Assigning “development dollars” has become a popular practice in recent years as more and more organizations donate part of the budget to paying for employees to attend conferences, buy books, take online courses, and more. This is a great practice that helps develop employees and show the organization cares about their future.
But you’re not maximizing the value of those dollars if the learning is constrained to the single employee. By reshaping these personal development funds into a team-learning opportunity, you stretch the value of your dollar much further.
As employees select a development opportunity, they need to understand:
- How this development benefits the team
- What team members specifically will benefit from this learning
- Not all companies offer development funds, so this opportunity should be viewed as a bonus and should not be taken lightly or viewed as a vacation
For example, let’s take a look at one of the most popular development opportunities: the annual industry or trade show conference. Organizations can typically only send a select few individuals to these events, but there are ways for those employees to spread what they learned once they return...
Host a lunch-and-learn. Allow the employees to take a few weeks to recover and organize their thoughts. Then after three or four weeks, have them share their findings and what stood out to them over lunch. Encourage all team members to attend if possible.
Acquire contacts and distribute them. Few situations create better networking opportunities than conferences, where employees interact with industry leaders and fellow professionals in the crowd. As they gather contact information and business cards, have employees think about what team member should get in touch with each individual they meet. Maybe a new acquaintance has a special skill that a coworker has been trying to acquire, and the two should get on a call together. Consider creating a database or shared document with a list of contacts that everyone on the team can reference.
Take copious notes, grab handouts, and acquire slide decks from presentations. Just because the entire team can’t attend the conference doesn’t mean they can’t all learn from it. Have attending employees type up notes that all team members can look through. This allows the attendees to add their perspectives and holds them accountable because they’re expected to come back with valuable information.
Let the team have a say in what sessions will be attended. Conferences typically post sessions and times ahead of time. As the attendees build their schedules, encourage other team members to suggest sessions. For instance, if there’s a social media topic that greatly interests a member of the marketing team, the attending employee can go to the session, take notes, and deliver valuable information to the employee who didn’t go.
Set goals. Give the attendees goals to keep top of mind and get the most out of the conference. This is not a vacation or a few days off. You are investing a lot of money in this trip, and you want to see results upon their return.