Top 11 Employee Development Ideas

Eric Bierig
Eric Bierig
Mar 27 2024
12 min read
Top 11 Employee Development Ideas

A lack of development opportunities is the number one reason for employees to leave their place of work. This represents a huge cost for companies, and the real shame is that much of this turnover is preventable. Any business that cares about efficiency should be actively involved in adopting the employee development ideas most suited to their operations.

We have narrowed down the top 11 employee development ideas to ensure that companies and their staff get the most out of employee development programs — as well as one crucial skill development step that every astute organization should take.

Why Is Employee Development So Important?

Retention levels in a company suffer when workers do not receive the development chances that they need and want. In fact, this Statista/World Economic Forum survey shows that lack of career development is the top reason to quit. Without employee development programs, few workers can build the skills that they require to get promoted, earn higher wages, and plan for the future within an organization.

Employee development is also essential for companies. Hiring externally is an expensive strategy, while employees who move up from within already know the company culture and fit in with their peers. 

When effective employee development ideas are implemented, many types of workplace skills are boosted. These may be hard skills that can be easily measured. But just as important are the soft skills that lead to improved individual and group performance. For instance, problem-solving and time management are two abilities that are essential both when working in teams and independently, and so they are a common focus of employee development programs.  

Our Top Employee Development Ideas 

Idea 1: Leverage Employee Input

If employee satisfaction is one of the goals of learning and development, then it makes sense that employees should be asked directly about what they want to achieve.

Start off with meetings between the employee and their direct manager. This provides an opportunity to both gauge the progress of the worker in their role and to hear their opinion about the areas in which they feel they could improve. Once development needs are understood, the next step is to arrive at a set of professional goals for the employee.

Idea 2: Use Learning as a Springboard

Many employees wish to advance, ideally at their current place of work. The key to their success lies in cultivating personal and professional skills relevant to their goals. By linking L&D programs with promotions and extra responsibilities, along with greater compensation, workers will be even more motivated to invest effort in their skill development.

L&D programs also enable managers to identify workers with natural leadership skills. Perhaps not every good employee is management material, but performance within leadership development courses can be a good indicator of who should form the next generation of supervisors and executives.

Idea 3: Make it an Important Company Effort

One of the barriers to employee development is that it can interfere with regular work schedules, and many workers are reluctant to spend their few free hours in L&D programs. Companies should permit employees to take at least part of their development program during work hours so as to “share the pain” of time spent away from their desks or posts.

Companies can do many things to encourage and support L&D programs. Course lists, access to mentors and skilled peers, and a knowledge base are a few of the development resources that employers should make available.

Finally, for employees in search of higher education, the company should provide at least partial reimbursement for relevant courses. Employees with diplomas and degrees add to the prestige of the firm and enhance the general level of skill in their area of work.

Idea 4: Identify and Enable Access to External L&D and Professional Networks

Speaking of degrees, there are lots of forums for professional learning outside the workplace. Conferences, workshops, and Zoom classes are just some of the means that employees can use to enhance their skills. L&D departments should promote the use of these activities by sourcing useful opportunities and providing financial support for attendees, particularly if continuous learning is a goal. 

Similarly, employers should encourage workers to join professional organizations and take part in their events. This can be an enjoyable way to learn about industry trends and best practices. It’s also a great way to develop contacts that can lead to new sources of sales, supply, and staff.

Idea 5: Provide Recognition of Advancement and Achievement

“Employee of the Week” may be a cliché, but it’s a fantastic method to highlight hard workers and motivate their peers. Businesses should consider rewarding certificates to those who pass courses, and perhaps even host events as an opportunity to mention those who have taken advanced courses, achieved remarkable milestones, and so on. Similarly, companies can reward employees with distinguished titles upon completing a certain number or level of courses.

Idea 6: Develop Employees’ Unique Talents

Make employees feel appreciated and inspired by offering personal talent development programs. Ask them how they see themselves developing, and which skills they feel they need to grow both personally and professionally. Choose the coach or mentor that is best suited for their specific goals, and offer one-on-one, customized courses. 

Be sure to invite employees at all levels to participate in the talent development program. This, of course, requires the full backing of managers and executives. 

In talent development initiatives, focus on soft skills more than hard skills, including communication skills and collaboration. This sends the message that the company values employee growth characterized by inclusivity and the encouragement of individual initiative.

Finally, foster a company culture that rewards continuing development and the value of perpetual learning. This will further motivate employees to invest in career growth in alignment with the business strategy. 

Idea 7: Personalize, Personalize, Personalize

These days, personalization isn’t just necessary, it’s expected. When Amazon and Netflix and Starbucks know what you want before you ask, that expectation for a personalized experience naturally translates to the workplace. That’s why it’s critical for employers to treat every employee as an individual, even if multiple people are doing the exact same job.

This is especially true of hybrid and remote workplace arrangements, which can weaken an employee’s sense of belonging. By throwing out the one-size-fits-all programs and instead offering each employee a customized employee development plan, you can work miracles in maximizing employee engagement.

To do so requires very specific problem identification, followed by the matching of the employee with an expert in that particular issue. For example, if sales reps are struggling, it may turn out that one needs a coach in cold calling skills, another needs to take a business writing class for drafting emails, and yet another simply needs a quick refresher on how to use the CRM platform. Always remember that everyone learns differently.

Idea 8: Make DEI a Core Company Value

56% of adult employees in the US state that DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) is a “good thing”. They support the concept of hiring and promoting diverse people of different backgrounds, as well as offering them equal opportunities to participate and contribute at work. 

To accomplish this, employers first need to understand how their company is not truly diverse, equitable, and inclusive before they can take remedial steps. A key component of the solution is education; for example, by educating employees on the latest sensitive issues, companies can avoid potentially embarrassing mishaps, while ensuring that everyone feels comfortable.

By embracing DEI, companies create a sense of social justice in the office, and the feeling that they care about community values. Putting out an official company statement on DEI strengthens this message. Another advantage of creating this “safe space” is that it gives employees from culturally diverse backgrounds the confidence to present a different point of view, and one that may not have occurred to the group’s social majority. This helps make others aware of bias, which can counter poor decision-making. It also helps the team avoid “groupthink,” and gives everyone the sense that their ideas are welcome. 

Idea 9: Put Internal Mobility in Action

Internal mobility, also known as internal hiring or internal recruiting, is an easy and effective win-win for both employees and employers. According to SHRM, 68% of workers would remain with a current employer for their entire career if they believe they have a real chance of promotion. Internal hiring notices are free and immediate, and they cut the costs of headhunters, advertising, and reference checks.

To make internal talent mobility a reality, HR may need to change some of their habits. They need to analyze current and upcoming vacancies, the skill requirements for these positions, and which current employees may be suited for these roles. They need to make it clear, when publicizing available positions, that they are specifically looking at current employees.

As part of creating a culture of internal mobility, employers should also give current employees easy access to related resources. This could be a knowledge-sharing forum for questions and advice; internal mentors that can give employees practical experience; or open houses and other events to increase awareness of potential positions.

The bottom line: Nothing speaks louder to an employee about their prospects for internal mobility than seeing their colleagues move up.

Idea 10: Share the Knowledge

Provide opportunities for employees to shadow others in roles of interest to them. Cross-departmental shadowing and training gives employees a better understanding of the inner workings of the company, and how their role impacts other departments. Once they’ve done so, let them share what they’ve learned with other team members, through avenues like a company-wide update, lecture, or newsletter.

Taking this a step further, companies can encourage employees with specialized expertise to lead company workshops, lectures, and similar programming. This type of knowledge-sharing creates a culture of peer-to-peer learning that lets employees shine. It also helps identify those with strong leadership and other valuable skills that managers may wish to cultivate. And for those who want to share their knowledge but are unsure how to, employers can offer a “train the trainer” course, where they learn how to design, develop, and deliver instruction to others. 

Idea 11: Get Employees Involved in Goal Setting

Levels of motivation, engagement, and performance all go up when employees have a say. Instead of handing down goals, targets, and KPIs from above, ask employees for their opinions. Where do they think improvements can be made? Are they ready to take on a new challenge? How can they best be supported to succeed?

As part of that conversation, also ask employees for their input on associated learning and development initiatives. Which topics and forums do they think would be most beneficial? Employees are more likely to invest in L&D efforts when they have a say in what is offered. They may also contribute new ideas that the HR team has not thought of.

And remember to model the kind of behavior you wish to see: if the leadership is engaging in professional development themselves, their employees will be inspired to do the same. Be a role model for your staff. Doing so can have a direct impact on company culture, morale, and employee motivation to actively participate in learning opportunities. 

Employee Development Ideas: The Trouble with Getting Started

But before any of these growth ideas can be implemented, companies must first face the cold fact: Identifying the exact development needs and goals for every employee is a major challenge. For instance, if an employee works in sales, it is not sufficient to just give them generalized sales guidance. This is because sales involve a myriad of skills – product knowledge, the ability to develop leads and close deals, perhaps the use of CRM software, etc. Then, in each area, a reputable expert must be found to mentor the employee for the exact skill required. In addition, a method of measuring the successful completion of the goal must be used – how can you tell if a salesperson can close a deal with your toughest customer?

Develop Your Employees with Growthspace

There is one platform that can answer this challenge today – Growthspace. Growthspace was founded to solve the most fundamental aspects of employee development: the ability to identify development needs, set goals, find relevant experts, and assess results.

Growthspace has built a unique system based on avoiding one-size-fits-all L&D methods. If an employee has trouble closing deals, Growthspace does not supply a sales course. Instead, it uses technology to locate renowned mentors who specialize in (guess what?) closing deals. The success of the expert and the course is graded by those closest to the action – the employee and their direct manager, who are both asked whether the course actually met the goals that they set.

To handle an entire organization, Growthspace repeats this process with a set of scalable technologies that can answer the refined professional development requirements of hundreds of people.

Sound simple? The fact is that Growthspace is the first and only precision skill development platform that enables specific, professional development at scale. Whether you’re looking to develop a few employees or thousands, in soft skills or hard skills or both, with mentors, trainers, coaches, or other types of experts — Growthspace’s solution for talent development can make your talent development dreams an actual reality.

Eric Bierig
Eric Bierig
Eric Bierig is an organizational development strategist at Growthspace. With an MSc in Industrial Organizational Psychology and experience in Talent and Organizational Development roles in various organizations, Eric leverages his subject matter expertise to share knowledge and best practices, build guides and materials, develop & execute new and impactful programs and products, and help enable both Growthspace and their customers in achieving their strategic initiatives. Eric is a husband, a father, an amateur musician, an avid hockey fan (Lets Go Rangers!) and a functional cereal addict

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