Professional Development/Continuing Education in the Workplace

Professional Development/Continuing Education in the Workplace

Many organizations use continuing professional development (also called continuing education) to help their employees grow as professionals and keep up with current occupational trends (Collin, Van der Heijden, & Lewis, 2012).  Acquiring CEUs is often a condition of employment, with the employee being required to accrue a specific number of credits within the fiscal year.  One problem with such requirements is that the options for continuing education can be limited depending on the occupation thus limiting the employee’s opportunities for growth. 

For example, I worked in two different positions for my last employer, a small private hospital: as a receptionist and as an accounts payable clerk.  Every employee was required to attend one professional development seminar each year with the caveat that it be directly related to our position.  Part of the duties for the receptionist is to help the accounts payable department, so he or she was expected to attend the same seminar as the accounts payable clerks, as it saved the hospital money in the form of a group discount.  However, the company that my former employer used for professional development only offered one seminar related to accounts payable.  The HR department determined that the only other seminar that related directly to the accounts payable position was a Microsoft Excel workshop.

In my first two years with the company (in which I worked in the receptionist position), I attended the Excel seminar and the accounts payable seminar.  Indeed, these continuing education classes did help with my professional development, and I was promoted into the accounts payable clerk position.  Because there were only two programs considered relevant to my position, I attended both the accounts payable and Excel seminars for the second time as an accounts payable clerk.  The repeat seminars covered no new information; needless to say, they did nothing to help my professional development.  

Another problem with continuing education programs is that many times, the employee gets credit for just attending the seminar (Wessels, 2007).  Therefore, the employer has no guarantee that the employee will apply this learning to their jobs.  While I attended the accounts payable seminar twice, the other two clerks had attended the same seminar four and five times.  They just sat through the seminar doing nothing (since they heard it all before) and still came away with their continuing education credit certificates.  Employers use continuing education as a way to further invest in the employee and increase the employee’s performance, thereby increasing their return investment (Collin, Van der Heijden, & Lewis, 2012).  However, if employers are not expanding employees’ knowledge by ensuring they are learning new skills and concepts that add to the company’s value, they are wasting both money, by paying for unneeded seminars, and time because the employees are not performing their job duties while at the seminars.  Employers should consider time, money, and opportunities for growth when requiring professional development for their employees and how it is related to retention and employee morale.  Although I left my former employer because I moved out of state, I was considering leaving my job because I felt there was no room for advancement within the organization.  A potential area of inquiry for I-O psychologists is to examine the professional development programs that organizations offer and determine if these plans are truly meeting the needs of the company and its employees.

References

Collin, K., Van der Heijden, B., & Lewis, P. (2012). Continuing professional development. International Journal of Training and Development, 16(3), 155-163. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2419.2012.00410.x.

Lambert, M., Vero, J., & Zimmermann, B. (2012). Vocational training and professional development: A capability perspective. International Journal of Training and Development, 16(3), 164-182. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2419.2012.00402.x.

Wessels, S. B. (2007). Accountants’ perceptions of the effectiveness of mandatory continuing professional education. Accounting Education: An International Journal, 16(4), 365-378. doi:10.1080/09639280701646539.

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Julia Horwath

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Julia I. Horwath
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