Encouraging Professional Development

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As we begin a new year, it is time to contemplate New Year’s resolutions and how to improve ourselves. It made me think of all the ways we at CommonPlaces make the company better and the value our employees provide. The vast majority of CommonPlaces’ value is in our employees, and we plan to continue our investment in them.CEO and CFO

As Ben pointed out in an earlier blog, CommonPlaces invests as much as 25% of our employee’s time on professional development. There is a meme that I’ve seen several times in which a CEO asks his CFO, ‘What happens if we invest in developing our people, and they leave us?’ To which the CFO responds, ‘What happens if we don’t, and they stay?’ That’s how I feel about the need for professional development.


We may take on projects that we know won’t actually make a profit, because we know at the start that a great deal of time will be devoted to achieving proficiency in a new technology needed to make the project the best that it can be. We don’t expect the customer to bear that burden when it is a technology path we want to pursue. This benefits us in the long run because our skills and knowledge expand as a result.


We also provide opportunities to the team to hone their skills outside of work. If an employee wants to take a class that will benefit them professionally, and we see the benefit that it could bring to CommonPlaces, then we will absorb a portion of the cost. We have someone in the office taking advantage of that currently. We want them to get better.

There are different resources which become available to the team all the time. http://drupalize.me, which offers an online library of very educational tutorials in Drupal development, is something we want the team to utilize. As Drupal 8 is being launched, keeping up to speed on the latest architectural changes and enhancements is extremely important to keep us ahead of the curve.

Conferences, etc.

Everyone is encouraged to participate in events and conferences within their areas of expertise. Professional activities improve us in multiple ways. They afford us the chance to network, learn, and explore new avenues. I’m perpetually being sent invitations to these functions, and if any of these opportunities look like they will explore our horizons, then I will point them out to the team. It’s also up to our employees to point these things out as well. In their circles they are more likely to see situations that can appeal to their professional curiosity than I ever will. All they have to do is put a proposal on my desk, and the management team will give it consideration.

On the Bookshelf

Beyond emails and blog posts that come to my in-box every day, books are all part of professional development, as well. I’ve been handed Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business, by Gino Wickman. This is a business strategy book which encourages companies to embrace the EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System) methodology. CommonPlaces is diving headfirst into this practice in 2014, and this is what you might say is the handbook that we’ll follow. We are one of about 13 digital agencies which will utilize the principles and guidelines in this book to better serve our customers and improve our company culture.

While we have an allocated budget for professional development, and we commit certain company resources to improving our employee’s skills, we expect them to devote some time to this on their own, as well. There are only just so many hours in the work week. There needs to be a commitment to this on both sides. We’re very fortunate in this office that this philosophy is understood, and embraced, by all.

What ways have you found to enhance the professional development in your company? We’d love to hear what works for you.

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