How To Offer Professional Development Without A Promotion

In today’s job market, employees are learning that they may be able to find other opportunities that fit their career goals.  Unless they feel completely satisfied in their current position, your employees may be likely to test the waters for themselves.  As a result, employers must step up their retention efforts in order to hold onto talented professionals.

While this could mean a myriad of different strategies, todays candidates rank professional development as one of the most important factors in their satisfaction at their job, and even though this isn’t news to most employers, it is often easier said than done.  At first glance, professional development usually comes in the form of a promotion.  However, more often than not, there isn’t a promotion available for every employee who deserves it.  If you’re not in a position to extend a promotion or a raise, it can be difficult to go about offering meaningful professional development opportunities for your employees.  If you have a top performer who needs professional development, but you’re unsure of what would be enticing enough for them to stay, go through these steps to show that you’re invested in their growth, regardless of whether a title change is available.


Always keep in mind that every employee has different needs regarding professional development, and you can’t treat them all the same.  In order to give each employee an opportunity that is meaningful to them, you have to practice keen observation and listening.  By being open to ideas and discovering what each employee seeks to learn, you can better adapt your approach to offering them something they really want.

Let them take charge of their professional development

Once you find out what they’re looking to learn, ask them how they want to go about it.  By giving them the responsibility to decide how they learn, they’ll be more empowered to actually complete a course or a new project.  So long as they understand the budget you’re working within, they’ll be able to find something that works for the both of you—and they won’t feel like they’re taking on a chore that you’ve assigned.  If you don’t agree with a class or project they’ve selected, be sure that you clearly explain why.  If the cost is too high, or if you can’t see how it benefits the organization in the long run, they can adjust their goals accordingly if they understand your reasoning.

Give them more responsibility

While you may not be able to give them the title bump they deserve, you can increase their responsibility to allow them to cultivate some new skills on the job.  At the end of the day, professionals will care less about their job title and more about the work they’re actually doing.  Once they complete some projects successfully, you can use this as bargaining power if you need to convince your own superior that they are ready for a promotion.

Be honest

While offering hands-on work and new courses to brush up on skills is still valuable, at some point, your employee will still want to know what that means in regards to a promotion or a raise.  Not only is it important to be honest about where they stand in terms of moving up, but it’s important to be honest about how you feel about them being promoted and what might be standing in their way.  If it’s something that may not happen for a while, but your employee knows that you are pushing for it, they will appreciate your faith in them, and they’ll be more likely to stay simply because they know that you value the work that they do.

Additionally, if you see an obstacle standing in their way, be sure to tell them how they can potentially rectify the situation.  For example, if their work is good, but they need to improve their communication skills before they’re ready, be sure that they understand this.

Continue fighting for them

While there may be only so much you can do, continue trying to offer them what they may be seeking and keep other decision makers in the loop.  If you see the value in retaining this employee, express to those decision makers why it is imperative that this employee stays satisfied at the organization.  In addition to that, be sure that your employee knows that you’re fighting for them.  Once again, simply knowing that you value their work can go a long way.