Employee development has changed. In the past, it meant a company might encourage their employees to attend a conference or build new skills on their own time and with their own money.
However, forward-thinking businesses now recognize the need to invest additional time and resources into developing talent as a means to improve retention and advance the organization as a whole. Modern employee development programs are grounded in true career advancement opportunities that make a difference in the professional and personal lives of their people.
Don’t let your business fall behind the curve. Below, we outline several employee development ideas that are guaranteed to help take your workforce further.
How to boost employee development
1. Provide ongoing training and learning opportunities
Effective workforce training and learning begins with onboarding and continues throughout the entire employee lifecycle. When an employee feels confused about their role, responsibilities, or overall impact on the business it can make a career feel like “just a job.” Employees who feel apathetic towards their work are far less likely to seek out advancement or development opportunities. This type of working environment is detrimental to professional development and can even lead to higher rates of turnover.
On the other hand, the more confident your employees are in the work that they do, the better they’ll do it. And the more invested they’ll be in self-improvement and advancement within the company. Providing your employees with ongoing training and development opportunities not only enables them to do their jobs well, but also lends a sense of identity and ownership, which can make a big impact on retention in the long run.
2. Promote and acknowledge growth
Encouraging and recognizing growth demonstrates to employees that it’s worth striving for excellence at your company. While promotions are one major way to highlight employees, it’s not always a viable option. Luckily, there are countless other ways to highlight employee growth such as raising wages, giving shout-outs, assigning more responsibilities or handing out awards.
In addition to encouraging advancements inside your company, recognize their other accomplishments as well. If an employee graduates from a degree program, earns a credential or otherwise reaches a major personal goal, celebrate the win with them.
3. Invest in a workforce education program that goes beyond traditional tuition assistance
Research shows that postsecondary degrees lead to better job security, and employees with higher education are more likely to feel confident and secure in their work. However, education is an aspirational goal that’s not always accessible or financially feasible for many people. Providing your employees with the means to continue their education and build upon their skills shows them that your business is deeply invested in their personal and professional growth.
Traditional tuition reimbursement programs (TAPs) work by either reimbursing or paying for an employee’s continuing educational expenses, and eligibility is usually dependent on a specific set of terms set forth by the company. These models are rarely effective, however, which is why many organizations are transitioning towards holistic workforce education programs that go beyond tuition reimbursement. These types of programs are strategically designed to align company goals with the needs of its employees and streamline the process, yielding meaningful and mutually beneficial results.
4. Encourage outside development
Learning shouldn’t be confined to working hours. Identify opportunities for your employees to continue to grow professionally outside of your organization. For example, conferences and networking events are beneficial for gaining outside perspectives, sharing knowledge and building relationships with others in the industry.
Classes or courses outside of work — such as from a university or industry trade organization — can also help develop skills and are especially important for those considering taking on a new role within your company or making a department change. Providing your employees with the resources they need to explore external development opportunities shows a deep commitment to their well-rounded growth.
5. Foster a company culture that promotes knowledge sharing
An organization that’s truly invested in advancing its employees is one that provides them with the time and resources to learn new skills while at work. Your workforce holds a wealth of knowledge at all levels, and one of the easiest ways to promote internal learning is by encouraging cross-departmental collaboration and knowledge sharing.
Consider implementing a mentorship program wherein senior and junior employees collaborate for mutual success. Mentorship helps foster a sense of belonging right away for new team members, and gives your long-term staff the opportunity to grow their leadership skills and share their knowledge. Plus, it’s also an effective way to influence company culture and build a sense of community.
6. Conduct performance reviews regularly to check in on development goals
Go beyond the formal annual or bi-annual performance review and encourage managers to schedule regular check-ins. Your workforce should feel valued and challenged, with ample opportunities to reach their full potential at your company. So start by making it a priority to give employees feedback, acknowledge their accomplishments and provide the opportunity to ask for what they need in a comfortable and trusted environment.
On the other hand, encourage employees to also share their thoughts on the company, as well as concerns or feedback they may have for supervisors and management. Facilitating a culture of free-flowing feedback enables your employees to feel empowered and valued. They trust that their voices will be heard, and are more likely to stay with your company and have a desire to advance.
Employee development in a modern world
Employees are the backbone of your business. The stronger your workforce is, the better equipped your business will be to grow today and in the future. With these ideas in mind, take a look at your current strategy and identify areas of opportunity for improvement. Employee development is more than just a training course or team-building activity, it’s a long-term commitment to your team members and their careers.
For more ideas related to employee growth and skill-building, check out this infographic to learn how to fast-track reskilling your workforce.