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Leadership: How to Actively Encourage Employees’ Professional Development

behind interior design business of interior design business tips for interior designers leadership leading interior designers Aug 06, 2021
8 Steps to Create a Professional development plan for interior design employees

8 Steps to Create Professional Development Plans for your Interior Design Employees

I am sure you have heard the old saying, “If you are not learning, you are not growing.” There is a lot of truth in that statement. Complacency is the worse trait to have, especially in a creative field like interior design. Professional development is crucial to expanding our design skills, yet many managers do not take an active leadership role in their employees’ development. Which brings up the question, how do you actively encourage employees’ professional development?

So often, our calendars fill up, and we forget to take to time to expand our professional knowledge. If you feel that way, how do your employees feel? Although interior designers are required to take continuing education courses, it can be hard to either find the time or find valuable options.

When I first entered the industry, I was really confused by continuing education courses. I worked in architecture firms, and there wasn’t really anyone to ask, nor was there anyone to help guide me. It was frustrating because I wanted to learn. I was so eager to gather knowledge, but I didn’t know where to turn. It got me wondering how many emerging professionals feel the same way and why leaders do not actively guide employees.

You may be thinking that your plate is too full, and your employees need to take responsibility for their own training. Well, the truth is, you may be hurting your business by taking that approach. The purpose of professional development is to advance those working in the industry. As your employee’s knowledge advances, that has a direct correlation to their work at your firm. Let’s look at the top 10 reasons professional development helps employees and their employers.

10 Reasons for Professional Development Helps Employees and their Employer

  1. Improves job performance and efficiency.
  2. Increases interest in projects and career.
  3. Opens new opportunities through networking.
  4. Inspires new design ideas.
  5. Polishes professionalism.
  6. Improves quality of life.
  7. Offers access to industry experts.
  8. Boosts knowledge of products and trends.
  9. Raises self-confidence.
  10. Advances knowledge of outside factors like environment, sustainability, and economy.

By looking at this list, you can see that every one of these can impact your firm. The more engaged your employees are with their work, the better their performance. The happy someone is with their career, the happier they will be with your clients. Hopefully, you are making the connections.

What is a Leader’s Role in Professional Development?

As a leader, you should be taking an interest in each employee’s career advancement. A good manager takes an active role in growing the employee. You have the opportunity to see much more of the big picture. You see where the person lacks skills or areas of improvement that the employee may not even recognize in themselves. You can see where their strengths can be developed to help the firm in the future.

Unfortunately, most employees, especially emerging professionals, do not have the self-awareness or knowledge to see their weaknesses or even their hidden strengths. Your wisdom can help them recognize growth opportunities. When we take an active role in our employees’ futures, we increase employee engagement. Most employees want your help. They want to know that they are essential to you and the business.

Check out: "The Biggest Secret to Employee Engagement is Feedback"

8 Steps to Help Build a Professional Development Plan for Employees

If you are a new manager, you may not know where to start. That is perfectly normal. Follow these eight steps, and you will be on the path to building a stronger team.

Step 1: Get to know your employee -

This is a crucial first step. You do not want to assume you know where or how the person wants to grow their career. As a leader, taking an interest and listening to employees helps you gather information and create goodwill. Every employee wants to feel important to the organization. By taking an interest, you are creating that connection.

Step 2: Evaluate the employee’s current skill level, strengths, and weaknesses -

Identify areas for improvement or even opportunities where you believe the person could excel. These areas may not have been known to the employee, but you see something special in that person. For instance, if your employee is always patiently helping other employees with software struggles, then you may see an opportunity for that employee to become a software training support for the team.

Step 3: Compare your employee’s skills against the company goals and opportunities -

Where do you need help, and where can you see this person fitting in the long term? This is an excellent strategic exercise as you grow the firm. Managers often hire or promote people because the workload has increased but don’t necessarily take a strategic view of where help is needed for future growth. It is essential to look at hiring as a growth opportunity for both the firm and the employee. By being strategic with developing employees, you are essentially building a more stable and resilient firm.

Step 4: Identify high-quality courses, seminars, and training opportunities -

Be proactive with suggesting good resources and courses that you believe adds value to the employee’s professional development. We have all attended CEUs or seminars that were less than stellar; therefore, giving suggestions will help employees not waste their time. Also, engage the employee to seek out opportunities as well. You both can work toward finding the best options.

Step 5: Make a professional development plan with the employee’s input -

This should be done at the beginning of a new year or after reviews. However, it can happen anytime. Working one-on-one with the employee to determine goals and a course of action will help solidify the commitment.

Step 6: Develop and clearly define the process for professional development -

Your process should include budget per person, manager approval process, expectations, tracking, and dedicated hours on professional development. Defining the process from beginning to end removes confusion on expectations of both employer and employee.

Step 7: Follow up with the employee after training is completed -

Managers should have open communications with their employees throughout the year. Once a quarter, sitting down, formally or informally, is good practice for developing relationships, engaging employees, and identifying problems or challenges. In these discussions, professional development should be discussed. Also, take an active role in understanding what they learned by asking an employee about the training and how it might impact their work or career. You may find that the employee gathered information that could help others in your organization or new ideas to help the business you hadn’t thought of previously.

Step 8: Build an environment that encourages new ideas, knowledge sharing, and independent thinking -

Your team is your future. By encouraging them to take calculated risks and giving them the latitude to excel will power your business. I am not a fan of creating unhealthy competition between employees; rather, your environment should be team-oriented.

Investing in your employees is an investment in your firm.

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