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by Kevin Helm, KCSAE President-Elect

I’d like to suggest we take a look at professional development as more than something that benefits the individual, more than something that benefits the organization, and instead looking at it as something that benefits our members.  For this month’s article, I’d like us to consider looking at professional development in broadening tiers, something akin to Maslow’s hierarchy.  At it’s base level, professional development focuses on individual benefits.  At a higher level, professional development might focus on team and organizational benefits.  And at its highest level, the focus would be how it becomes something that benefits our members.  By looking at professional development in this light, there is a comparison to Maslow’s hierarchy -- beginning with basic needs moving towards a higher purpose.

For another tiered model perspective, let’s view this from an employee engagement viewpoint.  Gallup outlined an employee engagement hierarchy, which somewhat mimics Maslow’s.  They looked at the benefits of moving employee engagement from basic and individual needs to teamwork to a growth mindset. In conducting a meta-analysis of 49,928 business units across 192 organizations representing 49 different industries in 34 countries, Gallup scientists discovered that as employees move beyond the basics of employee engagement and view their contribution to the organization more broadly, they are more likely to stay, take proactive steps to create a safe environment, have higher productivity, and connect with customers to the benefit of the organization.

After thinking about these two hierarchy models, and the benefits gained from thinking this way, it appeared there may be a benefit in viewing professional development in a similar framework.

Once we complete our formal education, much of our development comes from on-the-job training and self-directed professional development.  For many of us, we want our careers to continue to advance and so we leverage professional development and training as a means to increase our skill sets primarily for individual improvement.  Professional development, at the base level, largely serves as a means to achieve personal goals such as:

  • Increasing our confidence and credibility
  • Improving our ability to do our jobs more effectively and with more efficiency
  • Developing an improved ability to influence and lead
  • Stay up to date regarding current industry and management trends
  • Move us forward toward our career goals
  • Generally become a better employee

At a higher level, professional development takes on a broader impact.  The focus moves to   improving teams and benefiting the organization. It changes from individual focus to team focus and helps organizational and team goals such as:

  • Increasing the collective knowledge of our team to help them become more effective
  • Improve job satisfaction within our team
  • More professional development opportunities often improve employee retention
  • By training up the workforce, succession planning becomes easier

At the highest level, professional development is a way to develop skills and knowledge that ultimately benefit our members.  We’ve advanced from individual focus, to organizational focus, and now to member focus.  This training includes goals such as:

  • Adding value to membership
  • Building skills and knowledge that create programs and services customized to benefit members
  • Improving relational and networking skills that aid in developing member satisfaction and, as a byproduct, improves retention
  • Understanding an applying expertise that develops future member leaders

If we view professional development through the lens of this model, the way we select future training looks quite different than if we were to only consider it as something that is individually focused.  Well-crafted and delivered professional development is important because it delivers benefits to the individual, their profession, their organization, and their members. While we’d never dismiss any part of Maslow’s pyramid as we aspire towards self-actualization, we wouldn’t ignore the benefits of basic skill building as we aspire to find professional development that has a broader application.  I hope this quick discussion will help association executives appreciate there can be a more impactful and fulfilling role for professional development in our future.

Maslow Hierarchy           Gallup Employee Engagement Hierarchy          Professional Development Hierarchy

Self-Actualization                              Growth                                                                           Benefit members

Esteem                                                Teamwork                                                                      Team and organizational improvement

Love/Belonging                                 Individual                                                                      Increase influence and responsibility

Safety                                                  Basic Needs                                                                    Make me a better employee

Physiological                                                                                                                               Get and keep a job

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