8 Ways to Foster Professional Development Among Your Employees

A startup is only as capable as its employees, and as such, its important that founder’s invest as much in their employee’s professional development as in their own. The reasons for doing so vary. On an immediate level, encouraging professional development among your employees will reap enormous benefits for your business. Whether its a class on social media management, a photoshop tutorial, or a programming workshop, any steps you take to facilitate new skill development among your employees will add immediate value to your company. Equally as important is the fact that doing so fosters a company culture that encourages entrepreneurship and innovation. While this is less visible than the former, it shows that the company views the professional development of its employees as important as the development of its business.


We spoke to eight different startup founders and asked how they facilitate professional development among their employees. Here’s what they had to say.

1. Lead By Example

Its very important to communicate company’s best practices right off the bat and more essentially create those best practices to begin with. Every company/startup has a different team culture and it becomes more and more challenging to implement as the team grows. Leading the example in following these practices is essential for every leader. Its more about showing than telling.

Muneeb Mushtaq, AskforTask

2. Encourage Reading

We buy them books to read and give them the opportunity to suggest books we can order for the team as well. Industry conferences are also a great way to keep your team current.

Zane Hanebrink, Massagebook

3. Focus on Senior Management

It is hard to find the money and time to pay for employees to attend specific trainings. The best method is coaching by senior management. Then pay for online courses if the topics are generic enough.

Ken Rhie, Trumpia

4. Incentivize Knowledge Sharing

At GrexIt, We encourage and incentivize our programmers to share their learnings with everyone in the team, and write high quality/blogs and articles about their experiences. Most good programmers love to share what they learn and discover, but the exigencies of the job at hand stop them from devoting time to that. By creating a system to directly incentivize sharing, we’ve been able to get a lot of our team members to speak, present and write about what they learn.

Niraj Rout, Mailflo

5. Reward Innovation

EP - Using Performance Management

I do my best to create and environment where learning and innovative thinking is rewarded at ChallengeMeClub… that’s the heart of it for me.

Cameron, ChallengeMe

6. Provide Autonomy

I encourage professional development by giving employees two things: autonomy and freedom express their individuality.  I always allow employees to make their own decisions, and consult with me only as needed (until an employee demonstrates that they are unable to handle responsibility or act with prudence, of course!) Establishing trust and mutual respect is key between a leader and an employee, but I recommend laying those elements in the foundation of any healthy relationship.

Allen Kors, AchieveLending

7. Set Aside Innovation Time

Within our team’s culture we are very passionate about collaborating and sharing. We encourage each team member set aside a block of time to read, discuss and research industry topics and trends.

Tim Nichols, ExactDrive

8. Encourage Niche Expertise

The key to development is in the understanding of an employees particular area of interest. We generally find each employee is eager to develop their expertise within a particular niche. We quickly identify these areas of interest and encourage the employee to become an expert.

Robert Sturt, BT Business