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Employee development

The Growth of Employee Development Programs

Employee development programs are on the rise. What are they and how do you start one in your own organization?


January 26, 2019

In an effort to retain talent, reduce turnover and improve productivity, organizations have been trying to adapt to the changing demands of workers. This includes moving from a formal setting to a more casual atmosphere. Organizations have also been creating employee development programs as one of the ways to build morale as well as a reputation for the company.

Research has shown that development is highly valued by nearly half of employees surveyed. With 47 percent indicating their job satisfaction was related to career advancement opportunities in the organizations. In addition, 40 percent felt the organization’s dedication to professional development was important.

What is employee development?

An employee development program is more involved than a training program, which focuses on skill attainment. Employee development programs include mentorship. This includes equipping them with tools they can use throughout their lives and careers. These programs not only improve employee development, but they also contribute to an overall workplace environment that thrives on growth and development.

Benefits of employee development

Development programs for employees focus on the larger pictures of an employee’s skills and abilities. Therefore, when capabilities like leadership or communications tools are enhanced, the employee becomes more of a valuable resource for the organization.

In addition to developing workplace-valuable skills, employee development can also focus on professional and personal growth. Employees that feel valued by a company are more likely to perform better and stay longer. Both of these put the company at an advantage.

The benefits of workplace developmental programs go beyond advancing a particular employee and extend into the office and overall corporate culture of the organization. Those companies that provide opportunities for professional and personal development are ones that will start to see a growth mindset develop. This growth mindset is important for the overall advancement of the company or organization as employees start to focus on being their best and giving their best. Not only will this have a positive impact on productivity, but it will also influence innovation within the workplace.

Developing an employee program

A good development program is the result of planning and strategy. This plan will include all the initiatives that a company is undertaking to advance their employees. This can include training, mentorships and more. Any employee development program created should come out of the company’s objectives and long-term goals.

Moreover, employee development programs can include some external training or opportunities. It does not have to simply be an in-house method, but industry-related programs can also be used in an overall employee development plan.

As with other company programs there will need to be a mechanism of measurement applied. This helps organizational leadership to see how the program meets the overall goals. This is key to keeping both managers and employees engaged in the plan and participating in the development program.

Examples of successful development program

When it comes to employee development, here are a few companies that have already established development programs that work.

Pixar – The animation giant has two types of employee development and training for their staff. This includes basic training that all employees are expected to take. However, the company also allows staff members to pick option classes in their different areas of interest and expertise. These are all pulled together under the Pixar University umbrella.

Etsy – Artisan marketplace Etsy offers employees access to a variety of training through its Etsy School programs. The classes cover a range of interests and topics from communications skills to computer programming to silk screening to juggling. Etsy’s goal is not just to train up employees in skills and abilities they are interested in learning about, but they are also focused on building up a supportive and connected community.

Airbnb – Housing market disrupter Airbnb focuses on leadership training within its ranks. These development opportunities revolve around industry leaders who can share their experiences and advice. However, they have also taken it upon themselves to train staff in areas like data, human resources, business development and more.  

Amazon – The leader in e-commerce offers employees an intensive month-long training program that focuses on leadership. In addition, up to 95 percent of tuition could be covered for selected employees who opt to take training for in-demand skills. As well, Amazon provides employees with virtual training options that give them the skills and capability to work from home.

AT&T – With their own internal “university” AT&T has developed a variety of top-notch training opportunities for employees including a Master of Science in Computer Science class online. By partnering with Udacity employees are able to earn Nanodegrees, which are training credentials in areas like web and mobile development, data analytics, tech entrepreneurship and more courses planned.

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