“You don’t build a business – you build people – and then people build your business.” – Zig Ziglar
Indeed, Mr. Ziglar truly said it best when he identified employees as the critical driver of any business’ success… which is exactly why coming up with employee development ideas is key.
By providing enriching learning experiences and resources for your team, employee development helps further their growth in your organization — and helps your organization grow too.
But employee development encompasses a lot more than any one training course, conference or team-building activity…
So in this article, I’ll explore six different employment development ideas and approaches. You’ll also find a wide variety of employee development resources and templates you can use to execute these initiatives.
Click to jump ahead
- What is employee development?
- 6 employee development ideas for training, education and growth
- FAQ about employee development
- Take action on these professional development ideas and succeed together
What is employee development?
Employee development is the process of improving the knowledge, competencies and skills of an employee by providing opportunities for professional growth.
Here’s a quick overview of employee development and why it’s so important:
Far from an individual endeavor, employee development is a joint initiative in which employees actively seek personal and professional development, while an organization provides them with opportunities and resources to help them achieve that growth.
This process may result in the formal creation of an employee development plan, like the one pictured here:
The infographic template below is another great example. It outlines the employee development process for those in the healthcare field.
Altogether, the main objective of an employee development program is to promote continuous learning and improvement. That way, employees can pick up new skills and reach their full potential — in turn, supporting the long-term goals of an organization. (Translation: it’s a major win-win!)
An example of this would be developing the leadership skills of an employee in order to support the goal of internal recruitment and retention. A customizable Leadership Readiness Checklist Template, like the one featured below, is perfect for facilitating this kind of thing:
Creating a workplace culture that champions continuous learning and improvement ensures your team feels supported and challenged in all the right ways. Investing in their growth demonstrates that you value them, which can translate into higher levels of satisfaction, retention and productivity. Not to mention, employee engagement.
While training, educational programs and workshops are some examples of employment development, there are so many more initiatives and activities you can implement to give your team — and organization — an edge.
Let me explain…
6 employee development ideas for training, education and growth
From increasing retention to improving company culture, there are endless reasons to invest in employee training and development. But where to begin?
Check out these six ideas any professional organizations can implement to excel:
1. Enrich your organization’s onboarding experience
First things first (no, literally), a good onboarding experience is key for employee development; there’s no better way to guarantee their long-term success than enriching their professional journey from the start.
After all, the onboarding process not only guides employees on how to perform the essential duties that keep your business running, it also helps them understand what’s needed to thrive in the role.
That way, they’ll know exactly how to meet — and exceed — your expectations for their performance, work ethic and output. The information you provide can also serve as the basis for performance reviews, helping to identify areas of improvement.
An easy way to ensure your onboarding is a success is to go beyond offering the kinds of drab training materials we’re all used to receiving.
Instead, make it your mission to create engaging onboarding and training checklists, employee handbooks, standard operating procedures (SOPs) and work instructions. You’ll be amazed what happens when you give employees something they’ll actually read, reference and remember.
Check out the above Employee Handbook Template. Instead of pages of text or basic images, it uses eye-catching icons and layouts to capture readers’ attention and promote retention to boot.
Know that you can 100% customize these templates to suit your organization’s needs. Simply swap out the text, add any visual assets you’d like to include (from Venngage’s library of royalty-free images and illustrations) and bring in your own branding. (FYI, Venngage’s My Brand Kit can automate this process for you).
In just a few minutes, you’ll have great onboarding resources that will prime your new employee — and any future employee development initiatives — to succeed.
2. Provide regular training and professional development opportunities
Let’s hear it for the life-long learners…
If you’ve been reading along, you’ll know the importance of providing consistent training and upskilling opportunities for employees. These initiatives don’t just grow employee competencies — they help professional organizations keep up with industry trends and compete in the marketplace, leading to better business outcomes overall.
So be sure to reiterate their importance to employees, and set aside ample time for them to do so. (At Venngage, for example, we’ve made learning and growing one of our core values.)
You’re likely aware of just how many training and development programs you could recommend. Some common examples include management (or leadership) training plans, technical skills training and industry conferences or seminars.
However, if you’re looking for a more convenient, portable and cost-effective substitute, web-based learning solutions are a great route. From ebooks and online courses, to webinars and podcasts, there are a wealth of digital training materials you can provide your employees.
Want those resources to be unique to your organization? Above is an example template of an ebook on leadership training. You can use it to create your own ebook, and cover any topic that you wish.
3. Research relevant and valuable training topics
To really succeed with at employee development, you’ll need to make sure any initiative is not only helpful, but relevant.
That means doing some research so you can offer the training tools and topics that’ll best assist them with current responsibilities, or help them transition to a new role.
Typically these topics work towards enhancing an employees’ hard or soft skills.
Hard skills training is all about upgrading an employee’s knowledge that is specifically related to their job. Obtaining a certification in coding, SEO marketing, account management or other technical upskilling endeavors are all examples of this type of training.
One way to observe hard skill gaps is to compare an employee against a skills matrix. Below is an example that describes the skills needed for different marketing roles in a handy one pager.
Customize this template to help employees examine their skill gaps, or look for what they’re interested in learning more.
Soft skills training, on the other hand, looks to improve the interpersonal skills you would apply to any position. These competencies help you perform at your highest, no matter your profession. Examples include problem-solving workshops, decision-making exercises and offering resources to help improve employees’ communication skills.
These two infographic templates could be used as training materials to help improve one’s soft skills.
Not sure how to determine which topics would be most beneficial? Conduct a review (see the development plan and training assessment checklist below for inspo) or simply ask for feedback!
By reviewing employees’ existing strengths, knowledge, skill gaps, interests and career goals, you’ll be able to figure out which topics they’d get the most out of.
4. Diversify your employee development offerings
Everybody learns things differently; what works for some may not work for others.
That’s why the most effective professional development programs utilize a variety of tools and techniques.
From microlearning tactics (like infographics and video-based learning), to gamification and cross-departmental training, there are so many different ways you can fortify employees’ knowledge. Let me explain:
Microlearning breaks down complex topics into bite-sized chunks of engaging content that can be consumed piece-by-piece. This makes it a breeze for learners to digest and retain the information presented. Explainer videos, animations and infographics are just a few microlearning methods.
For example, the infographic below uses compelling visuals and layouts to teach viewers how to create a nursing home plan. Rather than having to read a boring page of text, its combination of text and visual aids work to boost learning and information retention by 400%.
Another microlearning tactic that can enhance your employee development strategy is video-based learning. Since this format is more stimulating, memorable and straight-forward to understand, it’s a great way to ensure your training sticks.
It’s also highly effective for any demonstration or simulation needs. For example, you could incorporate short video lessons or a video chat into your training procedures.
Gamifying your employee development processes is another route. This heightens the excitement-level of any learning program by adding in elements of gameplay. Whenever assigning a task aimed to promote professional growth, give employees the opportunity to earn points, win badges or compete with one another — and watch their motivation increase ten-fold.
Finally, offering cross-departmental training is a great way to involve other teams and departments in an employee’s developmental journey. This lets employees experience different roles, so they can better understand the value of their work in relation to the bigger picture.
5. Explore mentorship programs and develop leadership skills
The next employee development idea involves finding a corporate senpai!
Just kidding… kind of.
What I really mean here is to establish a mentorship program in your organization. The close supervision and one-on-one learning experiences offered by such can greatly benefit employees along their professional path.
In a mentor-mentee relationship, the mentor shares their experiences and expertise, providing guidance and support that a mentee can utilize while going about their assigned tasks. This is particularly useful for leadership training.
And beyond managers and supervisors, senior or other higher-ranking employees can also participate in peer mentoring.
6. Acknowledge employees’ growth and accomplishments
Last but certainly not least, the best way to encourage employees to continuously strive for growth is to recognize and reward their progress. This ensures they’ll feel supported by your organization specifically along their professional development journey.
(Not only that, but forgetting to do so all but guarantees they’ll stop trying to better themselves in the first place — because why would they, if their efforts go unnoticed?)
Giving out awards, raising wages and promoting internally are just some ways you can reward employees who have taken their professional development to heart.
Another way to acknowledge employee growth is by sharing positive feedback. Let them know the specific areas they’ve improved in, what goals you’ve seen them achieve, and how excellent their overall performance and quality of work has been.
Ongoing performance reviews are one such effective method for relaying this information. These formal assessments evaluate an employee’s work performance, highlights their strengths and presents future growth opportunities.
Below is a Quarterly Performance Review Template you can customize to suit your needs. It uses data visualizations to communicate an employees’ performance in an impactful manner.
You can also ask the employee to review their performance themselves, so you can compare notes and discuss any discrepancies. The template below should do just the trick.
Not quite the right template for you? Find a wealth of options here: 21+ Engaging Performance Review Examples. Or, for more performance review tips, templates and best practices, watch this quick, 14-minute video:
FAQ about employee development
What are examples of development opportunities?
Learning and professional growth opportunities like training, mentorships and educational programs or resources are all examples of development opportunities that organizations can provide to employees. However, the best professional development opportunities you can offer will be specific to the interests and career goals of the individual employee.
What can you do for employee development?
There are many different ways to prioritize professional development and build a culture of continuous learning and growth. As we’ve shown in this article, there are a wealth of initiatives, formats and resources you can test out, starting with a good onboarding experience.
Sourcing or producing effective training materials, conducting performance reviews and using reliable learning strategies are great professional development practices too.
What are your top 3 areas for development?
While this is often unique to each individual employee, soft skills like: goal-setting, communication and collaboration are generally the top areas for professional development across any role.
Continuous growth and improvement in these areas will positively affect employees’ work performance and productivity, no matter their technical skill level or position.
What is a good employee development plan?
A good professional development plan addresses the needs, goals, and interests of employees. The best plans provide relevant and beneficial ways to improve knowledge and skills, and helps the organization achieve long-term success at the same time.
For more information on how to create one, read this article.
Take action on these professional development ideas and succeed together
I hope this piece gave you some great insights on how you can encourage the professional growth of your entire team and organization. With this knowledge and your support, the sky’s the limit on what you can achieve together.
To review, here are the six employee development ideas we discussed:
- Enrich your organization’s onboarding experience
- Provide regular training and skill development opportunities
- Research relevant and valuable training topics
- Diversify your professional development offerings
- Explore mentorship programs and develop leadership skills
- Acknowledge employees’ growth and accomplishments
And remember: you can make your professional development program visually (and mentally!) engaging with Venngage. Sign up for a free account and customize any of these employee development templates — no design expertise required.