As Millennials and Gen Z flood the workplace, expectations are changing. Careers are no longer just about making money but also about genuine passion and enjoyment. As part of this, employees expect certain things from their employers, one of these being the opportunity to learn and grow. This is where employee development comes in. 

Regular employee development opportunities are not just crucial for workers; they are also beneficial to employers as well. After all, stunted and burnout employees could lead to a drop in morale and high staff turnover rates, whereas opportunities for development can lead to increased productivity and innovation

However, when you’re hoping to improve employee development, it’s important to remember that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work. You need to make sure you tailor your strategies to the individuals and your workplace as a whole.

If you’re not sure where to start, you’re in the right place. 

Check out our guide below, where we’ll outline nine proven methods that will help to boost employee development and morale within your business. 

A man out of the office looking up with open arms

1. Ask employees for feedback

No one understands their developmental needs better than your employees, so it’s a good idea to ask them regularly for their feedback. 

Anonymous surveys can be a great way to gather loads of feedback without taking up too much time. If you choose this approach, you might want to ask questions like:

  • Is career development important to you?
  • Do you feel you can progress in this company? 
  • Do you feel like we, as an employer, care about your development? 
  • Do you get the support you need from your manager? If not, what more could they do? 
  • Do you like the current employee development initiatives? 
  • What can be done to improve existing employee development initiatives?
  • Do you have access to the right tools, resources and training? If not, what would you like access to?

Just be sure that when you’re gathering feedback from employees, you are listening to them and putting changes in place. Make this a regular activity, and you can continue to support employee development over time!

2. Get all leaders on board

In order to make employee development a core part of your culture, you need to get executive buy-in and make sure all leaders are on board. They need to understand the long-term impact of employee development and its benefits on productivity, retention and so on. Then you can begin to outline the types of employee development initiatives you want to put in place. 

This will be much easier if you have gathered feedback from your employees. In this way, you can get carefully thought out plans in place based on real insights. This can be a lot more persuasive and ensure that everyone gets behind your new initiatives.

1 to 1 to give constructive feedback

3. Measure team competencies

Performance reviews are great for measuring employee competencies and, therefore, ensure that the employee’s development is on the right track. As performance reviews seek to have different participants when evaluating the same employee performance, they are considered a very useful tool to give valuable and applicable feedback.

In other words, performance reviews seek to contrast the leader’s feedback with that of their peers and themselves. In this way we can eliminate, to a certain degree, subjectivity and biases, leading to valuable conversations to identify employee development opportunities and set new objectives for the fulfillment of the challenges and position. A good way for doing so is defining SMART goals, to help employees chart a path for their career development.

Among many other benefits, a performance review tool will give you the opportunity to make better informed decisions and provide your employees with clear deadlines so that they can activate their respective improvement plans.

4. Communicate effectively with employees

Company culture

It’s important that managers communicate effectively with their teams. This includes having regular one on one meetings and catch-ups, as well as well organized performance reviews. This gives both parties a chance to give feedback and discuss career development opportunities. You can suggest they follow the SBI feedback model to provide clear and effective feedback.

It’s also important to ensure communication is built into the company culture and that employees feel they can approach their co-workers and managers with any issues or ideas they have, particularly those related to their career development. 

5. Be sure to offer equal employee development opportunities

One of the most important steps is making sure you’re getting the tools and resources in place for employees to grow and develop their skills. These could be digital tools and platforms or regular opportunities for training, either in a formal setting or under their manager. 

Remember, all of the above still applies if your team is working remotely, from wherever they are. In this case, you need to give them equal opportunities to improve their skills while working away from the office. Online training platforms can be a great way to do this, as can video calls. 

6. Make learning a habit accessible to all

Cards on the table and two people pointing at them, carrying out a dynamic for learning

Running a training day every couple of months is fine, but this is not always as effective as you hope it would be. Often, many employees can be overwhelmed by these courses and can quickly forget the barrage of information they are given. 

So, although training days and online courses of this nature are important, so is continuous access to learning and development. 

Be sure to put opportunities and tools in place that allow employees to refresh their brains and continue to practise their skills. They also benefit from the ability to engage with their own development on a regular basis. 

Ultimately, it’s about weaving learning and development into the day-to-day life of your business.

7. Create tailored development plans

As we’ve said, employees are all different and therefore, a one-size-fits-all approach very rarely works. Instead, you need to create individualized development plans. This means spending time with individuals and learning about their working styles and what they need to grow and develop

At this stage, it’s a good idea to address their strengths and weaknesses and discuss in detail their position within the company and how they hope to progress. For example: 

  • Do they want to move departments? 
  • Do they want to get promoted? 
  • Do they want to learn new skills?

Once you understand this, you can begin to put targets and goals in place for them to work towards over the coming year. Giving them key performance indicators (KPIs) will also make it easier to measure their success.

This gives them some direction and helps you to narrow down the tools and resources they will need as an individual to help their career development. 

Employee gives feedback and a thumbs up to another employee on video call.

8. Regularly review and track progress

Finally, you need to make sure you are regularly reviewing your employee’s targets with them (or that their managers are doing this), to understand how they are progressing. Regular one on one meetings are going to play a key role in this. 

Review their targets and KPIs to see if they are making progress. If their goals are not being met, it’s vital that you work out why this is and put changes in place to make this happen. You might also find that they are ahead with their goals and looking at a promotion sooner than you thought. 

What’s more, gathering real insights like this can be helpful for feeding back to leaders and helping them to see just how your employee development initiatives are making a difference. 

9. Recognize employee progress

Employees posing happy together because of a good feedback culture

When we are learning and putting our new knowledge into practice, realizing that others see the value of what we do is very satisfying, isn’t it? That’s why recognizing every step your employees take on their development journey will encourage them to strive even harder.

That’s why a great asset to encourage the development of all employees is to create the habit of employee recognition in a company. When the habit of recognizing the achievements of others becomes second nature, everyone feels more committed to achieving their goals. It also encourages them to recognize the accomplishments of other colleagues. A great positive feedback loop!

Showing your employees that you care about their development will have a great impact on their employee experience. Employees taking advantage of development opportunities will have a great impact on company performance and results. For these and many other reasons, the value that employee development has on employees and the company they work for is undeniable!

Showing your employees that you care about their development will have a great impact on their employee experience. Employees taking advantage of development opportunities will have a great impact on company performance and results. For these and many other reasons, the value that employee development has on employees and the company they work for is undeniable!