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What is an Employee Development Program? The Key to Staying Competitive in a Rapidly-Evolving Landscape

The 2023 LinkedIn Learning report found that skillsets for jobs have changed by 25 percent since 2015. This seismic shift has left organizations grappling to keep pace with the rapidly-evolving landscape. 

Now more than ever, companies must take action and equip their teams with the power to continuously build and enhance their skills. 

The solution? An employee development program. 

The key lies in understanding what a successful employee development program entails and how to implement it successfully.

The LinkedIn Learning study further exposed the pivotal factor behind employee motivation: progress toward career goals. By harnessing the right development program, you can ignite your employees’ passion and bridge critical skill gaps within your organization.

Don’t be left in the dust of outdated practices. Invest in your team’s growth to secure a thriving future. 

What is an employee development program?

An employee development program provides learning paths for employees to upskill, reskill, and get the training they need to meet their professional goals. The program is broad and offers multiple training courses and options so that everyone’s needs are met.

An employee development plan is similar but only addresses individual needs, goals, and skillsets. The employee development program is offered to all team members and allows them to implement their individual development plans. 

Why your business needs an employee development program

An employee development program meets multiple needs within your organization. Not only can you improve employee engagement, job performance and satisfaction, and lower turnover, but you also gain the opportunity to fill skills gaps and improve your bench for future leadership roles.

Effective development also creates influential leaders who can then drive results and improve the morale of their teams.

Employee development leads to higher engagement and performance

One reason so many companies are interested in employee development programs is that development has been shown to dramatically improve morale and performance. 

Glint’s 2021 State of the Manager report found that employees who have solid opportunities to learn and grow are 2.9x more likely to be engaged at work than those who don’t. Employees also want to be encouraged to learn by their managers.

Why is employee engagement so important? Gallup found that highly-engaged teams have significantly fewer negative outcomes and far more positive ones. 

For example, highly-engaged teams and business units had:

  • An 81% decrease in absenteeism
  • A 43% decrease in turnover in low-turnover organizations and an 18% decrease in high-turnover ones
  • A 28% decrease in theft (shrinkage)
  • A 10% increase in customer loyalty
  • A 14% increase in productivity
  • A 23% increase in profitability

These are great outcomes; the best way to achieve them is to give your team members opportunities by implementing an employee development program. 

Development attracts and retains talented employees

Whether there’s a labor shortage or surplus, your organization will thrive with the best and brightest employees in every department. How do you attract and retain these talented team members?

A strong employee development program is the answer. The 2022 SHRM Workplace Learning report showed that 83 percent of HR managers say training is beneficial to attract and retain key talent, and 76 percent of employees are more likely to stay with a company that offers continuous training. 

Having the right people in your organization keeps morale and productivity high. It also saves the company money because you’re not constantly rehiring, and the team members you have are skilled and experienced.

Employees need additional training for their current roles

It’s easy to assume that someone who is already in a job has all the skills necessary to excel, but that’s not the case. The 2022 SHRM report also found that 55 percent of employees feel they need additional training to perform better in their current position.

That’s not surprising considering how quickly the technology and skills required in the workplace change. One of the benefits of an ongoing employee development program is that your team members can stay sharp on skills they need to excel in their current roles, which improves results and also prepares those employees for advancement. 

Employee development closes leadership and skills gaps

A study by Gartner uncovered significant concerns regarding succession and leadership in today’s companies.

More than 33 percent of HR leaders struggle to develop effective senior leaders, and 45 percent struggle to develop mid-level managers. On top of that, 81 percent of HR leaders cite lack of readiness as the top reason a strong candidate couldn’t fill a leadership role.

In another study, McKinsey found that 87 percent of companies face serious skill gaps both now and in the immediate future. 

Fortunately, a strong employee development program can help you address both concerns. You can create leadership development training for those who are interested in moving up, as well as upskilling and reskilling other employees to fill critical needs in your organization. 

Components of an effective employee development program

What does a successful employee development program look like? It’s an important question because the program needs to serve the needs of every team in your company. That means you must incorporate multiple learning paths and address various professional goals.

Easy-to-access training for a variety of skills and goals

The core of an effective employee development program is the training. You can use various methods, from eLearning to microlearning to classroom or hybrid classes. Each of these teaching methods can include materials that address multiple learning styles for maximum impact. 

One of the easiest ways to create excellent training is to have an all-in-one learning platform, like the Learning Cloud from WorkRamp, that allows you to create and implement multiple types of training, from onboarding to sales enablement to customer education

Coaching and mentoring

Beyond training classes, most employees need one-on-one attention to help them grasp and apply new skills. This comes through coaching or mentoring, which can be done by managers or other more experienced employees. 

People aren’t born with coaching skills, however, so make sure that the managers and mentors know the best ways to engage, motivate, and encourage other employees. That means including coaching training in your leadership curriculum is essential.

As coaches and mentors get practice working with other team members, they’ll grow themselves and become more effective, confident, and better at leadership. Including coaching and mentoring in your employee development program is truly a win-win.

Read more: How to Create a Coaching Culture to Support Employee Development

Addressing skill gaps

The L&D team has the unique goal of helping employees move forward in their careers and helping the company meet its talent needs today and in the future.

The L&D team needs to know the company’s goals and skill gaps and create training programs to meet those needs. Depending on the specific areas, it may also be helpful to incentivize employees to pursue these training opportunities. 

When you balance the skills employees want to learn with skills the company needs to be competitive, you’ll have created an extremely valuable and effective employee development program.

Measurement of training outcomes

The final component every employee development program needs is measurement. 

Measuring the results of a training program includes getting feedback from learners, tracking performance improvement, and noting how many employees are well-prepared to move into new positions as they become available.

The training outcomes can help you understand if there are weaknesses in the program or if specific training methods are particularly effective. You can make corrections and focus your resources on the aspects of the program that work best.

With an LMS like WorkRamp, you can track training to measure training effectiveness and correlate training results with business goals. WorkRamp offers LMS tracking and reporting to measure the impact of your learning programs, team performance, training effectiveness, and more. 

How to create, evaluate, and execute an employee development program

Whether you already have some employee development in place or you’re starting fresh, it’s important to know how to create and deploy an effective employee development program.

Here are the steps you need to align the program with both your employee’s needs and your company’s goals so you can reap the benefits of robust development in your organization.

1. Determine the goals of the program

The first step in creating a strong development program is understanding everyone’s needs, from employees to executive leadership. 

This is the time to bring all of the stakeholders together to create a set of goals for employee development.

Some key elements to focus on include:

  • Desirable career paths within your company
  • The skill gaps your company faces
  • How to make less desirable but vital career paths more appealing
  • The state of leadership development in your organization and how it can be improved

Once you’ve set goals, talk about how you’ll measure progress. This will help you define key performance indicators for your program and can help you discover right away if any of the goals are too vague or impossible to measure.

Choose a platform

The next step is to choose a platform to host your employee development program. Some companies try to tie together multiple existing solutions, but investing in an easy-to-use, all-in-one learning platform like WorkRamp may be more effective.

Knowledge Services used WorkRamp to launch Knowledge Services University. WorkRamp provided the user-friendly, collaborative platform they needed, and within one month, they had five course enrollments per employee, 46 pre-built courses imported, and over 2,000 guides started. 

“We evaluated 15 learning management systems, and WorkRamp has one of the cleanest interfaces, which makes creating content so easy. They’re also willing to partner with us to make sure we achieve the best results. If something isn’t working, they always meet us halfway to figure it out.”


Andrea Burow, Learning and Development Partner, Knowledge Services


Having the right platform can make a big difference in how easily you achieve your employee development program goals.

Get student feedback during the course creation process

As you create training courses, getting learner feedback early in the process is important. If you go to the effort of creating dozens of courses only to find they all need a specific change, that’s a lot of extra work! 

Instead, consider course creation iterative and get feedback on how well employees feel they learned the skills and what could be improved. This information will help you create better, more effective courses.

Also, working directly with learners and their individual professional development goals will help you understand what learning paths need to be available to meet both their needs and the company’s needs. Having a variety of courses that can be put together in multiple ways is a great way to build flexibility and personalization into your development program without too much extra work.

Create a coaching or mentoring program

Once you’ve gotten your eLearning and classroom or hybrid courses started, it’s time to add the other part of employee development success—coaching or mentoring so employees get personal, one-on-one feedback.

You could use becoming a mentor as a leadership opportunity for experienced employees while less-senior employees benefit from the motivation and skill reinforcement that coaching or mentoring provides. However, you want to ensure the program is structured well so that every mentor and mentee knows what’s expected of them, grows from the process, and has a positive experience.

Randy Seidl, Founder, Sales Community, has been both a mentee and a mentor. 

He offers the following advice to maximize the mentee-mentor relationship:

  • Have your questions ready and written out before you meet with your mentor
  • After your meeting, send a follow-up, something like “I enjoyed meeting with you; here are my takeaways”
  • In the following session, recap what you talked about last time and share what you want to talk about this time 

“So for them [the mentor], they’re like, wow, you’re thoughtful. You take the time to recap; you’re putting energy into this. I’m going to reciprocate by giving you some good energy as well. And obviously lots of good side benefits as well.”

Read more: Podcast Recap: LEARN with Randy Seidl

Measure the results of your employee development program

Once you’ve implemented training and coaching, it’s time to measure results. 

In the first step, you decided on the KPIs you would track. Now you collect and analyze data on those performance metrics and see how everything is going. 

Of course, as things change, you may need to add additional goals and performance indicators. You may also find that certain KPIs don’t describe a goal’s success as well as you’d hoped. 

Being flexible and having a variety of ways to measure performance is a vital part of having a successful employee development program.

Create an effective employee development program with the Learning Cloud

The learning platform you choose will give you a solid foundation and help ensure you have the flexibility you need to grow, change, and scale your development program. It’s important to choose one that’s easy to use and serves multiple purposes to maximize the value of your investment.

With the Learning Cloud, you get an intuitive, easy-to-use learning system that allows you to create robust employee development, new hire training, customer education, and more. You can also track learner progress and measure key metrics. 

If you’re ready to create a high-quality employee development program with the Learning Cloud, contact us for a free, personalized demo.  

Complete the form for a custom demo.

Anna Spooner

WorkRamp Contributor

Anna Spooner is a digital strategist and marketer with over 11 years of experience. She writes content for various industries, including SaaS, medical and personal insurance, healthcare, education, marketing, and business. She enjoys the process of putting words around a company’s vision and is an expert at making complex ideas approachable and encouraging an audience to take action. 

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