Professional training and development range from courses taken for college credit to workshops focused on a single topic lasting only a few minutes in duration. Some types of training and development are highly specific and are intended to equip employees with a new skill. Others may educate staff in the implementation of a new procedure. Some types are very general, offering a venue in which experts share tips and ideas and showcase outstanding work.
Common terms associated with professional training and development include workshops, in-service, seminars, break-out sessions, conferences, and symposiums. Large professional development opportunities such as medical conferences are often very elaborate and include social functions. Sometimes, an employer may pay for employees to attend a training or conference, including per diem. Professional development or training may sometimes be required in order to maintain a license at the worker’s expense.
Professional training and development can be very need-specific. For example, when an employer finds that an employee needs extra help in a specific area, he or she may ask the employee to read a certain manual or book in hopes of improving the employee's performance in that area. Training or development can also include the pursuit of a higher degree within a person’s field of employment, such as a paralegal working towards a law degree. Professional development and training is generally most effective when an individual chooses to participate in it voluntarily, rather than being forced to do so by an outside entity.
One potential pitfall of many programs is the lack of follow up after the training is complete. When a course introduces a new technique that an employee is reluctant to try but does not require follow-up action or assessment, the training may prove to be ineffective. It may be beneficial to instead allow employees to determine their own needs for professional development and training, and then monitor the results. Sending teams of individuals to training may also be an effective strategy, as these individuals may then support one another when applying the new skills.
Professional training and development does not have to be an official class or organized event. When an employee learns and implements a new skill, even something as simple as figuring out how to use a feature on a piece of equipment, that is a form of professional development. When documenting activities for a professional training and development log, it is a good idea to include any such self-taught accomplishments.