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What is Employee Development? [2023 Guide]

In today’s fiercely competitive business landscape, nurturing a workforce that thrives on constant growth is key to sustained success. Without continuous learning and improvement, organizations experience a revolving door of talent, slowed growth, and losing ground to competitors.  

Employee development equips your organization with a highly-skilled team, increased employee engagement, better retention, and higher productivity.

Fifty-eight percent of employees say that professional development contributes to job satisfaction, and retention rates are 34 percent higher among organizations that offer employee development. Companies that invest in employee development increase both sales and profits compared to those that don’t. 

Imagine sculpting a workforce that’s not just adept but agile–a team that propels your organization to unprecedented heights. Understanding employee development and using it to its full potential will help your company flourish into a dynamic force, see better bottom-line results, and give you more depth of talent for new opportunities.

What is employee development?

What does it mean to develop your employees? It means your company helps employees receive training or pursue opportunities to improve their knowledge and skills. This improvement allows them to pursue their professional goals within your company.

These learning objectives benefit the company in the short and long term. Short-term, you have a more engaged, skilled employee who is better at doing their work and is actively looking for additional opportunities. Long-term, you could have a skilled employee in a new role or actively leading their team or another team within the company. 

For example, PartnerHero, a business process outsourcing (BPO) company with offices worldwide, used developmental opportunities to boost employee engagement and nurture leaders within their organization. 

Robyn Barton, Global Director of Talent Development at PartnerHero, shared, “At PartnerHero, we believe hard work, passion, and talent have no boundaries, so helping our employees grow.”

Types of employee development

Employee development is an ongoing process throughout an individual’s career. Some of the most common types of employee development include onboarding, compliance training, professional development, and leadership development.

New hire onboarding

The initial phase of an employee’s journey is crucial. Onboarding involves familiarizing new hires with the company’s culture, policies, and their roles.

A successful onboarding program can help employees get started at your company and helps them integrate quickly and contributes to a positive first impression.

Organizations with effective onboarding could see up to 50 percent greater employee retention among new recruits and 62 percent greater productivity.

With the Learning Cloud from WorkRamp, you can create and deliver engaging, effective new-hire training and leverage prebuilt content to access training materials from subject matter experts.

Read more: 5 Effective New Hire Onboarding Strategies

Compliance training

Ensuring employees understand and adhere to legal and regulatory guidelines is imperative.

Compliance training ensures that all staff members are well-versed in these aspects, mitigating risks and maintaining ethical practices.

While compliance training may not directly sync with employees’ professional goals, annual compliance training is mandatory in just about all industries. With the Learning Cloud, you can automate compliance training to track training progress and send alerts when employees need to complete training.

Professional development

This encompasses enhancing job-specific skills and knowledge to excel in one’s role. It often involves workshops, seminars, and courses to stay updated with the latest industry trends and best practices.

Professional development helps employees improve in their current roles and empowers them to advance professionally.

Soft skills training

Soft skills training focuses on honing the interpersonal, communication, and behavioral attributes that enhance an individual’s effectiveness. While technical skills are critical, soft skills often determine how well an employee collaborates, communicates, and adapts in diverse situations.

These skills encompass emotional intelligence, teamwork, problem-solving, adaptability, communication, and more.

Importance and benefits of employee development

Employee development provides many benefits to both employees and the company itself. 

The good news is that L&D teams are now seen as more of a strategic function, having helped companies transition to manage COVID protocols and embrace hybrid and remote work. 

According to the 2022 Workplace Learning Report, L&D’s role now focuses primarily on leadership and management training and upskilling and reskilling. These priorities help organizations excel today and prepare them for the future. 

Mentorship opportunities

Employee development programs often provide mentorship opportunities, connecting less experienced team members with seasoned professionals. This fosters knowledge transfer, skill refinement, and career guidance.

Career growth and professional development

Employees who see a clear path for growth within the organization are more motivated and engaged. Development initiatives equip them with the skills needed to advance, thus boosting morale.

Read more: 6 Ways to Support Employee Career Growth

Employee engagement and retention

During 2021 and much of 2022, organizations struggled to find talented employees as people quit in record numbers. Why were they leaving? Key reasons included no opportunities for advancement and a lack of respect. 

When you provide developmental opportunities, you show your team members that the organization believes in them, wants to invest, and wants them to stay with the company long-term. This dramatically improves retention and helps your company attract the talent you need.

In a tougher economy, you can’t afford to use up resources replacing people who leave. Retaining your top talent is even more essential. 

Improved productivity and performance

Developmental opportunities help employees work better by gaining new skills and reinforcing existing ones. As a result, employees have better performance results, higher productivity, and lower absenteeism. 

Gallup’s 2020 Employee Engagement Report found strong connections between employee engagement and improved business performance, including:

  • An 81% decrease in absenteeism
  • Turnover dropped 18% 
  • A reduction in errors of 40 to 65%, depending on the industry
  • A 23% increase in profitability for the organization
  • A 66% increase in employee wellness

Upskilling and reskilling

With technology evolving rapidly, upskilling and reskilling are essential to keep up with changing demands.

Employee development programs empower the workforce to adapt and stay relevant.

“The difference is the rate at which technology scales, and technology now scales faster than humanity can learn,” David Blake, CEO and Co-Founder, Degreed says. “Which means the skills gap is getting bigger every day, week, month, and year. And we have no expectation that it will ever close ever again. So, the need for skills is going up; companies are starving for skills. It’s forced them to start thinking and looking differently. They have to get more efficient and better at developing them, finding them, inventorying them, all those things.”

Read more: How to Future-Proof Your Organization in an Every-Changing World

Gain a competitive edge

You constantly face new challenges, competitors, and market conditions as an organization. How will you successfully weather the storm? 

The answer lies in having employees who are loyal, skilled, and engaged. You create these employees intentionally by investing in employee development to close skills gaps, create a deep pool of candidates for internal positions, and encourage creativity and risk-taking so that you can approach problems in new ways. 

A focus on employee development helps you prepare for the future by creating qualified leadership within the company and developing skilled employees who can help you face the inevitable obstacles the organization will encounter.

Cost savings

Instead of hiring external talent for specialized roles, which can be costly, organizations can cultivate their talent pool from within, saving recruitment and onboarding costs.

When organizations increase employee retention by providing adequate training and development opportunities, they avoid the costly issue of replacing employees due to high turnover.

Stronger company culture

A culture that values learning and growth tends to be more cohesive and forward-thinking. This learning culture creates a positive work environment where employees are inspired to contribute their best.

Read more: 3 Ways to Create a High-Performance Culture at Work

How to create an implement an employee development program

Understanding the benefits and use cases for an employee development program is great, but how do you actually implement one at your organization? Use the following best practices to create a program that helps your employees thrive.

Evaluate long-term company goals

To get buy-in for your program, your employee development initiatives must align with your company’s strategic objectives.

Identify the skills and competencies that will drive your organization forward and communicate how your employee development program will help to hone these skills. This is also a good time to talk about how you will measure the success of your program.

Read more: Align L&D With Business Strategy: Maximize Organizational Performance

Implement a learning management system (LMS)

An LMS is a digital platform for managing and delivering educational content. Using an LMS for your employee development program creates a cohesive, easy-to-use experience for both learners and admins.

An all-in-one LMS, like the Learning Cloud, provides a single centralized platform for all your training needs. Admins can assign and track training from a single dashboard and learners can easily access training on-demand to learn in the flow of work.

With an LMS, you can create, deploy, manage, and track various training modules and development initiatives.

Develop employee-specific tracks

Recognize that different employees have distinct development needs. Tailor programs to suit various roles, skill levels, and career aspirations.

With the Learning Cloud, you can incorporate various training methods like interactive training, eLearning, videos, audio, challenges, quizzes, and more to accommodate various learning styles.

Personalized training is advantageous to keep learners engaged and provide the necessary training for their role, skill set, or aspirations, and can also result in increased engagement and maximized employee performance.

“While there may be shared, standard foundational training across teams, there should also be an element that meets the employee where they are and offers what they, as an individual wants to learn.”


Meredith Fish, PHR, VP, People & Culture, WorkRamp

Read more: The Indispensable Power of Personalized L&D

Evaluate and improve

Your employee development program is a constant work in progress. Continuously assess the effectiveness of your program. Solicit participant feedback, track progress, and make necessary adjustments to ensure the program remains relevant and impactful.

The Learning Cloud provides advanced reporting and analytics to help you track leaner progress and program effectiveness. Use configurable reporting dashboards to track training ROI and make data-driven decisions to determine which aspects of training need to be changed or improved.

Use the best LMS for employee development

Employee development is not just an investment in individual growth; it’s an investment in the organization’s future. By embracing diverse forms of development, companies nurture a skilled, engaged, and motivated workforce.

Using the learning platform makes creating, delivering, managing, and tracking your employee development program more accessible and sustainable.

Discover how the Learning Cloud can help you create an engaging, effective employee development program. 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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