October 24th 2023
By: Stéphanie Crites | Frédérique Henry

Professional Development in SMEs: How to Suceed at Low Cost?

Quebec’s small and medium-sized businesses face a number of challenges. Top of the list: the talent shortage. What if we took a moment to look at the problem from another angle? Because talent is everywhere, and especially in our own companies. But is it being inventoried, mapped and nurtured? That’s the question!

In a recent survey, Gallup revealed that — unsurprisingly! — skills development and knowledge acquisition are powerful levers for retaining new generations of employees. In addition, we know that the investment required to develop employee skills is considerably lower than the cost of hiring a new employee altogether.

Professional development can take many forms, depending on a company’s context, objectives and budget. There are some very simple and inexpensive ways to develop talent without pulling out the big guns, namely:

  1. Mentoring: Implement an in-house mentoring program to foster knowledge sharing and experience between more and less experienced employees. The bonds between colleagues will only grow stronger!
  2. Online training: Take advantage of the free or very affordable offerings of various platforms. LinkedIn Learning, EPSI/Thinkific, Coursera, Udemy, etc. A simple, flexible and affordable way to develop your talents.
  3. Focus groups: How about fostering collective intelligence? The discussion group is a means of fostering a collaborative learning environment, enabling everyone to exchange views on relevant topics while learning from each other.
  4. Networking: Attending events and conferences, even on a limited budget, allows employees to cultivate their professional curiosity and fuel their interest in their field. Encourage them to participate!
  5. Rotation of responsibilities: By enabling responsibilities to be shared between team members, you promote new knowledge and skills, and in the process facilitate talent mobility and a stronger team!

The Manager’s Key Role

The manager can also adopt behaviours that enable employee professional development at minimal cost.

First off, they can provide a working environment where open dialogue is fostered to encourage employees to share not only their aspirations but also their experiences. For example, managers can encourage employees to learn from their mistakes.

The leader, as a partner, can draw up a personalized development plan for each member of his or her team, targeting their objectives, the skills to be acquired and strategies. It will then be important to regularly monitor employees’ progress in relation to their development objectives.

Communicating an inspiring vision of the organization’s future can enable the manager to motivate employees to develop themselves in order to contribute to the realization of this vision. The leader can make a habit of encouraging critical thinking and creativity, as well as challenging employees to question the status quo.

The effective manager can also act as a mentor, fostering collaboration between employees and enabling knowledge transfer. He or she can also allow employees to take on new responsibilities and invite them to work on new files to encourage experiential learning. It is also interesting and beneficial for the manager to provide constructive feedback on employees’ work to help them improve.

Define Priority Needs

Cost-effective employee professional development is therefore possible. However, before taking action, it may be worthwhile to assess the skills that exist within the team, in order to focus resources on priority needs. You can also draw up a long-term skills development plan in line with the company’s objectives, in order to invest wisely in available resources.

Global Approach to Learning

One thing is certain: to minimize the costs associated with employee professional development, you need to be open and creative. Employee development requires more than traditional training. We must avoid viewing learning solely as an event to be planned. Professional development experiences are happening all around us, both internally and externally, and they can be informal or formal. The key is to take a holistic approach to professional development for all employees.

So what are you waiting for to take action?

Stéphanie Crites
Stéphanie Crites, C.O

Leader in Professional Development, Coach and Guidance Counselor at EPSI

Frédérique Henry

Chief Operating Officer (COO) at EPSI