The concept of planning in business. Wooden cubes on a desk in the office. The concept of leadership. Hand men in business suit holding the cubes.

In the janitorial industry, professional and personal development is an idea that regularly falls to the wayside, continuously playing second fiddle to tight staffing schedules and even tighter budgets. These types of programs are often overlooked even though they have the ability to increase efficiency, productivity and can have an overreaching impact on employee retention.

Employees who feel valued and believe they are moving forward in developing their careers are more engaged in their work. Programs that give employees a sense of growth is an investment that managers can see an obvious return on.

In the Edmonds School District, personal and professional development is built into almost every employee group contract with funding dedicated to staff development. Some of that money covers personal development courses such as boiler licenses or other certifications, but a majority of it is used by the department to put on training seminars and classes that benefit a larger group of employees.

From leadership seminars and high-functioning teams to small motor repair, we do a little bit of everything. We also send employees to local organizational events such as the Washington Association of Maintenance and Operations Administrators (WAMOA) fall conference, the Seattle Building Operator Certification (BOC) and myriad other courses.

The question amid all of the other things managers do to keep the ship moving forward is, “How do you use the limited resources at your disposal in a way that benefits both the employee and the employer?”

When getting started with a professional development program, I generally break the process down into four phases: assessing needs, planning curriculum, scheduling and implementation, and follow up. Like any other program, having an outline and a clear end goal is imperative. It’s a roadmap that helps guide the program.

Assessing Needs

The first step in building a program is determining the needs of both the employee and employer so you can identify topics for development. Several strategies can be used to plan your direction.

As a manager, it is usually not difficult to sit down and look frankly at your organization to pick out the weaknesses or areas for improvement. For example, maybe your employees are regularly confused about chemicals and are using the incorrect products, regardless of training. In that case, perhaps a chemical use development class is necessary.

Let’s say you are a school district with a lot of hard floor surfaces that have floor finish build up. You might consider running a stripping and waxing class to empower the employees to take a greater hand in these types of projects.

Another strategy is to simply ask those who would utilize the program about the type of development they are looking for. This can be a survey, a question posed at a meeting or just asking around as you are out in the field. The answers you get in this fashion may be ones that you would never have thought of otherwise.

Planning Curriculum

Developing an appropriate and comprehensive curriculum can be one of the most difficult steps in building a professional development program. To identify engaging subjects, you need to find local, knowledgeable instructors capable of engaging participants within your budget. These are qualities that are easy to find individually but extremely difficult to find collectively. I find out-of-the-box thinking is necessary to determining the right curriculum.

For instance, if you are looking for a class on small motors, take a stroll around your maintenance department and see who has the reputation as the guy that knows a lot about the equipment they use. Looking for a leadership class? Try looking at some of the leaders in your administrative or human resources department. Many of them may be qualified to speak on the subject of leadership.

I have also dealt with local community colleges and have found some of the best instructors at the most reasonable prices. Most already had curriculum developed in the specific areas I was looking for such as leadership, communication and problem solving.

Another staple of a good professional development program is partnering with established organizations focused on professional teaching or training. For me, being involved with local business and networking groups, as well as industry associations has provided high-quality, industry specific development opportunities.

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Scheduling Time For Professional Development