Comprehensive Guide to Developing Employees Part 2: Elements to Enhance Employees Development

March 8, 2023
# min read
Doug Brown

Editor’s Note:This is the second installment of a two-part series surrounding what it takes to develop staff both within relatively small micro-businesses to more extensive organizations. Each article explores different aspects.

While employee development can be an essential strategic tool for growth, productivity, and employee retention, neglecting particular challenges results in uncertain value.

For Your Consideration

  • Finding qualified staff is seldom easy and may be costly. Even HR professionals are having recruiting difficulties, and 75% say there is a skills shortage in candidates, so prepare to build the employees you want.
  • Competition is competing for both market share and engaged employees.
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives are becoming increasingly more important to more people.
  • A culture that adapts to new environments, protocols, or shifting market demands can do well.
  • Acknowledge the connection between adapting your changing business structure with evolving employee development. Align employee development with the organization's strategic needs. For example, do you face many impending retirements?
  • Workers who receive training and educational opportunities can become more productive and loyal. While there is a concern that developing highly skilled people will leave and take their knowledge elsewhere, employee training usually reduces turnover and absenteeism.
  • Recognize that you may need to rekindle employee development initiatives.

Guidelines to support employee development programs:

  • Secure widespread agreement among executives and managers.
  • Tie everything into performance management.
  • Be clear about your desired outcomes.

Failure to follow these can lead to decreased effectiveness for all impacted.

Employee Development Methods
Employee development methods can occur on the job, with the manager or an experienced co-worker leading the development activity, using training facilities, or online.

Coaching involves a more experienced or skilled individual providing an employee with advice and guidance. 1:1 coaching is personalized, has a specific business objective, and occurs over time.

Mentoring may be formal or informal. Effective mentoring programs involve:

  • Matching mentors and mentees.
  • Hold both parties accountable with goals.
  • Designate time & commitments needed.
  • Monitor the mentoring relationship.
  • Link mentoring to both talent management and business strategies.

This document details an employee's intentions, learning outcomes, and support needed. It also includes appraisal and assessment data.

Cross-training (short or long-term) refers to training employees to perform job duties other than those usually assigned. Begin by identifying the knowledge and skills needed for each position and understanding current employees' proficiencies to reveal gaps.

Job shadowing requires more than having an employee follow a colleague around all day. It works best when employees learn firsthand about the challenges facing people in other departments and the impact their decisions have on others.

Job enlargement adds more tasks and duties, typically at the same level of complexity. Job enrichment, On the other hand, adds responsibility and control. Motivation is unlikely when jobs are enlarged but not enriched.

Job rotation (usually for a year or more) is the systematic movement of employees from job to job to provide a view of the entire organization. Downsides may include increased workload and decreased productivity for the employee, temporary workflow disruption, line managers' possible reluctance to lose high-performing employees, or the costs associated with the learning curve on new jobs.

Developmental assignments allow employees to develop new skills, knowledge, experience, and competencies necessary for higher-level positions.

Succession planning uses a 1-3 year window to identify long-range needs and build your internal talent to meet those needs- not to preselect them.

An assessment center, used for selection or development purposes, is not necessarily a physical site but a program of tools and exercises designed to assess people's suitability concerning a particular role.

Corporate universities usually focus on job-related skills, specific proprietary knowledge, or certification needs to ensure consistent messages reach everyone.

Organizations typically use classroom-based learning for topics unique to the employer and online learning for universal topics. Online training allows for self-directed, just-in-time, on-demand instruction. Content is best delivered in small, easily understood pieces to keep employees engaged. Employees should know how to use online training systems, online support, and easily access supplemental information.

Common Issues and Challenges to Developing Employees Today

Typical hurdles for employee development programs include:

  • Lack of managerial accountability.
  • Gaps in talent development capabilities with inadequate feedback to grow people.
  • Inconsistent alignment between workforce and business strategies.
  • Inconsistent execution.
  • Limited use of meaningful analytics and tracking.

When the business is booming, taking employees away from their work is a challenge. But when revenue slows often, there is less money in the training budget to get it done—the classic Catch-22.
Here are some tips for breaking free of this vicious lack-of-time or lack-of-money cycle:

  • Seek outside funding through grants. Note: some grants restrict which employees are trained, by whom, and on what topics.
  • Analyze cost-benefits, be selective, and prioritize.
  • Utilize videos, free online courses, and podcasts to tap free or low-cost resources.

There was an unspoken "sink-or-swim" approach to bringing new employees up to speed in earlier generations. Consider redesigning supervisor and leadership development because Millennials usually expect clear direction, guidance, and goals from their leaders, along with well-defined assignments, benchmarks, continuous feedback, and discussion.


  • Clear communication about employee development programs is essential. Do not create unrealistic expectations, overpromise next steps, or generate confusion about who receives development opportunities. Be clear about which programs are mandatory. Is there a career impact if someone opts out of development?
  • What, if anything, will you tell your "high potentials?" This area can be a double-edged sword.

Use Evolving Technology
Most integrated learning management systems (LMS) and performance management (PM) systems use a competency-based model and become integral to the performance appraisal process. After the system quantifies gaps, it recommends learning or development opportunities.

Insight is critical. Measure participant reaction, participant learning, participant behavior on the job, business results, and return on investment.

Choose a Global Lens
Be culturally aware of the expectations and differences in learning and talent development practices. Explore appropriate word choices, humor, nonverbal gestures, greetings, and attitudes towards time.

Finally, all employers should ensure that employee development programs do not create liabilities for discrimination, retaliation, wage and hour violations, or breach copyright laws.

Read the next article in the series:
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