Learning and Development

Employee development program: Essential components

Employee development is crucial to organizational success. Fewer and fewer organizations are looking to hire talent because competition is too fierce. Instead, they're looking inward. To create a winning employee development program here are the 5 essential components. Leverage each and you'll drive your teams' performance, morale, and impact to new heights.

Nick Saraev

Published on 

February 17, 2022

Updated on 

According to the World Economic Forum, 50% of employees will need to undergo skills development by the year 2025. This is due to an unprecedented rise in the popularity of employee development; in fact, over half of organizations now agree that upskilling and reskilling are the partial responsibility of employers. Employees that are not challenged to improve and progress may well be left behind.

50% of employees will need to undergo skills development by the year 2025
50% of employees will need to undergo skills development by the year 2025 according to the World Economic Forum

The question is, will your employees be among the 50% by 2025? It would be in your best interests, as emerging research continues to demonstrate the incredible benefits of developing your employees’ skills and talents.

Employee development is crucial for winning organizations – that is, organizations that want to see growth, success, and consistently high-performing results. Fortunately, there are many ways you as an organization can go about reskilling and upskilling your workforce.

Organizations are prioritizing upskilling and reskilling over hiring to fill skill gaps.
Organizations are prioritizing upskilling and reskilling over hiring to fill skill gaps. Source

In this article, we’ll explore the importance of employee development, and discuss some tips on how you can get started.

What is employee development?

In the past, workplaces were predominantly focused on moving through the pipeline as efficiently as possible. Little thought was given to upskilling workers, as it was expected that employees would be able to do their jobs with little or no training. Times have changed, and employee development is now seen as a crucial component of organizational success.

The term ‘employee development’ encompasses everything from onboarding and orientation to ongoing skills training and professional development. It’s about ensuring that employees have the right skills and knowledge to do their jobs and grow with the organization. If an employee shows promise in one area but lacks skills in another, employee development can help to fill in the gaps.

Examples of employee development in the workplace

Some examples of employee development activities include:

  • Orientation and onboarding: Introducing new employees to the company, their team, and their job roles
  • Training: Providing employees with the skills they need to do their jobs effectively
  • Coaching and mentoring: Mentoring helps employees learn how to manage their own careers and develop their skills
  • Career planning: Helping employees map out their career paths and identify the skills they need to reach their goals

Emergence of employee development

Employee development began to emerge as a key issue in the early 2000s when the economy was booming and organizations were struggling to find and keep qualified employees. At the time, many companies turned to employee development as a way to improve retention rates and keep their best workers from leaving.

Though employee training had been occurring since the late 1800s through apprenticeships and ‘factory schools’, this idea of corporate training and development only began to send roots down in the decades leading up to the 2000s. Then, once learning technology and LMS were introduced, the concept boomed.

Corporate training became popular in the 1950s to quickly get returning veterans up to speed.
Corporate training became popular in the 1950s to quickly get returning veterans up to speed. View full infographic

Employee development is now more important than ever. The economy has shifted, and the job market has become more competitive. 

In order to stay ahead of the competition, organizations need to invest in their employees and give them the tools they need to succeed.

Why is employee development crucial to organizational success?

In an era where job descriptions are continually evolving to move with technological advances and industry developments, employee development is crucial to organizational success.


Happy employees are more likely to stick around. According to LinkedIn’s Workplace Learning Report, 93% of employees indicated that they would stay at their jobs if employers invested in their career development.

When employees feel like they're being given the opportunity to learn and grow in their roles, they're more likely to be engaged and invested in their work. And, as we all know, engaged and invested employees are more likely to be productive and stay with their organizations for the long haul.


The war for talent is heating up, and businesses need to do everything they can to attract the best employees. One way to do this is by investing in employee development. A Gallup survey conducted in 2021 indicated that most workers between the ages of 18 and 24 will be more drawn to employment opportunities that offer some form of learning and development.

Clearly, top candidates are looking for organizations that offer opportunities for growth and development. By providing employees with access to training and development programs, businesses can show potential recruits that they are serious about helping their employees grow and develop professionally.

Positive workplace culture

Culture in the workplace is essential for employee productivity, creativity, and engagement. In fact, one study found that employees who are more comfortable in their workplace have far greater job satisfaction and higher quality output. 

It's also a key factor in recruiting and retaining top talent. A positive workplace culture is one where employees feel valued and are given the opportunity to learn and grow.

Employee development can help to create a positive culture by providing employees with opportunities to learn new skills, take on new challenges, and grow their careers. When employees feel like they are valued and have a sense of purpose, they are more likely to be engaged and productive at work.

Employee performance

If your employees grow stagnant in their skills and knowledge, it stands to reason that their performance will suffer. This is because employees who are not constantly learning and expanding their horizons will eventually hit a plateau in their productivity.

On the other hand, 90% of employees who are actively engaged in employee development programs report that their performance improves significantly, and this is because they are constantly challenging themselves to learn new things and improve their skills. 

90% of employees who are actively engaged in employee development programs report that their performance improves significantly

As a result, they become more productive and contribute more value to the organization.

The essential components of an employee development program

With these points in mind, it's clear that employee development is a crucial step for your business – but how do you go about creating an effective employee development program?

As it happens, there are a number of essential components every organization should include in its employee development program. Keep the following criteria in mind as you design your program:

1. Every employee needs mentors

In order for employees to develop and grow, they need access to mentors. This means that every employee should have at least one mentor within the company – someone who can help them navigate their way through the corporate culture and offer guidance when it comes to professional development.

Mentorship in itself can be considered an employee development program, especially when the mentee is challenged to become a mentor once they have developed the skills to do so. Mentorship offers the complete package of skill acquisition and putting those skills into practice.

87% of mentors and mentees feel empowered by their mentoring relationships and have developed greater confidence

Want to start an employee mentorship program? 

Mentoring software makes starting a mentoring program easy. Pair employees with relevant mentors in minutes—not weeks of manually matching in a spreadsheet. Our platforms manages everything from registration, pairing, and reporting. Join companies like Heineken, Discovery Channel, First Horizon and drive more connected company cultures.

2. Every employee should be a coach in a peer-to-peer learning program

In addition to having access to mentors, employees should also be given the opportunity to act as coaches in a peer-to-peer learning program. This gives employees the opportunity to share their knowledge and skills with their colleagues, and it also helps them develop leadership skills by taking on a mentoring role.

In a peer coaching situation, colleagues observe one another and gain confidence through seeing model behavior in action. Coaches in this setting simply need to display the skills they want their peers to emulate, answering any questions that may arise along the way. This reinforces their own confidence and hones the skills they are demonstrating.

3. Regular knowledge sharing between employees should be encouraged

In order for employees to learn from each other, it's important to encourage regular knowledge sharing between them. This can be done in a number of ways, such as through brown-bag lunches, team meetings, or simply by providing employees with a forum where they can share ideas and thoughts.

Knowledge sharing simply means that skills and experience are exchanged between colleagues, departments, and teams. It’s ideal to facilitate knowledge sharing in development programs so that everyone is taking on the role of both learner and teacher. 

4. Development plans should have clear goals

One of the most critical aspects of an employee development program is ensuring that it has clear goals. This way, employees know what they're working towards and can track their progress. Goals allow for personalized development plans, which in turn helps employees to feel more engaged in the process.

When making Individual Development Plans (IDPs), goal setting is particularly important as it allows employees to see a clear trajectory for their learning. It also gives mentors an idea of the specific skills they need to focus on with their mentees. 

5. There should always be time for reflection and career-pathing

Employees should be given time to reflect on their own development and career paths. This can be done through periodic reviews, goal-setting sessions, or simply by providing employees with access to resources that will help them map out their careers.

Career-pathing allows employees to reflect on their current learning journey and ensure that their development program aligns with the direction of their career. It gives them an ultimate focus and motivation for developing their skills.

With these essential components in mind, you can create a development program fit for a winning organization of talented individuals.

Employee development can’t be done alone

A common misconception – one that is fortunately on the way out – is that employee development is the responsibility of HR, Talent Development, or some other siloed department. It’s not. Employee development is a team sport that impacts everyone in the company. We all have a role to play in it, regardless of our title or position.

That’s why we’re starting to see the term ‘employee experience’ – an approach to how your company operates that impacts everyone from the receptionist to the CEO. It includes everything from how you onboard new employees, to how you develop and recognize top performers, to how you deal with difficult conversations.

And it all starts with leadership. Rather than leaving employee development to one department (or worse, the employees themselves), everyone should have the opportunity to mentor and be mentored. If learning and development is everyone's responsibility, everyone is able to contribute and everyone can benefit.

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