What is employee development? (And why is it so important?)

• 5 min read

Career development doesn’t only happen in educational institutions. The work environment is full of learning opportunities. The more we work, the more we learn, develop new skills and competencies, realize our passion, and discover new talents.

And good talent is hard to find. (Especially in today’s job market.) As we’ve seen, employees aren’t just looking for “jobs”. They’re looking for professional development opportunities. They’re not interested in working for companies that can’t meet their development needs or won’t help them achieve their career goals. They’re looking for companies who are willing to invest in them—more specifically, in their personal and professional growth.

Which means, employee training and development is a must. But providing effective employee development isn’t just a great way to attract new hires, it’s an extremely effective way to drive employee performance, engagement, and retention. (The trifecta!)

So, let’s dig a little deeper into what we mean by employee development, why it’s so important to your business, and how you can create your very own employee development plan (or take your existing one to the next level).


What is employee development?

Employee development is the development of skills within an organization, initiated by the employer.

With the support of their managers and learning & development teams, employee development can propel learners into a new role or department by enhancing their skill sets and knowledge on a subject.

Although employee development and training can happen at any stage of a learners’ career path, it should be an ongoing process that L&D can measure and tweak to ensure learning programs meet the needs of the business.

Development programs are often provided via an e-learning platform (a.k.a. an LMS) that helps to track each learner’s progress over time. Learning platforms allow you to provide personalized development paths at scale, offering up the right content at the right time.

Related: How learning paths help to create structured learning programs


The importance of employee development

All too often, companies underestimate the business value of employee development (or overlook it altogether). So, why should you focus on employee development initiatives? Here’s a breakdown:

  • Upskilling: Championing self development for your teams allows them to gain expertise in their current position and hone in on their strengths. Without providing the opportunity for your teams to grow their skills, your business may miss out on the opportunity to grow, too.
  • Reskilling: Career development is an important aspect of employee development. As your teams look to the future, you can choose to support this and benefit from their success or not—but why miss out on all of the knowledge that your employee has by not supporting their growth when it will directly impact the success of your business?
  • Retention: Arguably the most important aspect of employee development plans is how it impacts loyalty and employee retention. No one wants a dead-end job, and if your teams are held back from developing themselves, they have no reason to stay with you. Report after report shows the top reason employees leave their job is because of a lack of career development. Don’t let this happen to you!
  • Attracting top talent: Job seekers are increasingly looking past perks such as pool tables and bean bags as indicators of a ‘good’ company culture, and are instead looking for something more hard hitting and long term. More of us are looking for a business that will invest in us and our development, and a solid employee development program can be the difference between catching top and missing out.

Related: The importance of upskilling and reskilling during COVID-19


How to create an employee development plan

Building an employee development plan should always start with a thorough assessment of your long-term and business goals. As with everything L&D related, if you can’t assign the task with the business need, you can forget seeing any real impact.

As you move on to create employee-specific development plans, make sure to tailor your training programs to fit your particular workforce and don’t be afraid to adapt it over time as their needs change.

For success, include a mixture of the following in every development plan:

  • Self-study: Whether your employees are looking to hone their soft skills (like digital literacy) or acquire new hard skills (like an SEO marketing certification), provide them with time throughout the work week to better themselves in areas that they are most interested in.
  • Training: Going beyond onboarding, different training methods should be offered throughout the career of your employees so that they have the opportunity to reskill and upskill. Not only does this benefit them, but you’ll see the impact this has on your business, too.
  • Mentoring: We all had that one teacher at school who we looked up to who gave great advice. This doesn’t have to change once we move into a professional environment. Offering mentoring programs could be the key to unlocking the success of many learners. It’s also key to leadership development.
  • Task/job rotations: Do you have some employees who seem unsure of their future? Offering the opportunity to test out different areas of the business is a great way to get them thinking about what matters most to them in a career (and you may just find their passion).
  • Coaching: Similar to mentoring, having your subject matter experts (SME’s) coach your teams to success could be the support that they need to reach their goals.
  • Conferences & workshops: Learning from others is incredibly important, and when else do you get to receive personal advice from masters of their craft? Conferences, seminars, and workshops are a fantastic tool for all levels of your business as not only can you hear and interact with speakers, but you also have the opportunity to discuss ideas more intimately with peers.
  • Simulations: Whether it be VR, AR or even role-playing, simulations can prepare your teams for the real world by letting them practice what they should be doing in their role, without the fear of messing up.
  • Career planning: Career development plans allow your team members to see a future for themselves in your company and feel supported to reach their goals.
  • Performance review: Reviewing how your teams are doing is a win-win. Not only do they feel recognized for their efforts, but regular check-ins can help you identify where the skills gaps are and how to improve (something that benefits your business, too).

Related: What will the future of work look like?


The bottom line

Don’t underestimate the importance of creating a solid employee development plan as part of your overall learning and development program. Not only will you attract new employees and keep existing ones happy, but it’ll also improve employee engagement and performance. And when that happens, your business reaps the benefits.

Find out how Cineplex, one of the largest Canadian companies operating in the entertainment sector, uses the Docebo Learning platform to retain and enhance its best talents!