7 Professional Development Stipend Ideas CFOs and CHROs Love

Employees want leaders who are invested in growing their careers, but leaders must be discerning in their approach. Let’s take employee development stipends, for example. External employee development is only a good investment when 1) it actually happens, and 2) it is in harmony with the needs of the organization. As one example, when Buffer gave their employees a monthly development stipend for one year, they found that only 28% took advantage of it.

A stipend program that benefits the employee directly by allowing them to improve their human capital while also being used towards development opportunities that align with the strategic and tactical needs outlined by executive leadership is the best of both worlds. 

Done correctly, this is a huge boost to engagement while also aligning with the needs of the business. In one survey, 67% of HR leaders said external and internal leadership coaching increased employee engagement and satisfaction. Meanwhile, 60% also said it improved employees’ perceptions of the quality of leadership.

In other words, when you follow employee development best practices, you really get it right, and all levels of your organization see the benefits. But what professional development stipend ideas will a CFO or CHRO approve that employees will actually use? And if you are a CFO or CHRO, how should you evaluate these programs and stipends? 

In this article, we give you a list of ideas to get started.

What to Focus On for Your Professional Development Stipend Ideas

According to recent reports, employee happiness just hit an all time low. Let’s also not forget that fighting low employee engagement scores is an ongoing battle. 

Leaders must recognize these trends, and ensure they’re providing tools and opportunities for advancement. Inspired and knowledge-filled workers are not only happier employees, they’re better at their jobs!

When thinking about professional development stipend ideas, these principles can help satisfy both the desires of your employees and the needs of your company.

Keep these questions in mind to best utilize these guiding principles in your next meeting.

HR Leader Thought Starters: 

  • Who in my organization is a high-potential employee and what can I do to support their training? 

  • What are our employees looking for in career development training

  • What are our goals for our professional development stipend spending? 

  • What development stipend programs best improve community and engagement?

  • How do we ensure employees actually use their stipends?

  • What type of measurable data can we generate about professional development stipends?

Idea #1: Avoid Lost Productivity

Executives are constantly thinking about efficiency. When structuring a professional development stipend program, it’s best to steer employees towards options that don’t require taking time away from work. Not only does it reduce operations, it can cause stress for the employee and reduce the likelihood of completion.

You don’t want one-and-done trainings to feel like a "dentist appointment” type of Learning and Development program. To avoid this, the ideal scenario involves development opportunities integrated into the employees’ workflow. This enhances their skills while maintaining, or even boosting, productivity levels. 

Idea #2: Make It Convenient and Accessible

Employees shouldn’t need to travel far for their program. They should be designed so that individuals can easily access and participate in them, regardless of their location or schedule. 

This includes online courses, virtual coaching workshops, and in-house training sessions that minimize disruption to their daily tasks. Moreover, ensuring that opportunities are straightforward demonstrates an organization’s commitment to every employee’s growth and needs. 

Idea #3: Create a Shared Language

Employee development stipends can be particularly effective when they are used to fund programs for multiple employees at an organization. Developing a shared language through a training course or program helps promote a common understanding and perspective. 

It might seem small, but employees who can recall the time spent together and the skills gained will work effectively for your organization. There’s a lot of power in speaking the same language.

Idea #4: Break Silos, Foster Inclusion

Beyond a shared language and acquiring new skills, group programs open the door for community. Individuals come together and build a cohesive work environment. These moments connect people across various parts of an organization in a way that may not have happened naturally. 

We’ve found that most organizations use a limited “menu” of programs. When a stipend can be applied to almost anything, like a class at a local college, it doesn’t provide that connection at your organization that can take your program to the next level.

Programs with stipends should be built between a dedicated ‘menu’ and an ‘all-out buffet’ of options. This encourages initiatives that bring together employees across different functions and departments. This could be group projects, cross-departmental training sessions, or team-building activities.

Idea #5: Provide Opportunity for Data and Measurement

Employee development isn’t just about building community. The reality is that stipend dollars are resources invested by your company. Leadership will want to make sure it’s worth the investment. While it’s difficult to measure individual relationships and communication, there are other ways. 

Provide leadership with participation rates, skill evaluations, and overall assessments on job performance. Data and insight gained from these measurements not only justify the investment but guide future improvements. 

Idea #6: Use Stipends that Apply Action Now

How does a stipend enter your employee’s normal flow of work? Immediate applicability of learned skills to the workplace is a key factor. Your employees should be learning how to make actual changes to apply to their position, and not just consume information as edutainment. 

Sometimes, gaining knowledge can be confused with gaining skills, but knowing does not automatically translate into doing. That’s why your employee stipend ideas must prioritize action. Having a plan of action for your employees after the training reinforces their learning while demonstrating the benefits of the investment.

Idea #7: Encourage Conversations Between Managers and Employees

Effective development programs go beyond formal training. They foster deeper connections within the organization that isn’t just cross-department, but between tiers of leadership levels. 

Directing your stipend spending towards programs that connect your employees leads to informal mentorships, check-ins, career development conversations, and routine feedback. When managers and employees talk, it goes beyond the aforementioned breaking down of silos. It goes further, creating a healthy environment that encourages long-term commitment from employees who can see their career growth options.

Your Professional Development Stipend Ideas Must Add Value

So how does any leadership development initiative influence engagement? It adds value without compromising productivity. When you have real feedback on how they’re being utilized by your employees, you can highlight both the qualitative success stories and quantitative results that will prove the return on investment. 

After all, when leadership invests in something, they want to know it’s working. Set yourself and your team up for success by keeping these guiding principles in mind. 

If you’re interested in seeing a program that acts as a modern employee development stipend choose, book a demo with PILOT today!


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