The Benefits of Professional Development Opportunities for Employees

Two women working in a professional environment

Recognizing and addressing skills gaps are hot topics in any professional industry. Most businesses understand that waiting for the perfect employee to come along that checks all the boxes they might want for a position is not always realistic. Other businesses would rather train an existing employee and promote from within than risk the responsibilities of a management role on an outside hire.

Professional development can come in many forms. Some might include off-site workshops or classes, professional memberships, or even tuition reimbursement programs. The goal of a professional development program within an organization is to increase the skills of existing employees and show that the company is invested in their development. Professional development opportunities also improve company morale and help build trust and loyalty.

Increase Retention
According to Career Builder, the average company loses more than $14,000 for every job that says vacant longer than three months. While many companies are cutting costs on onboarding and training, companies that invest in their staff stand out from the crowd. Showing a distinctive interest in the development of your employees shows them that your company is not just interested in filling a position, but developing a career. Investing in personal development gives your team the confidence to want to stay on long-term.

Build Confidence and Creditability
The phrase “Fake it until you make it” likely originated from a person that was not as comfortable in their role as they would have liked. Especially as a new employee starting, it can be difficult to build confidence with feelings of inadequacy. No one wants to feel like they are missing skills in their job. Professional development programs build confidence and set up a system of support for new and long-term employees.

Make Succession Planning Easier
Perhaps the best use of personal development programs is in succession planning. Companies can avoid awkward outside hires by further developing the team members they already have on staff. By working with the workers already in-house, businesses can reduce existing knowledge gaps that are often the culprit of high turnover – especially among outside hires.

Re-energize Your Staff
Even if you do not have a succession plan in your organization, personal development is a great way to keep the team motivated and prevent team burnout. Professional development helps to break up the monotony of everyday work and re-energize staff creativity. Professional development can also help your staff gain a new perspective, which changes how they approach their jobs.

Develop Undiscovered Skills
Development programs can be a new learning opportunity, or they can help your staff learn from others. You might choose programs that help your office stay up-to-date with consistently evolving technologies and processes, or pick programs that best utilize the already existing skills of your staff. As other professionals share their experiences, your staff can pick up new ideas and perspectives. This can lead to greater efficiencies you previously did not recognize for your organization.

Rather than waiting for the perfect employee to come along, we suggest you consider utilizing professional development to build the skill sets you need in your organization. If you are looking for some development ideas for your staff, check out our calendar of events, or contact CEO Solutions to become a member.

Honest to Greatness: Lead with Honesty

Brass scales and a brass lamp on a desk with a man in a suit in the background

In today’s world, all consumers are hyper-aware of everything. It is challenging to get ahead by lying, exaggerating, or conning, unlike fifty years ago. People have the ability to look-up and fact-check everything you do. So, one of the best things a leader or CEO can do for their business is to be completely honest and transparent. Peter Kozodoy explains the importance of having brutal honesty in his book, “Honest to Greatness: How Today’s Greatest Leaders Use Brutal Honesty to Achieve Massive Success.” Throughout the book, he uses examples from interviews with Domino’s, Sprint, and Quicken Loans leaders to show how crucial honesty truly is in the business world.

There are many tactics Kozodoy explores in his book that benefit all workplaces, like how to retain the best customers, attract the best talent, have a phenomenal culture, have respect from your team, and unlock personal fulfillment by setting the right goals. When we use honesty in the workplace, everyone knows what to expect from us. It can be complicated to lead an ethically and socially responsible business, but you can achieve that goal by being honest.

When you lead with honesty, you will propel your company forward to reach success. Work culture is so essential for any business, and the culture is set upon the organization’s values and beliefs. If you are an honest leader, you curate a culture for that to continue and empower your team. Having a workplace ran on integrity and being trustworthy has been linked to employee job satisfaction and engagement.

As a leader, you can also attract customers who stay just by being honest. We often hear about the importance of brand or customer loyalty, which is created by being a trustworthy business that people want to return to or repeatedly buy their products. To build that loyalty, be transparent about your process. Only do things that you are willing to share with others. If you try to hide something, people will find out about it, whether it be through Google or social media. If you are transparent, people will respect your organization.

Being an openly honest person and leader takes time. However, as Kozodoy points out, it can have many benefits to your business. So, get yourself a copy of the book and learn more about being a better leader that does not have any room for questioning. Lead yourself to greatness by being honest. If you need further direction on your leadership skills, contact us today.

Empower Those around You as a Leader

Two women look at a laptop together at a desk

As we settle into a new year, it can be easy to get wrapped up in our daily lives’ usual activities. We may have goals we are trying to achieve, deadlines to meet, or we feel like we are just getting by. However, as a leader, it is essential to empower those around you. Empowering your employees, staff, buyers, and anyone you come into contact with can help your company run smoothly and successfully. 2020 had so much uncertainty, which led to low turnover rates for many businesses. Being a leader who can empower others is sure to improve your rates and create a better workplace culture.

There are various ways to empower people, and different techniques work for different people. ASQ defines employee empowerment as, “the ways in which organizations provide their employees with a certain degree of autonomy and control in their day-to-day activities.” Initiating and deploying employee empowerment techniques can be difficult. However, if you follow the following steps, you can create a workplace environment that people feel empowered in.

Ask About Goals

Most people set goals for themselves, especially in the new year. Merely asking your team what their goals are for the year, their career, or even for the week can be a foundational step for empowering them. It sends the message that you care about what they want to achieve. If their goals are work-related, give them the tools they need to succeed. Sometimes the tool is just the information on how to do something, and knowledge can be one of the best ways to empower people.

Lead by Example

If you want to give your team the autonomy and control to do their daily tasks, they first and foremost need to trust and respect you. Work alongside them and try not to assign tasks you have not done yourself. If you know the company’s ins and outs, you can not only show and teach your staff to do the same, but they will also have a sense of trust in you. Once you have successfully trained your employees to do something you’ve done before, you can trust them with the autonomy to do tasks on their own. Leading by example and allowing your employees to work for themselves is a great way to empower them.

There are so many possibilities in the new year. Do not let yourself or your team get behind on their goals. Instead, empower those around you to believe in their abilities and have a better workplace mindset every day they show up. If you need additional training on empowering others, contact CEO Solutions, and we will help you reach your goals.

Identifying Team Weaknesses

Do you know your team’s weakness? What makes your company weak compared to other companies? If you don’t have an answer to either of these questions, it’s time to rethink. That’s the premise behind Lisa Bodell’s exercise “Kill the Company” in her aptly named Kill The Company: End the Status Quo, Start an Innovation Revolution. The book may have come out in 2012, but the “Kill the Company” strategy is still an effective one.


Many times, when we’re asked to name our strengths and weaknesses, we’re hesitant to point out our weaknesses. Instead we name things the team could maybe work on. The exercise isn’t taken seriously. And because it isn’t taken seriously, those true weaknesses within a company are never improved upon. Those same weaknesses can be easily preyed upon by your competitors. That’s why you need to practice the “Kill the Company” exercise.


The “Kill the Company” exercise consists of looking from the outside in. Pretend to be your competitor. How would you see your company? Where are you truly weak and struggling as a company? You have to take yourself out of the equation so that you can determine how to fix your weaknesses, who to partner with, and how to target your competitors. Essentially, you need to flip the script on your business and evaluate all the ways in which competitors could see your team or company as weak. It’s an effective strategy because it helps you gain on your competition.


Some of the biggest weaknesses within companies are failure to take risks, complacent culture, and failure to innovate. If you want your team to take risks, but you hold them back, how can you expect your company to be viewed as innovative? The biggest mistake you can make is being complacent. If you’re content where you are, you won’t grow as a company. While you’re happy staying the same—not getting weaker or stronger—other companies are busy sneaking up on you.


Corporate change certainly is not easy, but not changing is a bigger problem. Identify your weaknesses, then strategize about how to fix them and how to implement change. Instead of implementing change from the top down, Bodell recommends starting from the middle out. Change doesn’t necessarily have to be a huge change all at once; it’s more important to make consistent, lasting changes. Start with small changes, and do them every day. Even if your weaknesses don’t improve immediately, hold strong. Persevere and implement a new strategy for positive change. Find your weakness before someone else kills your company.


If you like these concepts, be sure to pick up Bodell’s book!

Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

Emotional intelligence is a key part of a successful workplace. Also referred to as emotional quotient (EQ), emotional intelligence is defined as the way an individual understands, communicates with, and handles emotions. Emotional intelligence is not only a popular topic in psychology, but the business world as well. That’s because emotionally intelligent people lead to a stronger team that communicates well.


Emotional intelligence isn’t just about recognizing emotions in yourself, but also recognizing and interpreting emotions in other people. Expert researchers on the topics, Psychologists Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer, name four levels of emotional intelligence. They include:


  • Perceiving emotions
  • Reasoning with emotions
  • Understanding emotions
  • Managing emotions


We use these four levels of emotional intelligence to interact effectively with others. They allow us to understand the emotions behind others’ behavior so that we can make sound decisions and solve problems. Some leading researchers even argue that people who are highly emotionally intelligent find more success in life. This may be because emotionally intelligent individuals tend to be stronger leaders and are adept at managing stress. However, emotional intelligence is important whether or not you are a CEO or leader within the company.


Emotional intelligence is highly coveted in the workplace because it is a skill that helps you communicate with others effectively, manage stress with ease, and even move up the career ladder. It is a skill that not only helps you problem-solve, but it increases your ability to effectively work with and train others.


There are some signs that you have an emotionally intelligent team versus one that is struggling with their emotional intelligence. You will notice that emotionally intelligent employees make good decisions, easily solve problems, work well under pressure, express empathy toward teammates, and easily take constructive criticism. On the other hand, employees that lack emotional intelligence may play the victim, fail to work as a team, criticize others, and fail to communicate effectively.


If you want to improve the emotional intelligence of your team as a whole, there are a few strategies you can implement. While many are naturally emotional intelligent due to their upbringing and personality, it can be developed. Training involves improving self-awareness, self-regulation, social skills, empathy, and motivation.


Motivating a Diverse Team

There is no one-size-fits-all leadership style. Each of your team members is going to be unique in his or her own way—young and old, different areas of expertise, different work styles, different personalities. Finding a way to motivate every unique personality on your team might not be easy, but it will lead to higher output.


Before you go about developing a plan for motivation, decide if you need to motivate a few members of the team or the entire team. If attitudes are low for most of the team, you’ll need to work on motivating them as a whole. If it’s just a few employees that are struggling, then it’s time to figure out a way to motivate a select few. Start your plan by talking to team members. Find out what is leading to their lack of teamwork and production. Get to know them; find out what drives them. Don’t single out their unique characteristics. For instance, don’t say anything like, “I notice that you don’t fit in very well because you’re much younger than the other staff members and you’re new to the team.” Talk about a plan of action that includes what will help them be a more productive member of a cohesive team.  


It’s important to embrace and reward the unique qualities of your team members. Don’t single anyone out for being different. Embrace their strengths, not their weaknesses. Some team members will be quiet, others will be loud and outgoing. It’s important that everyone knows their opinion and work is valued equally. Bring together these unique personalities and foster collaboration through team bonding events. Fun company events, like a trip to a baseball game or a picnic can improve attitudes and help staff members bond over their shared interests. Be sure that everyone has the chance to voice their opinion on what sorts of group activities they would enjoy. A fun office environment goes a long way toward increasing motivation, relieving stress, and boosting morale and productivity.


Remember, understanding your employees and their work style will go a long way in making you a stronger leader.


It Doesn’t Have to be Lonely at the Top


As CEO of your company, the buck stops with you. You have an executive team you rely on to help your business function, but you know that at the end of the day, you are the bottom line. There is only one CEO in the company and, at times, it can be hard to find not only the emotional support you need, but also resources from like-minded individuals for decision-making and success. The good news is you’re not alone; there are CEOs all over the world in similar positions and that’s why there are CEO peer groups.


Resources for Success

While picking the type of group, keep in mind your goals for your growth. This group can help you grow your worldview, collaborate on problem solving, be a sounding board for ideas, and share best practices. At the same time, this is a community that will hold each other accountable for goals and decisions and be willing to tell each other the “hard truths” that they can’t hear in their own companies. Some groups will have members facing similar challenges as you are and you can work through them together while other groups may have some members from differing industries or with opposing worldviews who can help guide and challenge you.



The Other Support You Need

While helping make decisions is one key function of a CEO peer group, another function is the emotional support a peer group can provide. Often, your company is more than happy to celebrate your successes with you, but the hard decisions that every CEO must make often come with little fanfare or celebration. In fact, those hard decisions, the ones that may mean your employees’ jobs are on the line, are the ones most likely ridiculed by the people you see daily.

Your CEO peer group is there with you for that. Besides helping you come up with the best solutions for those hard times, your peer group is there to help you with the emotional trials employees or even leadership teams can’t see. Your peer group understands what you are going through because they are going through it too. They can offer a level of emotional support no one else can. Humans are emotional creatures, even if the CEO has to project otherwise at times to their company. A CEO peer group gives you a place to still be a person, not just a CEO.


Find Your Group Now     

As CEO, you likely put the needs of your business before your own personal needs. But, as you can see, joining a CEO peer group doesn’t just benefit you, the CEO, but helps your business by making you a better CEO.  Can your business afford to wait one more day for you to join a CEO peer group or, better yet, can you wait?

Breaking the Employee Disloyalty Cycle: How to Retain Our A Players

In almost every client session I have these days, the top area of concern is staffing. We all want to know how to attract the best talent and how to keep them around. Almost invariably, the conversation drifts into the ‘kids these days’ realm as we discuss generational differences in working style and company loyalty.


The challenge I have with this conversation is that it is unproductive. It’s true that employees are less loyal to single companies. 41% of Millenials expect to be in their current job for 2 years or less. (source: But it’s also true that companies are less loyal to employees. In fact, the average salary for a millennial today is 20% less than a boomer had at the same age. (source: This is a chicken and egg problem; in essence, a Disloyalty Cycle. Which came first, the lost loyalty of employees or the lower value from the employers?


Asking who to blame is asking the wrong question. You know that there are great people out there of every age. It’s about understanding what motivates and inspires your employees to do their best, regardless of age. The right question is, “How do I end the cycle and build a company where people want to work?”


At the end of the day, business decisions are about money. But personnel decisions are rarely that cut and dry. For the CEO or business owner, how much to pay an employee is a business decision. This role is worth X to my business. For an employee, working for company A or B is about more than money. After basic financial needs are met, where to work is a personal decision about one’s quality of life. 78% of millennials say workplace environment affects their decisions to stay at a job, and 88% of millennials want their coworkers to be their friends (source:


With the average cost of replacing a salaried employee at 6-9 months of salary, retaining key staff is incredibly important. So how can you bridge the business to personal gap? How can a CEO build a culture that attracts and keeps the best and brightest in a generation motivated by overall quality of life?


With CEOs paying more and more attention to culture, new members are being added the executive leadership team to reflect this business priority. You may be familiar with the CPO as a Chief Procurement Officer, but there’s a new CPO in town. The Chief People Officer.


For some organizations, the title of Chief People Officer (CPO) has simply replaced the title of Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) as the head of a department responsible for recruiting, hiring, on-boarding, training, and firing staff. But at some emerging growth companies, the CPO role is less about traditional HR business operations and more about organizational design, executive coaching, and implementing learning and development programs.

Another title for this role is Vice President of Culture, and these members of the executive leadership team are responsible for building a culture designed to improve employee retention as well as aid in talent acquisition. In addition, the CPO or VP of Culture works to develop an ROI model for your business’s hiring and retention efforts, helping you understand the exact impact of the wrong hires on your business.


This shift has helped business’s stray from the ‘need a body’ hiring mentality and into the investing in the right staff mentality. It shifts us from seeing our workforce as a red entry in our business ledger to a black entry – from a liability to an asset. And when we treat our employees as an asset to protect, we break the disloyalty cycle. And save our businesses money and time in the long-run.

Attract and Retain Employees

1. It’s Not Just About the Money

To start, recognize that money, by itself, will not do it. High performing employees are searching for something more than just a high salary. The typical employee compensation plan should include a total package of rewards, recognition and environment. Some of the elements are in place to satisfy that allow a firm to keep their employees such as benefits, flex-time and training. Other elements of compensation are for motivating such as bonuses, incentives, challenge and opportunity. A well-designed plan will have a mix of both types of compensation components.

2. Manager Training

Have you ever worked for a bad boss? One of the main reasons new employees quit is because of the relationship with their direct supervisor. The fact is many supervisors and managers are unaware how their actions and decisions affect employee turnover. A critical aspect of an effective retention strategy is manager training. Properly trained managers play a major role in an effective recruitment and retention strategy. Managers need the skills, tools, and knowledge to help them understand their employees’ retention needs and be able to implement a retention plan designed to increase employee engagement in the organization.

3. We All Love An Award

Non-cash recognition awards are very effective in reinforcing the company’s values while also connecting co-workers. They can be a low-cost, high-impact element of the compensation package. For example, employees who provide outstanding or innovative customer service receive become eligible for certain awards. Another way is for employees to be nominated by customers or their peers. Through having employees and management recognize good work, employees will continue to value their jobs.

4. Flexibility is Key

Today’s workforce is looking for flexibility on the job and balance within their life. Management needs to acknowledge this and evaluate ways to realistically provide this flexibility in work. Tradition has it that the employees work in an office with established work hours Monday through Friday. Can your company allow for variations, such as 4-day workweeks, working at home two days a week or job sharing? Flexible work hours are becoming a steadily rising tool to attract and retain good employees.

5. Creativity and Autonomy

Regardless of the job and its related duties, new talent has to be sold on the fact that there will be creative thinking involved. This allows them to feel connected and enjoy their work. Studies show that 50% of today’s workforce is not engaged at work. This means they are simply “showing up.” That also means that a good portion are actually dissatisfied. It’s up to the leaders to provide opportunities for creativity. If you can get that right, everyone wins.

A good principle to follow is that if you want amazing results, you need to be prepared to put resources towards an amazing culture. Great companies find the time and resources to make all of these components happen. Not investing in this will deter potential new hires and send your existing talent to your competitors. Carving out the time and budget for professional development within your business will pay dividends in the end.