Employee development is a process of educating employees so they can continue providing valuable contributions to their company. 

With constant technological innovations challenging the status quo, encouraging employees to keep pace through improving their skills and enhancing their practical knowledge benefits them and their employer.

Why is employee development important?

Sourcing, hiring, and training of new employees are expensive and time-consuming processes. Employee development, meanwhile, can offer an economical way to help employees elevate their work performance, contributing to an increase in:

  • Retention. By investing in employee development, companies can show that they value their team members and are committed to helping them succeed. This helps to foster a sense of loyalty and reduces the chance they’ll look for opportunities elsewhere. 
  • Engagement. Employee learning and development programs enable employees to acquire new skills and knowledge—which in turn leads to increased job satisfaction and engagement. 
  • Motivation. Offering development opportunities can boost motivation by giving your team members a sense of purpose and a clear path for advancing their career. This often leads to people becoming more driven and focused. 
  • Productivity. When employees develop new skills, they are better equipped to handle their responsibilities and adapt to changes in the workplace. This can help boost efficiency and productivity. 
  • Profitability. A better-trained team with higher engagement, motivation, and productivity can translate into increased profitability. A developed team is more likely to work efficiently, which can make a substantial impact on your bottom line.
  • Company resilience. As a team enhances its skills and knowledge, it becomes better equipped to tackle challenges, as well as adapt to any shifts in the business landscape. This results in heightened company resilience and a more competitive edge in the market.

For instance, helping engineers develop their project management skills, or guiding sales representatives on effective relationship-building, can boost work contributions, assist employees in achieving career goals, and inspire a meaningful work experience.

How to implement effective employee development programs

HR leaders should tailor the employee development program to fit the organization’s budget and needs. These tips offer a dynamic approach:

  • Establish a plan with definitive goals. Map out a plan for the implementation of designated types of learning. HR leaders and managers can collaborate to create employee surveys and a strategy for promoting the development program, and trial employee development sessions to ensure the learning initiatives run smoothly. 
  • Find out what employees want. Through employee surveys and frequent performance reviews, HR leaders can find out how employees envision advancing their work performance. HR leaders and stakeholders can incorporate relevant employee suggestions and goals that align with their budget and with proven development strategies.  
  • Fuse e-learning with mentoring. Electronic learning can be time-efficient and cost-effective. Regular meetings with a peer mentor or coach complement the e-learning, giving employees a well-rounded approach to their informal work education.  
  • Nurture a growth-oriented culture. Seamless integration of learning opportunities into the weekly schedule encourages employees to enjoy the enrichment process. Brief spurts of e-learning, gamification, applicable podcasts, or instructor-led workshops can keep the topics engaging and upbeat. 
  • Provide clear expectations. Clear direction can empower those who are ready to widen their career scope. HR consultant Sharlyn Lauby describes the advantages of creating a career development manual. The guide can be creative and friendly, reflecting the company culture and welcoming employees to take responsibility for their learning journey. A consolidation of websites, blogs, development values, and other learning venues in their field can enrich their repertoire and deepen their contributions.
  • Monitor progress and collate feedback. Consistently evaluating your team’s progress and collecting feedback on the effectiveness of your development programs can help to refine and improve future programs. This can involve conducting short post-training surveys, holding focus group discussions, or setting up one-on-ones with your team to gather any insights. 
  • Celebrate achievements and recognize growth. When your team members are performing well in their development programs, celebrating their efforts can help to boost morale and encourage further growth. This can be something as small as a public acknowledgement or something larger such as an annual award ceremony. 

Employee development plan examples

Creating an effective employee development plan can make all the difference to your team. The process involves taking a diverse and inclusive approach that caters to different learning styles and preferences. 

Here are some examples of development plan methods that you can use for your company to help foster growth, as well as continuous learning and improvement: 

  • Skills development workshops. Try running workshops or training sessions that focus on enhancing specific skills such as leadership, problem-solving, negotiation, and communication. 
  • Individual development plans (IDPs). Collaborate with your team members to create their own IDPs that focus on their career goals, key areas for improvement, and the necessary steps to achieve these aims. 
  • Mentoring programs. Pair experienced team members with professionals who are looking to grow and develop to help foster personal and professional growth. These mentors can help to provide guidance, advice, and support to boost employee development. 

How does employee development improve company culture?

Offering opportunities to gain proficiency and cultivate practical work-related knowledge illustrates how an employer values their employees. 

Employees who feel that their company appreciates them are more likely to connect and engage with their work and actualize their potential. In turn, this constructive employee-employer relationship can promote career fulfillment and a vibrant, robust company culture.

What are the employee development areas?

To create a detailed and effective development plan, HR leaders will need to identify key employee development areas that they want to focus on. Having a deeper understanding of these areas is an essential part of tailoring a program that fosters growth and improves the overall performance of your team. 

Here are some examples of key areas to focus on: 

  • Communication. Effective communication is a crucial part of fostering an environment that champions collaboration, problem-solving, and relationship-building. 
  • Leadership. Leadership skills are a hugely beneficial ability that allows your team members to make important decisions, manage other people, and lead the way.
  • Flexibility. Your team needs to be adaptable and open to new ideas in order to grow and prosper. This openness helps to foster innovation and helps companies stay competitive, especially in oversaturated industries where the slightest advantage can make a huge difference. 
  • Creativity. Fostering creativity in your team helps your company develop innovative solutions, enhances your problem-solving abilities, and drives business growth. 
  • Stress management. It’s important to place focus on the mental wellbeing of your team. Not only does this help improve productivity and the general atmosphere of the workplace, but it also helps to boost your team’s overall emotional health.