For those in the for-good sector, it can feel hard to justify carving out precious time to work on internal priorities — whether it’s marketing or professional development.

It’s not uncommon to get sucked into the mindset that every hour not spent on client or community-facing work is time wasted.

But finding time (and budget) for capacity building is vital. Rather than taking away from productivity, professional development is a means of lifting your team to new heights.

Research shows that access to professional development opportunities reduces burnout, boosts morale, builds capacity, and increases employee retention. The for-good sector can’t afford to bleed talent to higher paying corporate jobs and investing in professional development is one way to mitigate employee turnover.

In a sector where every dollar counts, here are some considerations to help you — and your team — get the most out of employee training and learning.

1. Go bespoke — not one size fits all

All-staff lunch and learns are a great way to deliver training, where you want everyone on more or less the same page, but should not be the go-to means of providing professional development opportunities.

Professional development is about creating time, space, and budget for your team members to pursue their interests, hone their skills, and grow their network.

At Emdash we recently introduced ‘Upskilling Week’ for our designers. The designers identified a long list of topics of interest for our Acting Creative Director, who then curated a week of skill building featuring virtual webinars, software demos, and step-by-step tutorial projects. Each designer had a unique itinerary crafted by their manager based on a) what they’d already expressed interest in and b) the design team’s gaps in expertise.

“Upskilling week gave me space to let my creativity flow naturally. I walked away with some valuable ideas that will make our collective creative work better and offer new solutions to clients.”

Liv Filgate, Design Strategist

This collaborative process was fruitful for both designer and design team.

2. Be flexible

How your team wants to develop professionally will vary based on what you do. Whether you need to keep up with changing technology or the latest trends in your industry, time well spent across an organization could vary vastly. Some might benefit from in-person events, whereas others — like our designers — may prefer to spend the time learning the latest design tool.

Different professional development activities require different time commitments. Networking is more effective if you’re making appearances more often, building your relationships over time, while learning a tool takes a bigger chunk of time all at once.

The Emdash team gets three hours of professional development time per month — which adds up to roughly five days each year. We pride ourselves on being flexible and empower everyone to use the time however it suits them. Whether that’s via a yearly Upskilling week or spread out across webinars, in-person events, or courses.

3. Set an example

Creating a culture of engagement starts at the top. As working professionals, it can be easy to forget that learning doesn’t have to stop because we’re out of school. In an industry like communications, where tech is changing at such a rapid pace, you have to make an intentional effort to keep your skills sharp.

Encouraging your team to use their professional development time and budget is step one. Step two is ensuring they follow through by helping them overcome any barriers that may be holding them back.

Maybe that’s taking a more active role in helping them identify areas of interest or maybe it’s sharing conferences or interactive trainings that relate to the areas they know they want to develop.

When you get invested, your team will feel more valued and supported. It also creates accountability, rather than perpetuating the culture of professional development as sanctioned decompression time. It’s a win-win.

If you’re looking to build your team’s skills, please get in touch at about our training and workshop options. We offer training in media relations, social media, and many more comms topics.