Employee development

What is employee development (plus 5 reasons why employee development is important)

Understand the importance of having a robust employee development program and the benefits of including it in your organization.

Saheed Hassan

Published on 

February 23, 2023

Updated on 

Time to Read

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Employees are looking for jobs that will prioritize their growth and development. People want to feel value and purpose at work — employers need to change their orientation about their employees.

A 2022 LinkedIn Global Talent Trends report says 59% of employees listed professional development as their top priority for businesses to invest in to improve the company's culture.

Organizations that prioritize employee development will experience greater efficiency, higher morale, and heightened employee engagement.

In this article, we’ll outline the benefits of robust employee development programs, how HR teams can start building their own program, and methods to include.

What is employee development?

Employee development is upskilling and reskilling employees to better prepare them for future career opportunities within an organization. It involves activities such as training, mentoring, and coaching, which help employees develop the skills and abilities that will help them reach their highest potential.

Why is it important to have a robust employee development plan? 

Employee development plays a vital role in an employee's life cycle: helping employees become proficient in their current job skills and upskilling them for future roles. 

However, Gartner's research shows that 70% of employees lack the mastery needed for their current role, let alone future skills. This shows an apparent need for organizations to invest in a robust employee development program now.

Also, managers tasked with developing their employees spend only 9% of their time developing them. Worse is the fact that 45% feel they don't possess the necessary skills to develop their employees. 

An individual development plan will provide managers with the support and material for developing their employees.

Having a robust and structured plan enables you to retain and attract talent, giving your business a competitive advantage in the market. 

For example, a good employee development plan shows you are willing to invest in your people and in building your company culture — something your employees will appreciate and respond to with increased loyalty.

5 Benefits of employee development

A paved and well-maintained street leads to safe and smooth travel for drivers. Similarly, effective and well-planned employee development plans will result in an engaged and productive workplace for employees and employers.

Investing in employees' development is a win-win situation. Here are 5 compelling benefits that reveal why you should reassess your employee development program.

1. Improved employee skills and job performance

Lack of training and insufficient skill hinders employees from carrying out their job and duties effectively and efficiently. 

When employers provide them with the necessary skills to do their jobs, such as through training programs, workshops, mentoring, and coaching, employees have the opportunities to improve their knowledge and skill, which translates to being better equipped to handle their job adequately. 

This also leads to improved job performance. A study shows that 90% of employees agree or strongly agree that training improved their performance.

2. Enhanced job satisfaction and increased retention

Employees with adequate training feel more confident in their abilities and fulfill more responsibilities. This enables them to meet the challenges of their jobs and contribute to an organization's success which leads to a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

Investing in employee development could lead to a path of self-discovery and improvement. "Your employees' ability to take satisfying and productive steps toward career goals is directly proportionate to their self-awareness," writes Julie Winkle Giulioni, Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Employees Want

Employee job satisfaction creates an atmosphere where employees feel valued, appreciated, and supported by their employers. And studies show that employees who are satisfied with their job stay longer.

3. Improve talent management and succession plan

Organizations would have little concern for talent management when employees are well-equipped, satisfied with their job, and stay longer. Developing employees also ensures organizations have a talent pool prepared to step into leadership roles.

4. Increase business profitability

Have you been struggling to meet your business goals? Businesses with a robust employee development program have a higher success rate of meeting their business goals. Well-trained employees are more efficient and make fewer mistakes and, ultimately, increase business profits.

5. Increased competitiveness in the job market

An engaging employee development program will attract top talent.

As Peter Drucker, the renowned management expert, once said, "the best way to predict the future is to create it." This way, the organization is positioned to create a successful future for itself and its employees.

How to create an effective employee development program

Effective employee development is crucial for an organization to foster a culture of continuous learning which sharpens employee skills to thrive in a competitive world. As shown above, it's also an effective tool to increase job satisfaction and improve overall organizational performance and the company's profitability. 

However, developing effective employee development can be challenging. But with the right program and approach, a company can craft a program that's impactful and yields results.

Soft skills development

Soft skills, also known as People skills or Behavior skills, plays a critical role in the success or failure of an employee — little wonder, 89% of recruiters say "bad hires" usually lack soft skills. 

As organizations work hard to position the company for success, it's also crucial to invest in developing their employees’ soft skills. 

Soft skills leaders should nurture in their team are time management, effective communication, better collaboration, teamwork, adaptability, and leadership skills. Others include problem-solving, critical thinking, digital literacy, and emotional intelligence.

Employees with soft skills possess the interpersonal and intrapersonal qualities needed in their daily dealing in the workplace. A surprising study asserts that these qualities could increase business revenue by $90,000. 

Implementation and practice with digital learning

Implementing a digital learning program enables employees to learn through a diverse range of learning methods via technology. This includes video-based learning, micro-learning, virtual classrooms (Augmented Reality (AR) & Virtual Reality (VR)), online training courses, and gamified simulations. This way, employees gain knowledge and skill through interactive and engaging methods.

With digital learning programs, employees are able to access, learn and practice from these resources anywhere. 

A study by Kaltura found that 82% of employees say interactive videos hold their attention better than traditional videos.

Creating a strategic employee development plan

Without a plan, an employee development program is wishful thinking. Having a strategic and detailed plan that aligns with organizational goals is essential. 

A strategic development plan begins with analyzing the skill gap between an employee's current and future role. This way, HR leaders understand employees' areas of deficiency and how to improve them to become a better asset to the company's growth. Ensure that the plan includes a way to measure the program's success.

Connecting employees with mentors to help them grow

It's not enough to provide employees with a digital program for their development — employees need to connect with a mentor (someone who has been there — and was once in their position professionally) who will provide valuable insight, guidance, and support to help them achieve their career goals.

How can HR leaders implement employee development programs?

Organizations that recognize the importance of employee development programs know HR leaders play a vital role in their creation and implementation. They are tasked with evaluating the needs and abilities of employees and helping them grow through it. 

For a successful program, HR leaders must ensure they consider each step of the process, starting from the point of designing and measuring the outcome. Here are five steps to consider:

Setting definitive goals

When planning any employee development program, HR leaders must first understand and define the why, what, and how of the organization's development program. It ensures they're able to set a definitive and measurable objective for the program.

Ensuring there's a timeline and a roadmap for achieving these goals enables HR leaders to keep things in check as the program progresses.

Identifying employee needs

Having set the goals for the employee development program, HR leaders should ensure that the goals are tied to employees' needs. And this involves setting realistic goals for employees. 

Creating an effective plan entails — assessing your employee's current skill, identifying where there's a skill gap, identifying objectives, and crafting a plan that addresses these gaps.

Incorporating e-learning methods

A 2018 Workplace LinkedIn report shows 68% of employees prefer to learn at work. 58% prefer to learn at their own pace — and 49% prefer to learn at the point of need. There's only one way to meet these three different demands — incorporating e-learning.

Moreover, e-learning offers a lot of benefits to both employees and organizations. Employees can consume more content (IBM employees consumed 5X more content), and the organization is going to spend less (e-learning helps Dow Chemical save over $34 million in expenses).

Fostering and modelling a growth-oriented work culture

Every organization should create and promote a culture of learning and growth from the top down. HR leaders achieve this by creating a positive environment that nurtures learning and growth — and setting an example of self-improvement. 

The post-pandemic has shifted the way many employees see their workplace. A Gartner study shows that 65% "agree" or "strongly agree" that it made them re-evaluate their views on work. Among those polled, 56% said it made them want to do more for society.

Part of this has led to what's now termed the Great Reflection. HR leaders and employers need to pay attention to their employees' demands by providing them with growth opportunities. And through the employee development program, they'll be more motivated and valued.

Clearly defining expectations

Clear communication, comprehension, and well documentation of expectations are essential. HR leaders must ensure every stakeholder understands the goal and objective of the employee development program.

A defined action plan — roles and responsibilities — ensures everyone agrees, aligns, and accedes to work toward the common goal of the program.

Once HR leaders put all the above in place, they're on the way to designing an effective employee development program.

3 Proven methods of professional development

Remember, we talked about how to implement an employee development program? The following steps show HR leaders proven methods they can employ to impact their employee development.


A relationship between an experienced and less experienced employee in which the experienced employee serves as the mentor by sharing insight and advice with their mentees.

This method enables mentees or junior employees to learn from their mentors about their new field or unfamiliar terrain in the industry.

Mentoring has been proven effective in helping employees increase their knowledge and skill, resulting in increased job performance, satisfaction, and career growth.

For instance, an organization looking to develop its senior employees' tech-savviness will use reverse mentoring.


The process involves exposing employees to different roles and skill sets within the same organization. It broadens and expands employees' understanding of workplace overall functions.

Cross-training enables organizations to build a resilient and flexible workforce that adapts to change quickly. This is especially useful when an employee needs to fill in for absent colleagues.


Coaching is another form of professional development in which a coach assesses employees' goals, identifies their weak points or areas that need improvement, and develops their skills through actionable methods for achieving their goals. 

Coaching has many benefits for employees and the organization: it helps ambitious employees create plans for their career growth and prepares future leaders in the organization waiting to climb the corporate ladder.

Organizations should not overlook coaching when considering the growth and development of their employees.

Bottom line: How mentoring software can help build your employee development program

Mentoring is a proven and powerful tool for professional development. It promotes positive workplace culture, increases diversity and inclusion, and reduces turnover. It enables organizations to build robust employee development programs. 

Together offers a comprehensive solution for organizations to manage their mentoring program. Our platform enables program managers to match mentors and mentees effortlessly, track their progress, and capture feedback.

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