Employee Development

What are career development programs, and do you need one at work?

Here's how to start a career development program if you're just getting started. Learn actionable strategies from real-life examples.

Muinat Zubair

Published on 

December 2, 2022

Updated on 

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If you asked your employees if they feel that they have ample opportunities for career advancement at your company, what would they tell you?

Would they say they have a lot of career development programs available to them—that they regularly find themselves making time for upskilling or reskilling?

Why does this matter? Consider that 41% of employees McKinsey surveyed left their jobs because of the lack of career advancement opportunities. 

Conversely, LinkedIn found from a survey, 94% of employees would stay in their current company if they invested in their learning and development

So you see, connecting employees to learning opportunities is the key to employee retention. But how you do that is where there’s nuance. In this article, we are going to outline career development programs and how to start them in your workplace.

What are career development programs?

Career development programs are plans designed to match employees’ abilities, needs and career goals to current and future opportunities within an organization. It is a way to set your employees up for success and long-term progression in your company. 

Usually, career development spans the entire work life of an individual and is an on-the-job opportunity. Whereas academic career development is when employees enroll in professional courses put on by an academic institution. Similarly, bootcamps are short-term development plans designed to train employees in specific hard skills. It could be to upskill employees or help them transition to another career path. 

Why it’s important to have career development programs

Many organizations have realized that to stay ahead of the competition, they need to invest in the skills and talent of their workforce—in short, they need to train employees effectively

They are now fully committed to employee development as a way of achieving organizational goals. 

Below are some benefits of having career development programs in place.

Employee retention

Employee career development is one of the effective strategies to increase retention rates. They retain valued employees as long as their personal and career development needs are catered to. 

The organization gains a reputation for prioritizing their employee needs on the job market. Professionals value the company as a people developer and are keen to work there. 

Upskilling and reskilling employees

With the right development plan, employees can stay in tune with trends in their roles by reskilling and upskilling to prepare for future roles that may open up. 

Instead of hiring a new person, the organization can promote an existing employee to a position since he or she is already aware of the company culture and goals. 

Leadership development

Career development prepares employees to be prospective leaders. Depending on the program, you can help them develop their decision-making and cross-functional skills through high-potential leadership programs

By supporting and embracing workplace learning, you’re equipping budding executives with the skills to become influencers and contribute to corporate success at an advanced level.    

Examples of successful career development programs

There are several programs you can establish to accelerate employee development. Mentoring, upskilling, employee resources groups and personalized learning and development are just some examples. 

We will highlight 3 real-life examples below.

1. Marriot International

Marriot has two development programs designed to attract and retain employees. There is the “Global Voyage Leadership Development Program” for recent university graduates and the “Marriot Development Academy” to help aspiring managers gain leadership skills.

2. Workday

Workday has a skill-based HR strategy for their employees to find and work towards specific skills. They connect them with opportunities to work in other teams and departments using proprietary tools like Career Hub. Employee feedback on the program which commenced in 2021 has been encouraging.

3. Randstad

Randstad is a multinational that runs a global mentoring program for its employees. They were able to measure the turnover rates and employee engagement of participants and those who didn’t participate. This helped them provide the development and support their employees need and thus reduce turnover rates. 

There are more examples of companies with exceptional development programs and impressive results in this blog post on some best company training programs.

Best practices for building a career development program

Now that you are convinced building a career development program is the next best step for your organization. Here are some strategies to implement for success.

Decide which employees should participate

Do you want the program to serve early-career professionals or high-potential employees training for leadership roles? Maybe underrepresented talent is your focus, the participants will determine the content of the program. 

Have managers and employees co-create development plans

An Individual development plan (IDP) is based on an employee's career and personal development needs. 

It is a personalized approach to helping employees reach their short and long-term career goals and improving job performance. Instead of asking employees to pick randomly from courses, they don’t need. 

An IDP is a partnership between managers and employees that involves continuous feedback and preparation.   

Pair employees with mentors who will help them grow

Having a workplace mentorship is like standing on the shoulder of giants for junior employees and even senior executives in the case of reverse mentorship

Career goals are not only crystal clear but achievable in less time with a mentor. How refreshing is it to have someone to look up to and seek assistance and advice when necessary? If you are still in doubt, read our blog post on career mentors and what they can do for you. 

Think beyond a simple LMS

An effective career development program is interactive and more effective than courses offered through a Learning Management System (LMS). 

Job shadowing, peer-to-peer learning, stretch assignments and career coaching are some offerings of development programs that LMS simply can’t beat

Put employees on a growth trajectory today

Career development programs are essential to retaining and promoting high-potential talent. 

These programs assist employees in improving their skills in their current roles. They also help employees navigate organization ladders, gain unique insights regarding their strength and development needs and enhance their ability for career progression and future opportunities. 

Mentoring is a tested and trusted method to accelerate employee development. Fast-track your workplace growth and encourage knowledge-sharing by pairing mentors with mentees through a formal mentoring program.

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