Professional Development is a Necessity for Innovation

staff conference and professional development

This past week I was privileged to help kick off the 11th annual Waterloo Staff Conference here at the University of Waterloo. The energy I saw in my colleagues was contagious.

It wasn’t just the fact that the group was getting ready to hear from outstanding speakers and take part in engaging workshops, it was because we were networking and learning together. And, professional development and better workplace integration are key drivers of a thriving, innovative environment.

A Strong Workplace Environment Creates Innovation

We are known around the world for our innovative students and faculty, but our scholarship and research would not be possible if it were not for the support and talent of our university staff and their drive to do this better.

At the centre of this drive is our staff’s continued dedication to professional development and the opportunities the University provides through the Staff Conference and programs like the Staff International Experience Fund.

Learning new skills and actively applying them to one’s work is essential for the continued growth of a career and will ultimately benefit their organization. They will come with new ideas that can be transformative in how an organization operates.

Now, think about if your organization has a team of lifelong learners who regularly come together to discuss projects with new experiences, knowledge and perspectives. That’s an exciting moment for any leader.

Finding and Providing Opportunities for Lifelong Learning

It doesn’t matter if you take a formal class, attend a conference or work with a peer-to-peer group, professional development should be an active part of everyone’s career.

Education is not something that ends with a milestone like a degree. Employers should be offering new avenues for learning and collaboration that complement both the organization’s goals and the employees.

This type of two-way environment of engagement and support around continuous learning is vital in building an innovative culture that impacts the world. The need for doing this crosses all sectors of the economy from higher education to tech, financial services, health care and manufacturing. There is no substitute for building a dynamic, motivated and equipped workforce.

Success Means Encouraging Action

The most important aspect needed for professional development to benefit the employee and the employer is to take action. To grow and enjoy seeing their ideas put into action, staff must be encouraged to pose new ideas and given the opportunity to make the case for making those ideas a reality.

Whether you are an employee or an employer, now is the time to make professional development a priority. It will take time, planning and resources, but it is an investment that routinely delivers significant returns.

Thank you to every University of Waterloo staff member and to the Organizational & Human Development team for making the Staff Conference a successful endeavour. The more learning and collaboration we have, the greater the impact we can have on our careers, students, faculty and the world.

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