Employee Development Programs: Your Strategic Guide to Creating Programs That Work
October 9, 2023
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Employee development programs provide multiple benefits for participants, from increased self-confidence and job satisfaction to a greater sense of personal achievement and well-being in the workplace.
However, employees aren’t the only ones benefitting from employee development practices. While designed to educate and train individuals, employee development practices also produce outcomes that are beneficial to organizations, making their implementation a strategic, win-win move.
For example, research shows that 94 percent of employees are more willing to stay with a company that provides professional development opportunities. That means investing in online training programs, or in other types of learning and development, can help you dramatically limit employee turnover—and the high costs associated with it.
This is only one example of how employee development programs benefit your team members and, more broadly, your company.
Discover how and why amplifying employee development is a smart strategy for businesses, including five examples of the tactical advantages that employee development provides for your organization, plus a closer look at the value of training a future-proof workforce.
What are employee development programs?
Employee development programs are training initiatives that help employees gain new skills, improve existing skills, and learn new processes and approaches to their work.
Employee development is available to all workers, but it’s important to ensure it’s accessible to everyone. For example, ensure managers allow time for their team members to work on professional development and take training courses. It’s helpful for training courses to be available on-demand using a learning management system (LMS).
The more engaging and accessible the training is, and the more managers emphasize its importance, the more employees will take advantage of the development programs.
Why is employee development important?
Employee development is important for several reasons, but two stand out. First, companies are facing significant skill gaps across all departments. An incredible 87 percent of companies have skill gaps or expect to have them within the next few years.
Employee development programs help address these skill gaps and keep employees up-to-date on the latest technologies, best practices, and processes that power today’s businesses.
Secondly, employees value ongoing development. Everyone has professional goals they want to meet, and employee development allows your team members to get there. In 2022, SHRM found that 76 percent of employees are more likely to stay with an organization that offers continuous training, so it’s vital to develop a culture that promotes learning and development.
Employee development examples
What does it look like when a company does a great job developing its employees and helping them grow professionally? Here are some examples of high-quality employee development programs.
Employees can access training content that addresses various needs, from time management to how to use specific software platforms. There are also English development courses for team members whose first language isn’t English.
Various leadership programs are available to employees, from aspiring leaders to current managers wanting to improve coaching, communication, and leadership skills. But Partner Hero’s support isn’t just business—they also have health and wellness seminars, a “Foodies” Slack channel, and more, all through The Learning Cloud.
Palo Alto Networks
Cybersecurity company Palo Alto Networks provides employees with both personal and professional development. The FLEXBenefits program offers $1,000 annually to spend on items or experiences that help refresh and reenergize employees.
The FLEXLearn platform gives team members access to over 1,000 learning activities that range from courses to collaboration. FLEXLearn Learning Circles allow employees to share knowledge and learn from each other.
A global specialist in energy management, Schneider Electric has 160,000 employees worldwide. Schneider Electric University allows employees to develop skills in various areas, from leadership to customer education to energy solutions.
The company focuses on helping employees work in multiple positions early in their careers so they can discover their passions and talents and then focus their development in those areas.
Types of employee development programs
How can your organization stand out as a best-in-class provider of employee development? There are multiple ways to implement employee training programs, and often having a combination of opportunities, as the example companies above do, is the best approach.
Learning management systems
A learning management system (LMS) is a tool that makes it easy for your organization to centralize all of your training materials, offer training on-demand, and create various courses using multiple media types to keep learners engaged.
An all-in-one LMS, like the Learning Cloud, allows you to address multiple training needs from a single platform. For example, you can manage sales enablement, new hire training, employee development, customer education, and partner training from the Learning Cloud.
Having the right foundation is essential for a successful employee development program, so make sure you choose the right LMS for your needs.
Peer-to-peer training networks
During peer-to-peer training, an experienced employee can teach other team members a new concept or idea. This type of employee development allows knowledgeable employees to share their expertise, the best practices they’ve learned, and more.
Because the learners get information from a colleague, the buy-in and engagement are often higher. Also, the teaching employee gains experience in leadership, communication skills, and coaching.
Peer-to-peer training can be a great way to leverage the skills and knowledge in your organization while reinforcing team relationships. It also helps experienced employees gain a different perspective and grow in their careers.
Coaching and mentoring
Coaching and mentoring are essential to helping employees grow. A coach can identify specific strengths and weaknesses and help employees develop a plan to improve their performance.
Mentoring allows a more experienced team member to spend time with a newer colleague one-on-one over a period of time. They might meet once a month to discuss the newer employee’s questions and career challenges, and the experienced team member may advise on handling specific situations and ways to learn new skills.
Remember that coaches and mentors also need training in performing their roles. With well-trained coaches and mentors, you can have an effective employee development program that helps everyone stay engaged and motivated.
Read more: How to Build a Coaching Culture
Continued education programs
Continuing education is often overlooked in fields that don’t require licensing, but it can be helpful in any industry. The skills required for today’s jobs change quickly, especially as new technology is constantly being introduced.
Keeping up not only on how new developments like AI impact the industry but also on process improvements, changes in the marketplace, and more requires a culture of continuous learning in your organization.
By offering regular employee training programs using an LMS, hybrid learning, coaching, mentoring, and more, your employees can stay up-to-date on everything new in today’s rapidly changing business environment.
Benefits of a strategic employee development program
For an employee development initiative to offer a strategic advantage, it must benefit not only its participants but your organization as a whole.
Consider, for example, a scenario where an employer provides tuition assistance for team members to pursue a degree or vocational training. Fully or partially subsidizing an employee’s education can be a highly productive investment in your company’s future—but only if you approach it strategically.
For instance, you might limit tuition assistance to programs relevant to employees’ ability to perform in your industry or profession.
By providing this sort of opportunity for career development, your organization can benefit in at least three different ways:
- You will save money by upskilling or reskilling your employee instead of hiring a new applicant
- Your employee will become more knowledgeable and skilled in their role due to the strategic training they receive
- Offering organizational development opportunities, such as tuition assistance, is an effective way to attract and retain talent—another important topic we will cover in more depth later
Of course, that’s merely one scenario illustrating how talent development initiatives can be strategic for your business.
Here are five more reasons why investing in your people and strengthening your employee development programs is a crucial strategy for achieving—and maintaining—success in your industry.
Provides organizational growth
Planning and preparing for organizational growth is imperative to any business, especially when you anticipate rapid or large-scale expansion. One aspect of preparing for growth is identifying and developing employees with high potential and aptitude for leadership roles in your organization.
This is a classic example of upskilling, where employees receive training or education that builds and expands on their skills so they can advance professionally. This can reduce hiring costs, enhance retention, and ensure your company’s future is in good hands.
Improves public image and perception
Organizations that care about and invest in their employees are perceived more positively—not only by consumers but also by job-seekers.
Establishing a reputation as a people-centric organization is a superb PR strategy for cultivating a positive image, endearing consumers to your brand, and attracting more applicants.
When team members are thoroughly trained, they have a better employee experience and are empowered to face the challenges of their role with greater confidence, creativity, autonomy, and independence. This removes the need for micromanagement, taking pressure off supervisors and enhancing efficiency while contributing to a workplace culture where every team member feels valued.
Sprout Social did this by leveraging the Learning Cloud. To maintain their culture of learning as they transitioned to a remote work environment, they implemented virtual learning that was easy to roll out and fun for learners. As a result, they now have 95 percent learner satisfaction, a 30 percent reduction in time spent scheduling training, and an 85 percent on-time course completion.
Remote employees weren’t just empowered with flexibility at Spout Social; they were also given learning opportunities and autonomy to pursue their development when it worked for them.
Many factors impact a team member’s performance, but two of the most important are employee engagement and job satisfaction.
Disengagement and dissatisfaction occur when employees feel bored, overwhelmed, or like their ideas and concerns are not heard or addressed. Unsurprisingly, these factors contribute to absenteeism, diminished motivation, and, ultimately, decreased performance—all of which chip away at your bottom line.
L&D gives your organization a development plan to fight back. Data shows that 93 percent of employees say they become more engaged when employers provide opportunities to participate in training or career development programs.
Meanwhile, 58 percent of employees say L&D programs enhance their overall job satisfaction. Together, this creates an effective 1-2 punch for boosting your staff members’ performance.
Higher rates of employee retention
The inability to retain employees is a major financial drain on businesses, costing the U.S. economy a whopping $1 trillion annually, according to Gallup data. To put that into perspective, the cost of replacing an employee can range from one-half to 2x the employee’s annual salary—and that’s a conservative estimate.
Offering employee development programs is an excellent strategy for retaining team members driven to learn and excel. Remember, more than nine in 10 employees say they would be more loyal to employers who offered support with career growth, such as online employee training programs.
Data shows that employee turnover rates are up to 59 percent lower at companies with employee growth initiatives than those without, painting a sharp financial picture of the strategic value of these programs.
Future-proofing your organization
Our society depends on technology, from shopping, entertainment, and transportation to healthcare, banking, and communication. That dependence will only continue growing as technology evolves. Businesses must be prepared for the inevitable disruptions, challenges, and opportunities that new technology will lead to, such as the development of entirely new specialties or roles.
For instance, data from MIT reveals that most of today’s professions didn’t exist in 1940—and you don’t need to travel far into the future to see this pattern repeat.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), an astonishing 85 percent of the job roles that will exist merely one decade from now—the vast majority—are still yet to be created or invented.
Moreover, preparing for the future is a serious financial concern for nearly half of all CEOs. PwC’s 26th Annual Global CEO Survey, published in January 2023, reveals that 40 percent of global CEOs think their organization will no longer be economically viable in 10 years if it continues on its current course.
The same survey, with over 4,400 participants, highlighted skill shortages as one of the top three challenges to profitability, with over half of respondents (52 percent) expressing concerns that skill shortages would impact their profitability to either a large or very large extent.
Offering employee development training, such as managerial training, safety training, or other types of L&D opportunities, is a strategic way to address both concerns simultaneously. By upskilling or reskilling your workforce, you can provide employees with the skills and knowledge they need to evolve and create a more competitive organization while saving money on hiring and recruiting.
In short, employee development is a cost-efficient strategy to fill skill gaps, stay ahead of the technological curve, and prepare team members for new and emerging job roles.
Optimizing time and costs
The bottom line for businesses is that offering employee development supports better financial health for your organization. The cost to deploy these programs is greatly outweighed by the long-term returns they provide, particularly when costly on-site employee training is fully or partially replaced by an online platform.
Here’s a quick recap of the ways your organization can save valuable time and money using a cloud-based LMS to create, deliver, and track a wide variety of employee development programs:
- Foster a learning culture where employees feel valued and motivated
- Increase employee engagement, job satisfaction, and overall productivity
- Build on employees’ existing skill sets or train them to cultivate new ones rather than relying on slow-moving and costly external recruiting
- Ensure that your workforce’s skills stay up-to-date and ahead of the curve
- If you do decide to recruit externally, your career development programs will help you attract the most qualified candidates
Streamline employee development programs with the Learning Cloud
The data couldn’t paint a clearer picture: investing in your people’s skills is investing in your company’s future.
To recruit and retain the best talent, enhance productivity and job performance, limit employee turnover costs, and stay on the cutting edge of your industry, you must create a workplace culture that values and supports employee development.
Empower your employees to excel and exceed business goals with the Learning Cloud. Our flexible platform is designed to help you develop, deliver, track, and fine-tune employee training and L&D programs aligned with your organization’s needs.
Discover how the Learning Cloud can help you reach your training goals and lower costs. Contact us today to schedule a free, personalized demo.
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