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Why Continuing Education Matters

Every year it seems the subject of continuing education can creep up on us all. We know we may need it—or want it—but why does it seem we’re always doing the last-minute hustle for something that would truly benefit our careers?

by Mark Lanfear
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In the life sciences in particular, jobs can be demanding. They can come with significant amounts of stress as people work in labs and other environments where the end product or result will likely have huge implications for the safety and health of the general population. It’s understandable that the task at hand often takes precedence over other workplace goals.

But continuing education and other types of professional development are investments that both companies and employees must make for themselves. And it’s important that both parties realize how important this aspect of the modern workplace has truly become to the future of our workplace culture.

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Perhaps most prominently, workers today are demanding more and more perks on the job. But they know that the things they want usually have nothing to do with the more “traditional” perks, such as money.

Workplace surveys, (including the Kelly Global Workforce Index™), in fact, are proving time and time again that money is not the most important factor for many professionals when they are considering where to work. Instead, potential employees today are demanding the opportunity to do meaningful work—whatever that may entail. Often, it has to do with the actual work itself. They just want to know that what they do every day matters.

But they also want the kind of opportunities that will help them move their careers forward. These include the chance to spend time doing on-the- job training. And yes, these also include the chance to take advantage of continuing education that may indeed cut in on their work time but usually will have far-reaching implications for the quality of their work and the future impact they could have on their employer.

For all these reasons, employers today must have at the top of their priority lists training and other continuing education goals for their employees. This doesn’t mean that these opportunities need to take precedence over actual work. But employees will truly appreciate the fact that the organizations they work for are taking the time to invest in their knowledge. After all, we already know that the workplace of today and in the future will continually be defined by what kinds of knowledge our workers are bringing to the table. By fostering that knowledge, employers can be assured that their workers will be with them for the long haul and will continue to contribute to important organizational goals.

But, of course, the burden doesn’t always have to be on the organization to develop opportunities for continuing education. Employees who care about the jobs they do are just as capable of finding continuing education opportunities for themselves outside the confines of the workplace.

The trick for employers, however, is to foster the kind of environment where workers feel comfortable and empowered to take control in these situations—and where they’ll also feel confident that if they suggest going to a conference or other continuing education activity, it will be heard by their supervisors.

Fostering this kind of environment will better help employees feel personal responsibility for their own professional development. And it will assure organizations that their employees care just as much about advancing the organization’s cause as do the top stakeholders who are running the company.

Whatever you want to call it—continuing education, professional development, training—it’s all critical in today’s workplace. Knowledge is power. The sooner you and your employees get on board with increasing your knowledge, the sooner your power will soar.