Employee Development

Employee Development: Definition and Best Practices

Lynsey May Sutherland
Lynsey Sutherland
February 14, 2023
6 min read

If you want your employees to thrive, their growth and development should be high on your agenda. Why? Well, by nature, most people are goal-orientated and want to be able to look ahead to better things. If you can show them a path to progression in your organisation, then you’re sure to be on to a winner. 

What is employee development? 

Employee development is upskilling your employees through training, guidance and practical tasks. It may involve mentorship, learning opportunities, or even shadowing. One key factor in employee development (also called professional or staff development) is the supportive and active role of the employer. 

Learning, development and training are great ways to help employees reach their full potential, yet only 29% of organisations have a clear learning and development plan for their employees. 

The importance of training and development in the workplace

If you want your employees to be engaged (and who doesn’t, considering that Gallup reports that in 2021, low engagement alone cost the global economy $7.8 trillion), then you need to be considering employee development. It’s one crucial way to help employees feel motivated, enthusiastic and appreciated. 

It can also help attract talent into your organisation, as prospective employees actively look for benefits like development opportunities alongside other valuable perks, such as reward and recognition programs or wellbeing initiatives. Ongoing development can also help improve an employee’s experience, their overall feelings about your company and their place in it. 

The benefits of providing development opportunities

Offering a clear path and plenty of employee development opportunities can pay off. Here are just a few of the biggest benefits. 

1. Creates competitive advantage 

The more you invest in your employees, the more skilled and valuable they become. By helping your team become the best it can be through learning opportunities and guidance, you are creating an advantage for your business. 

As we mentioned above, applicants actively look for professional development opportunities when applying for new roles. By openly putting this on job descriptions, it creates a competitive advantage and helps you attract top talent – 34% of employees say that career development opportunities motivated them to leave their previous positions.  

2. Improve your EVP

High-quality candidates already know the benefits of increasing their knowledge. Investing in employee development programs will also increase your employee value proposition (EVP). 

76% of employees are looking for opportunities to expand their careers – when you offer learning and development opportunities, it’s seen by employees as an investment in them. It also proves to employees that their development matters and will help you retain ambitious, high-performing employees. 

3. Cost saving 

It can be far more economically viable to add new skills to your team than to try to hire people who already know everything you need. Many areas of learning can be achieved while working, helping you improve your knowledge base without necessarily having to swell your team.  

4. Fosters a greater company culture 

Achieving new goals and improving yourself is invigorating – especially when you’re doing it alongside a team of like-minded people. When employee development is front and centre, there’s a good chance your company culture will receive a boost too. 

5. Lowers turnover

Unsurprisingly, employees who feel their organisation invests in their development are more likely to stay. A good employee development program can help lower churn and save your HR from recruitment headaches. Organisations that offer employees access to professional development have a 34% higher retention rate.

How to implement effective employee development programs

Creating an effective development plan involves a few separate and important stages. It centres around ensuring each stage is individualised and tailored to a particular employee and the outcomes you want for your organisation. 

1. Carry out a skills gap analysis 

Knowing which skill gaps you currently have in your workforce and which areas you’d love to be bolstered is important. A complete analysis will help you pinpoint what you’d like for your organisation and can help you match those needs up with the employees most suited to fill them. 

2. Collaborate with your chosen candidates

At the same time, work with employees to find out where they think their strengths lie and what areas they’d like to improve on. This will help you match up your company goals with the individual goals of your employees – which is essential if you want to invest in the right learning opportunities. 

3. Create a development plan together

Now you both know what the other wants, you can both investigate the options out there. It’s a good idea to work with your employees to find out their learning styles. 

Some people learn best on a structured course while others will get the most benefit from shadowing a senior member of staff. Also, 58% of employees prefer to learn at their own pace, according to LinkedIn. By picking the right training opportunities for the right people, you’ll maximise your return.

4. Plan check-in points 

If you want to set yourselves up for success, be sure to plan regular check-ins to assess how well your development plans are progressing. This can help boost motivation and provide a chance to change track if a particular opportunity hasn’t worked out as planned. 

It’s also a good time to establish new goals as old ones are achieved. A successful employee development plan makes it easy to keep reaching new heights. 

Ways to overcome common employee development challenges

Even the best-laid plans sometimes come up against stumbling blocks! Here are a few common challenges to watch out for, and some suggestions for getting back on track. 


Employees are too busy to hit benchmarks

We all know what it’s like to feel like work is piling up, and when there are deadlines to meet, it’s no wonder that extra learning takes a backseat. That said, if it gets put off for too long, it’s easy to lose momentum altogether. 


Make it clear that development is a priority

Be completely clear in all your communications that employee development is valuable to you – for the sake of your employees and the organisation as a whole. Have a look at current workloads too. Are there areas where you can offer relief or streamline processes? 


Remote workers struggling to engage

Hybrid and remote working is here to stay, and finding ways to ensure that employees are able to access career development opportunities from home is essential for long-term success. 


Take advantage of new learning technology 

From AI programs to the gamification of learning, there are some great tools out there. Don’t forget the human touch, though. Regular catch-ups can make all the difference too.


Employees lose motivation 

Even when someone is keen to improve their skills, it can be hard to keep motivation high – especially over an extended period. 


Recognise achievement regularly Create a support system using an employee reward and recognition platform. This is an easy way to celebrate successes and reward achievement on an ongoing basis, perfect for long projects and career development programs.

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Mo is an employee recognition and engagement platform that can help leaders improve collaboration and morale, reduce employee churn and drive change. 

Our platform creates a vibrant culture by developing team habits, encouraging people to celebrate success, recognise results and appreciate colleagues. Your complete toolkit for connecting and motivating teams in the new world of work. Book a demo with our team today.

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