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Employee Development

Employee development was important before, but after the upheaval of a global pandemic, it’s critical for talent retention.

The demand for HR-specific technology has increased dramatically as a result of the increased competition to recruit or train employees. In addition, we’re in the midst of historic age demographic events. Worker ages ranging from eighteen to ninety-something challenge companies to provide appropriate training for all levels of employee learning.

Employee development has gone from a great idea to a critical business imperative. Technology recruiting company Built In reports that 74% of employees cite a lack of professional development for failure to reach their full potential.

What is Employee Development?

Employee development (also known as Talent Development) is a strategy to ensure that your workforce has the skills necessary to perform exceptionally in their role. Training focuses on current and future business needs and the skills that are and will be necessary to support them.

Employee Development vs Employee Training

Employee development and employee training are interrelated and both have critical roles in employee engagement strategies. But employee training is an important, but distinct, component of employee development.

Employee training is focused on the short-term and typically has a specific objective to teach a defined skill or concept. It may be offered (or mandated) on a scheduled basis – monthly or annually, for example, or as a one-time event. Common training programs might include Supervisory Skills, new work protocols or methods, or safety procedures.

Examples of training needs:

  • How to operate a new piece of equipment
  • Safety protocols

Employee development takes training a level deeper. As a long-term strategy, it often includes on-going and continuous learning which may or may not include the development of  new skills and capabilities. It may be for the purpose of self-enrichment, new responsibilities, or career advancement.

Examples of developmental learning:

  • Communication, soft skills, diversity
  • Performance management

Both are important but offer different paths. A common example is most technical fields such as Information Technology (IT). A skilled employee may advance to a senior technician but is unlikely to succeed as a leader without the education and learning opportunities necessary to impact behavior.

Every company needs skilled workers but when they reach the top of their field or pay grade, you risk losing them to external opportunities that provide growth, responsibility, and pay.

Why Encouraging Employee Development is so Important

SHRM (The Society for Human Resource Management) conducted a study about the types of skills that organizations need to remain competitive. The 2019 Skills Gap Study identified a significant lack of skilled workers at all levels of participating organizations. It’s especially problematic in the trades, middle-skilled requirements, and highly skilled STEM jobs.

Advances in everything from medical breakthroughs to new technology continue at breakneck speed. Organizations must ensure their employees have the skills to support those advancements now and into the future if they wish to remain competitive in their market. The best way to ensure this is providing employees with opportunities for self-development and enrichment at work.

  • Competition – The pandemic’s restriction to remote or work from home (WFH) options changed the definition of jobs. Since many employees can now work remotely for any company in the world, the market for good talent has become increasingly competitive. A staggering 83% of HR professionals in SHRM’s study reported continuing difficulty in recruiting.
  • Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion – There is significant focus on developing current employees who are women, people of color, the differently-abled, LGBTQIA and other frequently marginalized groups for  advancement into skilled or leadership roles. Retention – Continuous development opportunities provide job enrichment and employee engagement. Companies generally report that development opportunities result in significantly reduced turnover. Employees who enjoy what they’re doing and feel that they’re advancing and continuing to learn are usually more productive.
  • Business alignment – Development of your employees to align with business objectives results in a leaner, more competitive workforce.
  • Culture of learning – In general, employees value opportunities for self-development and advancement. Continuous learning can be part of a rewards program that helps to retain employees because they are so engaged in their work and opportunities.

Employee development is a win-win for the employees as well as the organization. Your employees have the opportunity for growth and advancement and the organization retains employees who will continue to contribute to the overall success of the business.

How to Create an Employee Development Plan for Your Organization

Now that we’ve established how beneficial an employee development plan is for the success of the employees as well as the organization, let’s look at the best way to create it.

Step 1: Analyze Current Efforts

In order to determine the best plan for your organization, start with a review of the current method for employee development. Conduct an analysis of your workers to identify gaps in skills and tailor your plan to address them.

Step 2: Get Executive Buy-In

Prepare your proposal for input from leadership and gain their support. The success of your plan may depend upon leadership’s understanding of the objectives, and expected outcomes making it critical that they recognize their role in the plan’s success.

Step 3: Get Feedback from Employees

Talk with your employees to determine what they value and want in a development plan and incorporate their suggestions when possible. This will give your employees a sense of control and likely increase their investment.

Step 4: Execute

Write the plan and make it easily available via all company communication channels and document repositories. Monitor and track results on a regular basis.

14 Employee Development Ideas to Consider

In a highly competitive recruiting and retention market, employee development has to pivot from reactive and routine to innovative and dynamic.

Numerous strategies exist for effective employee development, often falling into one of three main categories: technology, job-specific, and people-specific. Below  are 15 of the latest strategies throughout these categories that are being utilized by companies to develop their employees today..

Technology

Leverage technology to ensure that your workforce has access to innovative and collaborative learning opportunities in order to achieve business objectives.

  • Employee experience platforms are employee-focused software programs that enhance team communication and self-directed development.
  • Gamification uses elements of gaming to provide participants with a fun and competitive way to introduce learning concepts. It’s especially well-received by employees who have strong interests and skills in technology-related games. It is a strategy that uses elements of gaming to enhance the learning process. This strategy often includes rewards like money, gift cards, time off, and more.
  • E-Learning is a convenient way for employees to learn at their own convenience and they can access learning modules online from any location. Ensure that E-Learning is optimized for all mobile devices such as cell phones and tablets.
  • Micro-learning is a trend in learning to provide short learning events that hold the learner’s attention more thoroughly. It uses easily “digestible” content that is broken up into short segments.  The result is more retention and participation by learners.

Job specific

The concept of jobs has transformed to adjust to a new global reality. Employees will continue to want more input and autonomy over how they perform their jobs as well as what is included in their jobs. These strategies enable employees to participate more fully in their own development.

  • Job crafting empowers employees to redesign their jobs to adjust for real life situations.
  • Re-architecting reengineers how and where work is performed.
  • Job simulation is a hands-on preview of a day-in-the-life of a job.
  • Job enrichment adds depth and value-add responsibilities.
  • Job enlargement increases the scope of a role.
  • Job rotation cycles an employee through different jobs to provide a broader skill-set and prepare them for a higher level of responsibility.
  • Cross-training helps team members learn how to perform each other’s jobs.

People specific

The pandemic and resulting competition for talent have increased the need for a people-centric approach to development.

  • Mentoring by an experienced employee or leader provides guidance and motivation to help a less experienced employee navigate the company culture and structure.
  • Talent accelerators create an active plan for recruitment from within and focus on developing employees from underrepresented groups.
  • Well being has shifted away from a focus on work-life balance to the total well-being of the employee, including personal and professional needs.

It will take time and effort on your part to create a good employee development program that will meet the needs of employees at different levels of their development.

But it’s a strategic initiative that will provide multiple benefits in employee engagement and the resulting retention as well as more competitive advantages for your business.

Questions You’ve Asked Us About Employee Development

Who is responsible for employee development?
HR is typically charged with creating and driving employee development. However, senior leadership and management are responsible to ensure that it is a priority for the organization.
What is an employee development plan?
An employee development plan is a strategic initiative to ensure the organization has the right talent on board to meet current and future business objectives.
Beth Campagno

Beth Campagno

Beth has many years of corporate HR and business experience in a variety of business environments. She found her second career writing a wide variety of HR content (DE&I, thought leadership, blog articles, eBooks, case studies, and more) for HR SaaS companies.

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