Professional Development Topics, Ideas, and Activities: Things to Think About

Erin Biehl
Erin Biehl
Nov 13 2023
7 min read
Professional Development Topics, Ideas, and Activities: Things to Think About

When HR needs to administer professional development topics, ideas, and activities, there are a lot of choices to consider. From traditional classroom settings to informal roles and reverse mentoring, effective professional development ideas are based on creativity and experimentation. Let’s take a look at real-world professional development activities and some options for your own employee growth programs. 

Professional Development Topics

Before you decide how you are going to implement employee professional development, you need to figure out what professional development courses are the most relevant to your teams. It would be great to supply a constant flow of L&D to employees (as in a continuous development program). But if you’ve got time and budget limitations, then it’s important to choose wisely. 

Your company most likely has a set of professional development training courses in mind, perhaps as the result of a skills gap analysis. In terms of current overall demand shown by businesses, here are some of the most popular employee development courses:

  • Problem-solving
  • Emotional intelligence (ethics)
  • Communication
  • Leadership
  • Teamwork  

Choosing Professional Development Activities

Once an organization has decided which professional development topic to address, the next step is to create an activity around it. Picking which route to take can depend on many factors, including:

The Nature of the Topic

Some L&D courses can be handled individually, such as communication, where an expert (a coach, mentor, or technical trainer) works directly with the employee. In comparison, something like teamwork naturally leads to a group setting. 

The Advice of the Expert

Some coaches might focus on the employee, and use a question-and-answer approach to get to the root of their challenge. Building emotional intelligence is a good example of this. On the other hand, because leadership development (for instance) involves personal and collaborative factors, the coach might use both individual and group settings to work on such a skill.

The Resources and Culture of the Organization

As detailed below, some professional development ideas are unconventional. Take reverse mentoring, for example. If your company has a flat hierarchy, or its managers aren’t really interested in advice from lower levels of the company, this type of setting won’t work. 

Professional Development Activities: Success Stories

When professional development topics, ideas, and activities are done properly, the results are truly transformational. Here are three success stories of organizations that each chose an optimal L&D route. 

Cognyte

Cognyte builds software for investigative analytics that is used in law enforcement and intelligence applications. Because there is so much riding on their products, Cognyte must ensure that employees are up to date about cutting-edge technologies that are affected by evolving security standards and customer experiences. 

With more than 2,000 employees across various nations, Cognyte faced the challenge of personalization. Within the company, there are numerous technical specialties, language requirements, and ability levels. In addition, their high-performance culture wanted professional development activities that would enhance careers. 

Cognyte’s strategy to serve such a diverse range of demands was to diversify professional development activities accordingly. Powered by Growthspace, they held a dozen workshops that matched talent to coach or mentor, and ran a combination of online activities and cohort-based learning sessions hosted by each expert.

The results were almost more than Cognyte had hoped for. They were able to provide individual development plans for 90% of high performers; achieve expert approval ratings of 4.8/5; and obtain “would you recommend this program?” scores of 4.8/5. 

Mend.io

Mend.io creates application security programs that defend against cyber-attacks and other risks. A main concern of the company is diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Mend.io puts an emphasis on DEI-related issues like pay equity and multiculturalism for its 300 employees. In particular, Mend.io wanted to ensure the elimination of gender bias that affected issues such as promotions and role models. 

The company’s HR department discovered how Growthspace’s sprint-based training resulted in increased confidence for female employees. To this end, it created a professional development program that began with a pilot of 15 women consulting with their managers to outline the skills they would need in order to compete. The most common choices were communication, productivity, and leadership skills. 

Due to the program’s focus on metrics, it was easy to determine that the pilot group was successful, and the Growthspace initiative was then widened to 40 seats. Mend.io’s HR department found behavioral changes occurred after only five meetings. In addition, the program’s average satisfaction rating was 4.6/5.

Taboola

Taboola is the world’s leading discovery and native advertising platform. With its high level of success, Taboola’s constantly growing number of employees required a serious L&D commitment, but the company felt that this was not possible with their existing system. 

The company wanted to increase the boundaries of professional development beyond managers and executives to include the bulk of employees. By doing so, Taboola hoped to tackle its two main HR challenges, talent growth and retention. It understood that it required a coaching-based solution that could provide six-to-eight-week-long programs that were manageable for employees in search of career goals. 

While searching for a platform, Taboola discovered that most did not have the required scalability. In addition, it needed an international solution that could serve employees in different global offices and various languages. 

However, in Growthspace, Taboola found an answer. Soon after running a pilot program, the company expanded its initiative to include 100 employees in the R&D department. After yet another success, Taboola implemented Growthspace across the company. 

Now, Taboola and Growthspace can deliver 1:1 coaching programs down to the level of individual contributors and first-level managers. Taboola especially enjoys the ability to monitor and collect feedback through the same interface. The Growthspace platform scored a 4.7/5 overall rating and quadrupled the number of Taboola’s employee development programs with the same budget.

Options for Professional Development Ideas

When reading the above success stories, you might notice a variety of approaches for the setting of professional development activities. These include one-on-one coaching, internal mentoring, sprints, and workshops. But there are a lot more choices than these, as follows. Again, the final pick will depend on your topic, expert, and organization.  

  • Job rotation – new, temporary roles for employees to try within their department / company that are organized by HR
  • Reverse mentoring – employees at one level of an organization mentor those at a higher level
  • Informal roles – working at a different task to get a feel for it
  • Secondments – moving to an entirely different team or even to another branch
  • Job shadowing – watching a more experienced employee as they perform their daily tasks
  • Cross training – working in a department where the tasks are related to what the employee is currently doing

Perhaps the Best Professional Development Idea

Many L&D success stories start with Growthspace. Every professional development topic, idea, and activity needs to be implemented in a way that brings value to the organization and skills to the employee. Especially for large companies, that means a talent development platform that can handle the management of personalized courses, multiple training experts, evaluation processes, and general administrative functions.

With Growthspace, you get all of the above. Growthspace’s platform allows you to set and measure L&D goals; its solutions put your employees in the best development setting for their particular skill; and its interface allows stakeholders across the organization to participate in and monitor programs. Growthspace is the professional’s choice for employee professional development courses and more. 

Erin Biehl
Erin Biehl
Over the past 20 years, Erin Biehl has led teams in the education, hospitality, and technology sectors, excelling in customer success and as a Learning & Development manager. In her L&D role, she designed a leadership framework and developed a comprehensive L&D program for a global company from scratch. Certified as both a DISC and change management facilitator, Erin merges her professional expertise with her academic background, holding a degree in education. Beyond work, her enthusiasm for teaching shines through as a group fitness instructor, specializing in barre and dance classes. Also, a proud mom to her son and two lovable pups, Erin relishes her family life in the beautiful state of Maine

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