Well, folks, believe it or not, January is already over, and here comes Valentine’s Day. If you are in charge of an office or a team, chances are you’ve used the occasion to distribute some kind of little goodies, to show your appreciation of their efforts.

Well, you know what’s a better reward than chocolate, coffee tokens, and gift cards for all of their dedication and hard work?

Professional Development.

Now, I can hear your response: “Classes over chocolate? Are you kidding?”

Granted, it doesn’t necessarily the immediate gratification of a heart-shaped box of sweets. But the long-term value can be huge.

What can be a greater gift than a boost to the career of an up-and-coming professional? Something that not only helps them do their current job better but improves their chances of promotion and advancement?

Development opportunities, as I’m sure you are aware, are abundant in our current environment. Especially over the past two years, as the emphasis has shifted much more significantly toward digital technology, new systems and strategies have been quickly developed to help business teams maintain their profitability in the face of unprecedented challenges. Learning your way around these systems and tools has been essential to staying competitive in the 2020s.

You may have some team members wishing for the chance to devote some time and energy to develop skills to help them advance, but simply lack the resources to fund them on their own. Perhaps your investment in them is a way to show them a little love. It might be as simple as sending them to a Toastmasters class to help with public speaking, which would make them more confident in presenting classes to your customers. The ideas are endless!

Plus, I don’t have to tell you, investing in your team’s collective competencies can only help YOU in the course of your workday, and set the stage for dramatic increases in efficiency and growth.

Now, your response might be “my team HATES mandatory training!” And I don’t doubt that at all. Part of the problem is the word “training.” It makes it sound like they don’t know what they’re doing. But we’re not talking about training wheels on a bicycle–we’re talking about helping them to invest in themselves.  

But the reason for that is usually because the training they are required to attend is not aligned with their own personal and professional objectives. And sitting through that training, regardless of how valuable it might be to the big picture, simply takes away from the time they’d rather be spending creating success in your workplace.

Investing in your team is not a matter of YOU figuring out what they need; it starts with a conversation with each team member to determine THEIR goals and career plans. Chances are it won’t take long to find an educational area that checks both boxes.

It could be as basic as a quick certification in mastering a specific type of software. Or it could be as far-reaching as helping to facilitate an advanced degree. In either case, it will help you, and it will help them.

And don’t be afraid of making them so valuable in the workplace that they end up grabbing another opportunity elsewhere. Yes, that’s obviously a risk you run—but providing this kind of investment in your team members tends to grow the kind of engagement and loyalty that results in a long-term commitment to your organization.

So this month, when it’s time show the team a little love, think about the big picture, and make a bigger investment.  It’ll be a win for you both.

And that’s how you….GROW BIG OR GO HOME!