

To do this, leaders and individual contributors at all levels will require professional development to fill the skills gaps that have appeared over the last couple of years and meet the demands of the new hybrid workplace.

In the case that you are ready to do exactly that, we recommend that you focus on the following six professional development topics.

  1. Leadership
  2. Communication
  3. Self-management
  4. Business and financial acumen
  5. Diversity and inclusion
  6. Teamwork and collaboration

6 Professional Development Topics

 

Leadership

In a recent survey of 14,000 US employees, Gallup found that 39% were working exclusively remote, 42% had a hybrid arrangement, and 19% were working fully in-person. In addition to the challenges and demands that this has put on leaders, they are also contending with a workforce whose relationship with and expectations of work have significantly changed from what they once were.

Not to mention, the challenges leaders at all levels always have and always will contend with still exist, such as performance management and conflict resolution.

All of this is to say that leaders need the support, training, and tools to adopt their leadership style and practice to this new environment. Specific topics to consider including in professional development for leaders include:

 

Communication

Over a quarter of people in a Project.co study said that the way businesses communicate (both internally and with customers) has deteriorated since 2020. This is concerning given the known consequences of poor communication in the workplace, such as increased stressed, reduced morale, lower productivity, and missed goals/objectives. It also highlights why communication is essential to any professional development plan, regardless of one’s role, tenure, or industry.

  • Public speaking
  • Written communication
  • Presentations
  • Storytelling
  • Listening
  • Persuasion and influence
  • Emotional intelligence and empathy

 

Self-Management

Self-management refers to one’s ability to motivate, discipline, and encourage themselves. It means being able to do your work - and do it well - with minimal supervision or reliance on your direct leader. As you might imagine, this is arguably more important now, given many employees' greater level of autonomy due to the permanent shift to remote and hybrid work.

The self-management skills and topics to focus on going forward include:

 

Business and Financial Acumen

Today’s workplace is more interconnected than ever, which means every action or decision could potentially impact another team or department. Fortunately, improving your business and financial acumen as part of your professional development efforts can help you do so successfully, as well as get ahead in your career. Areas to focus on include financial acumen, strategy, data analytics, and project management, just to name a few.

 

Diversity and Inclusion

In 2022, it’s imperative that your professional development plans include diversity and inclusion training. Everyone needs the knowledge, awareness, and tools to appreciate individual differences, acknowledge their own conscious and unconscious biases and build an inclusive environment that makes everyone feel included, heard, and valued. In fact, when this happens, it has been found that decision-making, productivity, innovation, and problem-solving all improve.

 

Teamwork and Collaboration

According to a survey by Microsoft, employees today are on twice the amount of teams they were five years ago and spend roughly 50% more of their time on collaborative work. In light of this, one’s teamwork and collaboration skills can truly make or break one’s experience and success at work. In fact, those with strong teamwork and collaboration skills have been found to be happier, more productive, stronger problem solvers, more innovative, less burnt out, more creative, and less likely to make mistakes.

Personal Development Plan Template