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The Importance of Research for Professional Development in Business

The Importance of Research for Professional Development in Business

The philosopher Sir Francis Bacon wrote: “For also knowledge itself is power.” This quote is fit for every part of life, including work, business and professional development.

Research gives us knowledge. Whether it is reading guidebooks about potential holiday destinations, looking up how to start a new car, or where a particular kind of makeup can be bought. It can be done by undertaking experiments or talking to people. Or, nowadays, browsing the internet for specific articles, or via formal and well-tested techniques.

Within business, an understanding of a range of subjects and statistics will enable organizations to make considered decisions about issues. This includes strategies, marketing, and human resources. For individuals, research is vital for their own professional development.

Research within business

Information is everywhere, and the amount on offer, as well as the range of places it is available from, can be overwhelming. So, a company has to identify what it needs to look at and the sources it can use to gain it from. Undertaking the right kind of research can mean that a company can find the right supplier. After all you want one that provides exactly the right price at the right time, enhances business productivity and improves performance. Or, perhaps you need to upgrade technology or develop new management systems to push growth.

Research can include:

  • Market research involves the study of the structure of a market in order to formulate policies for buying, production, and selling.
  • Operational research uses mathematical, logical, and analytical methods to focus on costs and optimization problems.
  • Motivational research, in which you study market characteristics and individual behavior.
  • Financial analysis involves looking at current financial processes within an organization. It could include looking at costs, cash flows, and profits to allow leaders to identify where to reduce costs.
  • Consumer data can be used to target an audience, refine existing systems, or launch new products.
  • Competitive analysis, in which other businesses within the same industry or market are researched to help a company find areas of growth and improvement.
  • Industry research is similar to market research but involves looking at an entire industry rather than a specific market.

In the world of science and medicine, for example, there are currently millions of research projects worldwide. There is a list on the National Institute of Health’s All of Us Research Program website that includes exploring data. This allows you to understand the prevalence of some medical conditions that might be impacted by changes in nutrition and hypersensitive disorders of pregnancy.

When looking at the McKinsey Global Institute, recent topics range from ‘The net-zero transition: what it would cost, what it could bring’ to ‘Global flows – the ties that bind in an interconnected world’ to ‘Productivity, competitiveness, and growth’.

All of this shows the value and importance of gathering information from different sources and sharing it with others in order to move forward. Whether from a large-scale global organization, a multinational company, a small start-up, or an individual.

Research for individuals

Without research, we would not have vaccines, space travel, trains, mobile phones, cooking recipes, sustainable housing, or anything else that we take for granted. Finding out about the world around us means that we, as individuals, can make better decisions for ourselves and the organizations for which we work.

Personal development is an important part of the growth of every individual. Exploring areas for self-improvement will enable everyone to feel more fulfilled in their personal life. But, it will also benefit everyone professionally. By going through the process and looking at building up awareness, skills, and knowledge through developing talent, improving health and lifestyle, or learning a new skill, for example, everyone’s overall sense of identity will improve. It will, as a result, enhance every aspect of their life.

Within the professional sphere, gaining specific credentials will be of use in any advancement or achieving long-term goals. These could include studying for a degree, working on a professional qualification, or attending events and conferences.

Simply going through the process can help individuals to learn more about their abilities and aspirations. All while they work out where their values and beliefs lie. Thus, they can gain a clear purpose for the future both professionally and personally. This enables people to set clear goals and establish effective ways to pursue them.

By having clear and achievable targets, it is easier to be motivated to fulfill them. Coming up with a development plan to track progress is always helpful. By acknowledging this, productivity improvement in the tasks that are set – whether it is by study, at work, or at home – will follow. The tasks will also be to a higher standard.

Ensuring that employers are aware of your commitment to personal development will demonstrate dedication and ability and aptitude to learn and grow.

Professional development

It’s important to take every opportunity to learn and develop. Whether presented explicitly within a team or from a leader, or as an individual researching themselves to help further their skills and career. It is about the commitment to ongoing learning and looking forward, learning new things, refreshing knowledge and skills, and keeping up to date with the latest developments within a specific profession. This can be taking a qualification, learning new aspects of a job, or pursuing a training course to enhance and refresh existing knowledge.

The learning activities will vary depending on the role, sector, and experience already held. They could include attending industry conferences and e-learning. Not to mention informal discussions among colleagues, independent reading, or learning from a peer. Professional development is not only getting more qualifications but is also a continuously ongoing improvement of skills and competencies.

In some professions and industries, professional development is mandated by codes of ethics or conduct. But, for many, it is a personal responsibility to keep skills current.

Things to consider in order to develop include:

  • Using situations as possible learning opportunities.
  • Engaging with appraisal processes in a positive way.
  • Updating specialist and professional skills.
  • Seeking, accepting and acting on feedback.
  • Praising others for good work.
  • Giving constructive feedback.
  • Thinking about the development of colleagues.
  • As a manager, ensuring that there is equal access to opportunities for everyone.
  • Delegating in order to develop others.
  • Coaching and mentoring colleagues and staff.

Within an organization:

  • Supporting others to undertake short-term secondments and alternative duties in order to give them more varied experience.
  • Identifying the changing needs of an organization and incorporating them into self-development plans as well as those of staff and colleagues.

Business research methods

There are various research methods used within the business. These include the following:

  • Quantitative

These deal with numbers, with an investigation using statistical, computational, or mathematical techniques. Usually beginning with data collection, they move to statistical analysis using a variety of different methods.

  • Survey

This is one of the most widely used ways that data is collected, especially for business research. Surveys typically involve asking a variety of questions to a set of audiences using online polls, surveys, and questionnaires. Many organizations use this method to gather information in order to drive sensible business decisions. Specific types include cross-sectional surveys, which collect data from an audience at a given time, and longitudinal surveys, in which information is gathered across various time durations in order to understand changes in behavior. These are often sent online or via social media.

  • Correlational research

This is undertaken to understand the relationship between two entities and the relationship that each one has with the other. It uses mathematical analysis methods and enables researchers to correlate two or more variables in order to understand patterns and trends. However, generally, do not draw conclusions solely on this type of research.

  • Causal-comparative research

This is used to deduce the cause-and-effect relationship between variables. It is sometimes known as quasi-experimental research. Often, it involves setting an independent variable and analyzing the effects on a dependent variable.

  • Experimental research

This is based on trying to prove a theory. It is useful in business as it can allow a company to understand some behavioral characteristics of the consumers of its products. To do this, experiment on a set of audiences in order to observe and analyze their behavior. Pay attention to the impact certain parameters have.

  • Online/literature research

This is a well-established method, is very economical, and provides a lot of information. It involves gathering information from existing documents and studies. This data is available from places such as libraries and through annual reports. It is very easy to do via internet searches.

  • Interviews

Interviews are similar to surveys, but the respondents can answer open-ended questions at length. The direction of the questions or the conversation can be adapted depending on the response of the subject. This method can give a researcher detailed information about perspectives and opinions from their subjects.

  • Focus groups

This is when you select a set of people in order to enable the researcher to understand their opinions and behaviors. They fit the parameters of a target market audience in order to discuss a particular service or product. They will provide a researcher with a larger sample than the interview or case study.

  • Case study research

This is a very important tool for business. It assesses customer satisfaction, documents previous challenges, and the solutions from the firm. It is also used in education, social science, and other fields to gather information.

Things to consider before undertaking research

Before embarking on any research, whether it be for a specific business aim or for professional development, there are a few things to consider. For example, it’s key to choose the right topic and ask the right question. This may seem obvious, but it’s important to make sure that it’s of interest to you. Also, if it’s for your company, whether it is of interest to the target audience. An effective way of doing this is to shortlist a few ideas of interest. Think about the amount of time you have, and then research the broad topics first. Then, hone down on those that are the most realistic. When you identify the specific topic, read more, and write down more questions.

After gaining a working knowledge of the topic, understanding the research problem and then defining a working hypothesis is the next step. Before undertaking more research, think about ways to steer the research in a specific direction. However, at the same time remain open to going in different directions.

It’s also a good idea to think about collaborating with someone in order to add value. In a formal project, this could be with another organization or another workplace team. Whereas, for personal development, it could be with a colleague or mentor. Joining various groups with interests in similar topics may also help, such as writing groups, associations, networking events, or academic faculties.

Getting the right qualifications

Research as a way of improving an individual’s development is vital within a business. Therefore, learning the right approach to gather information for both personal and business growth is a key part of that.

The Doctor of Business Administration degree at Aston University is for business leaders. It enables them to build up the skills to design and deliver impactful research. Thus, strengthening their ability to solve complex business problems.

The Executive DBA is a part-time distance learning course that can be completed in four to six years, with Research Methods Course (RMC) modules completed in a maximum of two years. These modules allow students to develop as a professional researcher. Modules within the whole course include Introduction to Business Management Research, Applied Research Methods, Qualitative and Quantitative Research Methods, and Professional Development and Research Impact.

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