Employee Development


Employee development or growth is an all-encompassing concept hinged on training; the ideology transcends beyond a mere course; it is a long-term plan for employees that puts their skills enhancement and growth at the forefront while discharging their duties.

Not giving room for employee development is equally detrimental to the growth and success of any company.

As much as an employer or manager intends this activity for good, it should not be shoved down or directly imposed on employees. Instead, it should involve a deliberate practice that integrates the right tools, culture, and quality internal communications between staff, managers, and leaders.

Hence, providing opportunities for employees to enhance their skills and knowledge is an excellent investment that improves their performance in their current role and prepares them for future responsibilities.

Journey with us in this post as we explore employee development, its importance, benefits, types, and methods of employee development programs, creating an effective employee development program, potential challenges, and ways to address them.

What is employee development?

Employee development refers to providing employees with opportunities to enhance their skills, knowledge, and abilities through various training and learning activities. It aims to improve employee performance and job satisfaction and prepare them for future organizational roles.

According to the Association for Talent Development (ATD), employee development is a strategic investment in a company’s workforce to develop employees’ skills, knowledge, and abilities to improve individual and organizational performance. Career development can be viewed in terms of the “3 Es”:

  1. Experience: Experiences gotten on the job which facilitate growth. Usually, this type of development is difficult to forget and practical (e.g., stretching tasks, unique products, mentoring others, failures, successes, etc.)
  2. Exposure: Learning through observation (e.g., working with a coach, seeking feedback, shadowing, networking, etc.)
  3. Education: Structured learning (e.g., courses, books, conferences)

Harvard Business Review recommends that companies prioritize employee development by providing opportunities to learn, grow, and advance their careers. This narrative focuses on the fact that employee development programs would benefit the company in the long run by attracting and retaining top talent in today’s competitive job market.

Two feet standing on asphalt covered in white arrows pointing in different directions

Employee development is a strategic investment in a company’s workforce to enhance employee skills, knowledge, and abilities. It is crucial for organizational growth and success as it can lead to increased productivity, employee engagement, and retention.

By prioritizing employee development, companies can attract and retain top talent, adapt to changes in the marketplace, and improve individual and organizational performance.

Why is employee development important?

Corporative Investment in employee development can yield several benefits for employees and companies. Employers who invest in staff development can help their employees hone their strengths and grow their skills (Hard and Soft), benefiting both the employee and the company.

Employee development is crucial for creating a skilled workforce that can adapt to the changing business environment and remain competitive. Here are some important considerations as to why employers should prioritize development:

  • It can lead to increased employee engagement, motivation, and job satisfaction.
  • It can also help reduce employee turnover rates by providing opportunities to grow and advance within the company.
  • Providing employees with development opportunities shows that the company values their contributions and is committed to their professional growth and development.
  • Employees who receive regular training and development are better equipped to handle challenges, take on new responsibilities, and contribute to the company’s success.

Employee development can help companies attract and retain top talent; 59% of millennials, as job seekers, are often drawn to companies that offer opportunities for growth and development.

For example:

Additionally, static careers have recently been threatened by the increase of remote and hybrid roles as employees quickly transition away from a workplace that needs to evolve. Companies should maximize employee development programs to adapt to changes in the marketplace, technology, and business processes.

Employee development industry trends

Taking the current trends in the industry into perspective makes a huge difference in making significant decisions on how to improve or develop a sustainable plan for employee growth. There are four trends currently in the industries, and this could be important in planning career development as an employer or manager:

  1. Social learning for personal growth

    Social learning is discovering, realizing the benefits, and sharing them with others to improve their learning experience, aiding employee development through a collaborative learning environment, and making training more accessible. It involves sharing experiences, recommending opportunities, and commenting within a digital community or peer group.

    Reward and recognition enhance social learning, publicly motivating others to engage with employee development opportunities. Social learning fosters a company culture of continuous learning, collaboration, and innovation in companies.

  2. Hyper individualization

    Companies now understand that more than providing a one-size-fits-all training approach or a rigid learning path is required. Learning should be more personalized and cater to an individual’s unique requirements by adopting digital transformation.

    While companies can still offer structured learning, they can also introduce looser systems that add gamification to encourage program exploration and participation. Doing this can lead to a more engaged and motivated workforce, which can drive productivity and innovation within the company.

  3. Career Lattice vs. Career Ladder

    Employee development can take a ladder or lattice approach, supporting plans as careers become less predictable. The traditional ladder is a vertical journey through a defined career path.

    As applied during change management, the newer lattice model, seen in startups and flattened structures, encourages lateral moves to broaden employee experiences and skill application. This allows employees to understand the business better and discover new growth opportunities.

  4. Specialist vs. generalist

    Stagnating in one role for an extended period can hinder personal growth and employee satisfaction. A trade-off exists between developing specialized skills and creating versatile generalists who can play multiple positions.

    Influential leaders must guide their teams in assessing their strengths and exploring their options for growth. 360-degree feedback can be an excellent tool to evaluate strengths and challenge personal assumptions about skill sets. By encouraging professional growth and development, leaders can foster a culture of continuous learning and adaptability.


In the long run, besides employees improving themselves while undergoing development programs, the employer is more likely to enjoy dividends. Employee development programs can provide several benefits for both the company and employees, including:

  1. Attracting great employees

    There is a common saying that a company is as good as the quality of staff that execute the day-to-day activities. Companies that invest in employee development are more attractive to job seekers, with 94% of employees saying they would stay longer at a company that supports their career development.

    Companies that offer employee development programs demonstrate a commitment to their workforce, making them more attractive to top talent.

  2. Improving employee performance

    In an ideal workplace setting, most employees want to be recognized as the best in their service delivery. Hence good performance gives them job satisfaction. Employees who participate in development programs show higher levels of performance and productivity.

    An IBM study found that employees that receive development training have a 46% higher likelihood of remaining at their company than those employees that don’t.

    Wooden blocks with arrows on them creating a staircase

  3. Increasing employee engagement

    Development opportunities increase employee engagement, with employees feeling more valued and invested in the company’s success.

    Engaged employees are nearly three times more likely to put in extra hours when needed and will actively advocate on the behalf of their company.

  4. Training future leaders

    Developing employees is a futuristic agenda for companies with a well-mapped-out plan, sustainable goal, and vision. This is to prepare dedicated employees for leadership positions within the company.

    Companies with leadership development programs have 13% stronger business results than those without. This is a unique way to sustain highly loyal leadership and boost dedication toward the continued operational activities in the company.

  5. Strengthening company culture

    Employee development can create a continuous learning and growth culture where employees feel valued and supported in their professional development.

    Through employee development programs, companies can align employee goals and values with the company’s mission and vision, fostering a shared sense of purpose and commitment to the company.

  6. Boosting employee job satisfaction

    Employees with opportunities for development and growth report higher levels of job satisfaction. Job satisfaction has been linked to increased employee retention, improved performance, and better customer satisfaction.

    Employee Value Proposition can begin from this as it prepares them for better positions and how to handle more professional responsibilities.

  7. Improving skills and knowledge

    Employee development improves the skills and knowledge of employees, increasing their ability to contribute to the company. Providing development opportunities can also help bridge skill gaps within the workforce.

    Most employees are more fulfilled in an environment where they can contribute to reaching their fullest professional potential, especially where they can quickly get the training they need and be given a chance to showcase themselves.

  8. Increasing employee retention rate

    Companies that invest in employee development have higher retention rates than those that don’t. Employees who feel that their employer values their development and career growth are more likely to stay with the company long-term.

    With the emergence of the great resignation, many companies have learned that a high turnover rate is a bad record; hence incorporating development is a nice perk.

Types of employee development/methods

Skill concept chart with keywords and icons that relate to employee development

Employee development programs come in different forms, catering to specific learning needs and styles. Some of the types of employee development programs include:

  • On-the-job training: This type of program involves providing employees with hands-on experience. At the same time, they work on real projects, allowing them to develop new skills and improve their performance.
  • Coaching and mentoring: Employees are paired with experienced professionals who offer guidance, support, and feedback to help them enhance their skills and knowledge. This should be a top priority as part of the employee onboarding protocol.
  • Formal education programs: Structured educational programs such as workshops, seminars, and courses are provided to employees to help them gain knowledge and skills in a particular area.
  • Leadership development: Programs designed to help employees develop leadership skills and abilities, including communication, decision-making, and problem-solving skills.

Each program has unique benefits and can be tailored to meet specific learning goals and objectives.

How to create an effective employee development program

Stack of books with words on the spine that relate to employee development

Creating an effective employee development program involves the following steps:

  1. Set clear goals: Define the program’s purpose, what skills and knowledge employees will gain, and how it aligns with the company’s goals.
  2. Involve employees: Ask employees for their input, what skills they want to develop, and how they prefer to learn. An employee experience strategy comes into play at this point.
  3. Offer various development opportunities: On-the-job training, coaching and mentoring, cross-training, the 9-box grid, job shadowing, job enrichment, formal education programs, individual development plans (IDP), and leadership development.
  4. Provide ongoing support: Ensure employees receive support throughout the program, such as access to resources and mentor feedback.
  5. Measure success: Establish metrics to track progress and evaluate the program’s success.
  6. Adapt and improve: Use employee feedback and metrics to improve the program over time.

How to make sure it runs smoothly

In the quest to ensure that an employee development program runs smoothly, the following steps can be taken:

  • Effective communication: Communication is crucial to the success of any program. Communicating the program’s objectives, the employees’ expectations, and the resources available is vital.
  • Provide necessary resources: Ensuring employees have the required tools and resources to succeed is pertinent. Providing them with access to training materials, tools, and equipment is essential.
  • Regular tracking: Regular tracking and assessing the program’s progress can help identify any challenges or areas needing improvement. This can be done via surveys, feedback sessions, or performance evaluations.
  • Incorporate employee feedback: It is vital to incorporate employee feedback into the program design and make necessary adjustments based on their input. This is likely to boost employee advocacy.
  • Measuring success: Regularly measuring the program’s success against its objectives can help identify areas of improvement and strength.


Employee development programs can face various challenges that can hinder their effectiveness. Some of these challenges include:

  • Development needs of each employee: Individual needs are always the first thing to consider, which is why employee communication must be regular.
  • Budget constraints: Companies may need more resources to invest in employee development programs, such as hiring trainers or paying for courses.
  • Lack of employee buy-in: Employees may need to be more enthusiastic about participating in development programs, or they may need to see the relevance of the training to their jobs or career goals.
  • Lack of capabilities: Having capable hands would be beneficial in mentoring new hires and junior employees to aid their effectiveness.
  • Inconsistent execution: By and large, to keep the company’s culture running smoothly, consistency is key; this is why development programs can’t be handled shabbily.
  • Lack of analytics tools: Keeping track of each metric is handy for developing and tracking growth levels. Prescriptive analytics is beneficial in retaining procedures or adopting others.


Investing in employee development is crucial for the growth and success of any company. Companies can develop a skilled and motivated workforce by providing employees with opportunities to enhance their skills and knowledge, leading to increased productivity, collaboration, and profitability. Creating an effective employee development program requires setting clear goals, providing feedback, and measuring success.

While challenges may arise, such as budget constraints and lack of employee buy-in, addressing them can help companies reap the benefits of employee development. Consider the value of employee development for your company or career growth and explore how Simpplr Intranet can help you build a better workplace where everyone can flourish.