No matter your company’s size or industry, much of its future success will depend on the long-term performance of your employees. That is why it is necessary to provide opportunities for continuing education and professional development.

Research has shown that organizations with a strong learning culture are 92% more likely to develop novel products and processes, 52% more productive, 56% more likely to be the first to market with their products and services and 17% more profitable than their peers.

You may already provide your employees with access to webinars, workshops, seminars or conferences designed to help hone their skills and stay up-to-date on the latest developments in your industry. But how much do your employees know and understand about the region where you are conducting business, and the people who you are conducting business with? In Maryland, we are fortunate to have many great leadership programs at both the state and local levels, that provide professionals with an in-depth, hands-on experience to learn about the critical issues impacting the businesses and citizens within their regions.

Here are three reasons to consider investing in leadership programs for your employees.

  • Your employees will be more engaged at work and in their communities.
    No matter which leadership program you choose, your employees likely will participate in a series of intense sessions that will allow them to meet legislators, business leaders, local citizens and other thought leaders from your area. They will have thought-provoking discussions about the issues that most impact the region, whether it be education, economic development, health and human services, agriculture, criminal justice, multi-culturalism or others.

    By gaining a broader understanding of these vital issues, participants begin to think beyond their day-to-day tasks and see the bigger picture of the role they and their companies play in the local economy and community. Studies have shown that employees are more passionate when they feel they are performing meaningful work that is connected to a larger purpose.

  • Your network will grow.
    Almost more powerful than the knowledge gained in any leadership program, is the network of new connections made. Unlike other professional development programs where employees may only be interacting with others in similar industries and roles, in a leadership program your employees will interact with high-level professionals from all different sectors, including government, education, nonprofits and private businesses.

    These connections can create limitless opportunities for your employees and your business, opening doors to new leads, hires, partnerships, initiatives, mergers and more.

  • You’ll be perceived as a better employer and can attract better employees.
    Including a leadership program in your benefits package is an effective way to show your employees that you are invested in their personal and professional growth. Leadership programs are also a great way to reward employees for excellent performance and encourage their continued progress.

According to data from Hay Group, career development is the most important aspect of a company’s reward program in terms of retaining talent, as people are committed to employers who are committed to them. Plus, you will benefit from an employee who is more well-rounded in his or her understanding of the key issues concerning the audiences s/he serves, as well as a new network of thought leaders to call to exchange ideas.

In short, investing in the long-term success of your company involves investing in the personal and professional growth of your employees. Seek out your local and state leadership programs to see what once-in-a-lifetime learning and networking opportunities they offer.

Renée Winsky is the president and CEO of Leadership Maryland and a member of the Leadership Maryland Class of ’05. She can be contacted at [email protected].