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Professional Development: Who Can Afford NOT To Train?

Written by Professional Development Columnist. Posted in Columnists, Facility Management, Magazine, Professional Development, Professional Development, Technology, Topics

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Published on March 26, 2005 with No Comments

By Steven W. Ford
Published in the March 2005 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

Professional development is a term often discussed in the workplace. It sounds impressive, but does anyone actually have the time to pursue the additional educational options associated with professional development? Do companies have a real commitment to it and understand the return on investment it can bring?

Facility managers are part of an ever changing landscape affected by government legislation, industry codes, natural disasters, security considerations, new technology, and other factors. Because of this, working in facility management means being part of the global economy. Simply adhering to the status quo is no longer enough to get ahead of the constant change.

Professional development is one of the best ways for facility managers to stay current with the latest industry trends, innovative practices, and solutions to on-the-job challenges. Seeking out educational courses and networking opportunities provides the opportunity to learn from experts in their respective disciplines.

Professional Development As A Revenue Generator

When lean times force a company to tighten its budget, professional development programs are usually among the first items to be cut. The reason is simple: such programs cost money, and their benefits are not immediately apparent. But forward thinking managers will often see otherwise.

There is growing evidence that shortchanging professional development and employee training is a mistake. A study by the American Society for Training and Development found that firms in the top quarter of the study group-as measured by average per employee expenditures on training-enjoyed higher profit margins (by 24%) and higher income per employee (by 218%) on average than firms in the bottom quarter. When a company places little or no importance on professional development and training, it is not surprising when that company is frequently challenged by high turnover, workplace inefficiency, and, ultimately, lackluster productivity.

Appealing To High Quality Personnel

Commitment to professional development and training can also be a valuable tool in recruitment. Employees, both current and prospective, are increasingly seeing such programs as important benefits. In some cases, a company with a top flight program may have a competitive edge for the most desirable talent over a similar company with a lesser program.

An attractive professional development program also goes beyond simply allocating money in the budget for it. Organizations that truly foster professional development do so by creating a culture that encourages and supports learning, mentoring, and overall information sharing. After all, nobody earns a college degree or an MBA and automatically knows how to manage a facility or portfolio, handle financial assets, or run a real estate company. They learn to perform those functions on the job. A company that invests in employee training makes it clear at the outset that it values employees and wants them to grow as professionals.

New Technology To The Rescue

To a supervisor who is skeptical about professional development, the idea of it probably conjures up images of sending employees on a week long retreat to a tropical resort destination. Thanks to new technologies, however, professional development is much easier and more cost effective than ever before.

E-Seminars make it possible to learn anywhere and anytime as long as an Internet connection is available. Audio seminars/WebEx-type courses eliminate the need for travel and allow for the training of multiple employees at one price.

Traditional classroom-based courses are still very popular and are regarded by most as the preferred method for learning. Even there, technology has changed the way teachers teach and students learn-probably for the better.

Of course, there is still no substitute for personal interaction among colleagues. One of the benefits of networking is the creation of a matrix of skilled professionals who can be called upon to consult on best practices and problem resolution. Such face-to-face discussions of common issues in the workplace by seasoned professionals are the kind of experiences that are difficult to replicate in any other forum.

In the current dialogue of business and industry, it has often been said that we are increasingly becoming a knowledge culture-and to adapt and thrive in that kind of business environment, we all need to be knowledge workers. In other words, we need to be professional students of sorts-always learning, adapting knowledge bases, analyzing information and resources, and building networks.

This approach to professional development is much like those “study groups” that got people through that seemingly impossible chemistry class in high school. Making a commitment to professional development is an excellent way to be a leader in the new knowledge culture, for both the individual and the employer.

Ford is chairman and chief elected officer of BOMA International and is senior managing director of Cushman & Wakefield’s facilities management group in East Rutherford, NJ.

About Professional Development Columnist

Authored by a different industry member each month, this column provides insight into how facility managers can keep on top of what they need to know in order to sustain their careers. For more articles from TFM's Professional Development Columnists, visit this link.

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