Global HR 8 min

Employee development: Benefits, plans, and trends

Written by Barbara Matthews
June 25, 2024
Barbara Matthews


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Employees have made one thing clear: if they don’t feel like they’re being cared for, they’re happy to leave.

Once you have robust talent, it’s not easy to replace. That’s why you want to create a culture of employee development. You don’t want your best team members to walk out to join a company that’s willing to invest in them. 

In this article, we break down what employee development means, providing examples of employee development plans and the steps needed to create one. Finally, we past and upcoming trends in employee development.

What is employee development?

Employee development is a systematic effort to improve team members’ skills and knowledge. It’s an ongoing process designed to enhance employees’ performance in their current roles while also preparing them for future career opportunities. 

This happens through two main functions: enhancing your employees' current skills and expanding their knowledge.

Different activities for employee development

Employee development encompasses a wide range of activities, including:

  • Formal education and training: Workshops, seminars, and courses

  • On-the-job training: Shadowing, job rotation, and assignments that provide practical experience

  • Mentorship and coaching: More experienced colleagues guiding personal and professional growth

  • Self-directed learning: Online courses, reading, or side projects

  • Constructive feedback sessions: Helping employees understand their strengths and areas for improvement

What is not employee development?

Employee development is not just about short-term training. It’s not implemented as an emergency measure to cover a skill gap. 

Instead, employee development activities are a long-term solution. They’re a strategic approach to building a resilient and adaptable workforce. 

Employee development is not confined to upper-level executives or senior positions, either. This investment should be accessible to all employees, regardless of their role or level in the organization.

What is a development plan?

An effective plan for developing employees takes you from overarching steps to actionable ones. Here are its typical components.

  • Assessment of needs: Identifying the specific skills, knowledge, and competencies to develop. In other words, the areas that need to be developed to meet both individual and organizational goals.

  • Learning objectives: Clearly defined goals describing what the employee is expected to learn or achieve through the employee development program.

  • Development activities: A custom mix of training programs, assignments, and mentoring opportunities for employees designed to meet the program’s objectives.

  • Evaluation and feedback: Establishing mechanisms for measuring progress toward the learning objectives. Providing feedback to guide further development.

  • Support and resources: A commitment from the organization on how they’ll provide the necessary time, tools, and resources to make the development possible.

Employee development plan examples

Let’s take a look at what an employee development plan can look like.

A company might want to improve their project management skills. To do this, they could enroll their team in a certification course, leading to better project execution and customer satisfaction.

Or their objective might be to improve budgeting and financial decision-making. In this scenario, a company could host a series of workshops to improve their team’s financial awareness. 

A third example is holding cross-training sessions for better team collaboration.

4 benefits of providing employee development opportunities

Now that we’ve covered what an employee development plan is, let’s unpack the benefits it brings.

The different benefits of employee development

1. Creates a win-win for performance

Almost three-quarters of employees are ready to learn new skills or be completely retrained if it would help them remain employable. 

Employee development boosts employees’ individual aspirations and also helps them excel in their current positions. Employees who see clear connections between their growth and the company’s goals remain motivated and productive. In other words, employee development is good for both individual employees and team performance. 

2. Builds a strong brand

Offering employee development programs shows that your organization is a desirable place to work to current and potential employees.

It also creates a stronger brand for the company. Your company can become known for its development culture, which attracts top talent. Further, employees who are connected to their organizational culture are 5.2 times more likely to recommend their company as a great place to work than those who aren’t.

3. Improves retention

Companies that invest in employee development demonstrate a level of care that cultivates loyalty. This helps with employee retention, as loyal employees are 55% less likely to be on the lookout for another job.

If employees have access to development opportunities and clear advancement paths, they have less of a reason to look elsewhere. This helps tackle the many costs associated with turnover.

4. Boosts team agility

Employees equipped with a broad skill set are better able to respond to changes. Skillful employees can fill in gaps and transition between roles as needed. 

Specifically, these individuals can better handle:

  • Market fluctuations

  • Technological advances

  • Unexpected challenges

With development opportunities, you can encourage your employees to learn multiple skills to build a agile workforce.

How to create an effective employee development plan 

Let’s now cover the steps needed to implement an employee development plan — and offer employee growth and development ideas along the way.

Steps to implement employee development

1. Set clear, strategic goals

The foundation of any effective plan lies in its goals. Begin with thorough assessments to understand your employees’ needs. 

For instance, gain a clear sense of your employees' career aspirations, strengths, and areas for improvement. You can use surveys, interviews, or performance data to gather this information.

Next, directly align employees' needs with your broader business goals. For example, your team members may be struggling with communication while you want to drive better customer service. In this case, you can start training on better communicating and empathizing with customers, which would translate to how the team works as well.

Poorly formed goals are broad with no timeline. Instead, use the SMART criteria for setting goals: set goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

2. Determine your development offerings

Offer a range of development possibilities that’ll engage your employees more effectively and cater to various aspirations and preferences.

Specific ideas include:

  • Workshops

  • Online courses

  • Mentorship programs

  • Professional certificates

  • Job shadowing

  • Challenging assignments

Prioritize the development of skills that are likely to be crucial in the future. Examples include digital literacy, leadership skills, and innovation.

3. Create personalized development plans

To maximize the impact of employee development, it's important to tailor plans to the individual. Building off the assessments you performed in Step 1, create specific plans for each employee.

For example, consider the learning style of an employee. You can consider the below points.

  • Do they prefer hands-on experience or studying ideas?

  • Do they prefer to learn individually or as a team?

  • Do they learn better visually, through lectures, or with real-world practice?

When creating personalized development plans, give your employees a say. Let your team members select courses, workshops, or projects that feel right to them.

Employees who choose personalized development plans stay engaged and are committed to development initiatives.

person selects various employee development training programs

4. Implement development plans

Begin implementing your plan by scheduling development activities. Make sure your employees have time set aside from their usual duties to focus on learning. This may involve adjusting workloads or providing time during the workday for development.

You can also weave learnings into daily work, so employees can apply their new skills in real-world contexts. 

Employee development plans can create an entirely new organizational culture — one that’s committed to learning, wellness, and innovation.

5. Support and adjust

Once your plan is in motion, you can sustain it by staying flexible. Implement regular checkpoints to measure employee progress and engagement. You can review your employee development programs monthly or quarterly. 

Identify any hurdles your employees are facing, and offer extra assistance through coaching and mentoring. 

Be prepared to adjust a career development plan for employees based on:

  • Feedback

  • Changing job roles

  • Shifts in business strategy

6. Recognize and celebrate achievements

Acknowledging and celebrating employees’ achievements is a key component of success. Here are a few ways you can celebrate your team’s wins:

  • Company meetings

  • Internal newsletters

  • Social media channels

Recognizing milestones, such as the completion of a course or certification, reinforces the value the organization places on professional development. And it also helps staff feel proud and appreciated. 

Peer recognition is equally important. Encourage employees to celebrate each other's successes and create a positive feedback loop.

Your goal is to inspire even more continuous learning and improvement. As the environment becomes more supportive, recognizing and inspiring each other becomes part of the company culture.

There was a significant increase in online learning platforms and virtual training sessions for employee development. With flexible formats, employees can focus on growth in an accessible way.

Soft skills were also important. Examples include emotional intelligence, adaptability, and communication. From new team members to upper executives, many people saw the importance of less-tangible skills.  

Microlearning was also popular. More and more organizations offered bite-sized training sessions. Shorter, focused training fits better into employees’ busy schedules. It also increases the likelihood of engagement.

Lastly, AI and advanced analytics helped personalize employee development with more data. Learning paths can continue to be more individualized with technology.

Expect an increase in the use of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies to create immersive, interactive learning experiences. These tools can boost training and simulate real-life scenarios.

You can also expect more focus on corporate social responsibility and sustainable practices. Employees will be encouraged to develop skills and knowledge that help them do better for the environment and society at large. 

Lastly, we see a continued focus on relationships and mental health. Training development plans will incorporate elements of well-being and work-life balance. Peers will continue to create more learning communities and connections within organizations to build healthy relationships.

Manage your employee development with Remote

Employee development is a true win-win approach for both your team members and for your organization in the long run.

Just be sure to implement employee development plans with the right tools. With Remote HR Management you can store all your employee data in one place, to offer tailored employee development programs.

Chat with us today to see how Remote can help employee development for your global team.

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