The labor market has undergone significant changes recently, largely due to the pandemic’s impact and the ensuing “Great Resignation.” Many employees, seeking greater career advancement opportunities, have left their jobs, with 63% citing lack of career development as the primary reason, according to Pew Research Center. This trend highlights a clear demand for more skill-building and professional growth opportunities.
Recognizing this, strategic leaders should prioritize career development as a key to mutual benefit. In an era marked by rapid technological advancement, businesses that invest in their employees’ growth will not only increase retention but also gain a competitive edge in their respective industries. Embracing this shift towards continuous learning can lead to a more satisfied, skilled, and productive workforce.
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What Is Employee Development?
No matter their position in the company, every employee needs a particular skill set, knowledge, and experience to do their job adequately. They also need to acquire new skills and experience to reach new career heights, earn promotions and become leaders within their organization.
Employee development is the process of building professional talent within your organization. Hiring outside talent to fill every position is expensive, resource-intensive, and time-consuming, especially in the increasingly competitive labor market. Employers recruit talent in the hopes they will be productive, add to the culture, and grow with the organization. With more employees demanding training and development opportunities at work, continued learning can be a competitive differentiator.
Companies that invest in development opportunities for employees ensure individuals gain the expertise necessary to excel in their roles. It also helps them progress on their career paths, equipping them with the professional knowledge and technical abilities required in more advanced positions. In short, employee development helps existing talent flourish, creating a more robust, motivated, and skilled workforce, which is critical to the success of any organization.
Individuals will always be responsible for their own professional development. But the most strategic employers understand its value and encourage employees to continue learning by making external and internal resources available.
Benefits of Employee Development
Employee development is a pretty straightforward concept. Helping your employees stay on the cutting edge of their field by learning new skills and gaining new experience allows them to make a greater impact at work. With technology constantly reshaping every industry, continued education is essential, no matter your position or tenure at work.
Here is a list of the most significant benefits of career development plans to organizations and their employees:
As of August 2022, upskilling remained one of the top priorities of job-seekers. Even as hiring slows amidst a cooling economy, recruiting talent has never been more competitive. Companies eager to stay competitive and hire the best candidates can’t afford to stand pat. Career development should be a top priority for growing businesses eager to remain competitive.
Engaged employees are happy employees, but keeping them invested is easier said than done. Professional development is a proven method of maintaining employees engaged. It demonstrates the organization’s commitment to helping them upskill, which is vital to increasing job satisfaction.
The most effective development programs are tailored to each person’s interests and career goals. Employees tend to respond positively to career development that helps them stay up-to-date in their field and can help them switch to another internal role or get promoted.
Future-proof your organization
Recent data from LinkedIn revealed that the top skills for a given role have changed by approximately 25% since 2015 and will continue to shift by about 40% by 2025. Technology is reshaping industries seemingly by the day, and businesses must adjust. Employee development and upskilling must be a strategic imperative for any business that wants to remain competitive. The skills your team has today simply won’t cut it in just a few short years.
Workforce stability often feels like a thing of the past following “The Great Resignation.” The three generations making up the bulk of the workforce have vastly different values when it comes to working. Workers are fine leaving companies that don’t satisfy their demands, and the cost of losing employees and recruiting replacements is increasing. Fortunately, employees of all ages and tenures are eager for professional development. Continued learning is still a competitive differentiator for businesses trying to maintain an experienced and engaged workforce.
Most employees believe professional development is crucial for helping them achieve their true potential. Development programs cultivate a more effective and motivated workforce, which increases productivity and makes businesses more profitable. Businesses that prioritize career development boost overall performance by enabling employees to contribute better to organizational objectives
Improve corporate culture
Employee development establishes a culture of continuous learning and improvement within the organization. It’s an excellent way for organizations to identify areas where employees might benefit from additional training or education while preparing them for future roles.
Create better leaders
For learning and development units (L&D), career development increasingly concentrates on soft skills, especially those related to leadership. Last year, LinkedIn’s 2022 Workplace Learning Report said leadership and management training was a significant priority for nearly half of L&D programs. Because leadership skills are essential to complete strategic business initiatives successfully, they will only become a more prominent focus for corporate training programs.
Smart businesses are recognizing the many benefits of offering professional development to employees. Education motivates employees, especially when it’s tied to the potential for a promotion or raise. People are hungry to keep their skills up-to-date and businesses should be eager to help them.
5 Key Development Opportunities for your Employees
Employee development comes in many forms, but the most important thing to remember is that it should always mutually benefit the employee and the organization. Every business has unique needs that can’t take a back seat to employee training. Employee development aims to help workers achieve their career goals in a way that serves the greater business initiatives.
Companies usually accomplish this goal through formal training, on-the-job learning, and mentoring. Some development programs also offer cross-training, stretch assignments, and job rotation to expose staff to new career and leadership opportunities.
If you’re unsure how to set up an employee development program, start by engaging your employees and figuring out what skills they need. Conducting surveys can get you the hard data you need to focus your efforts. From there, use the employee feedback to prioritize training that will make the greatest impact. Make your continued learning program as widely available as possible to ensure people take advantage and participate in the program.
Here are five essential areas where your company should focus its professional development initiatives:
1) Management and leadership skills
Career education should be available to workers at all levels of your organization. Entry-level employees benefit from learning job-specific technical skills and soft skills such as time management and communication, but that’s only the beginning. Department heads and executives should always work on becoming the best leaders they can be. As L&D professionals prioritize leadership training, DEI, coaching, and motivation will be front and center in more development programs.
It’s important to remember that good managers hold a lot of influence in the workplace. Creating a roster of competent, compassionate, and productive leaders can positively impact employee retention and engagement.
2) Professional certifications
Encouraging employees to complete professional certifications is an excellent way to further their career development. For example, if your organization needs project managers, the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification can teach them the methods they need to succeed. Inspire interested employees to complete business intelligence certifications, organically creating data analysts from within your organization.
3) Technical skills
No professional discipline is immune from the arrival of new tools and methodologies. Programmers must constantly learn new coding languages, marketers need to adopt new social media tools, and information technology professionals have to keep the tech stack up-to-date. Change comes for every industry, and strategic employers will invest in training opportunities to ensure their staff learns and adapts. Technical training often includes workshops, classes, webinars, and certification programs.
4) Soft skills
Working in a business means being part of a team. When one person succeeds, everybody succeeds. While each department has unique technical skills required to do their jobs, the need for soft skills is ubiquitous. It may seem obvious that teamwork and communication are essential in business, but some people are more adept at these things than others. Managing relationships, collaboration, and creative thinking remain a prominent part of most learning and development programs. These are timeless skills that everyone from the janitor to the C-suite should have.
5) Organizational skills
Organizational skills include how employees use their time, energy, and workspace to successfully complete their work. Too often businesses overlook the value of training staff in methods for keeping organization. Every job requires some level of multi-tasking, prioritization, and time management to ensure the most important work is completed efficiently. Our organizational habits impact every other part of our job, including file storage, task delegation, and scheduling meetings.
More companies are investing in robust learning and development programs for employees because the benefits are well established. Employees want to stay on the cutting edge of their role, pushing their skills to be the most relevant. Given the opportunity, most will eagerly complete professional development to move their careers forward, especially if it’s tied to the potential for a promotion or compensation.
Building a successful development program requires collaborating with your employees. You need to understand which skills they want to focus on and then provide adequate time to work to learn. Professional development can only succeed if you create an environment that genuinely values growth and education. Establishing a mentor program, encouraging cross-functional collaboration, and helping employees earn certifications are great places to start.
If you encourage and challenge your employees to achieve their potential, they’ll respond enthusiastically. There’s no better competitive edge than a highly-skilled, motivated, and productive workforce.