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Employee Development: Definition, Benefits & Visual Aids

Written by: Genevieve Michaels

Jan 06, 2023


To excel in today’s business world, we must embrace constant learning. We can no longer expect our industries — or even our day-to-day jobs — to stay the same from year to year, or even month to month. 

Most organizations understand the value of strategic planning to adapt to this landscape in a big-picture way. But it’s just as important to help our employees grow and adapt — on an individual level. 

That’s the goal of employee development.

Effective employee development programs support employees in reaching their professional (and even personal) goals, while gaining valuable skills and knowledge that will help their employers succeed, too. 

More importantly, employee development is no longer optional. Organizations must emphasize it to attract the best talent, keep people engaged, and ensure they can thrive in a changing world. 

Today, we’ll define employee development, provide compelling statistics on why it’s needed, and explain how you can start creating your own employee development plans — with the help of Venngage’s templates.


Click to jump ahead: 

What is employee development?

Employee development is any program, administered by an employer, that helps people reach their full career potential. It is a way for workers to gain new skills and knowledge through formal, interpersonal, and on-the-job learning.

Put simply, employee development is exactly what it sounds like — a way to help workers grow and develop professionally. In that matter, companies may consider checking employee Net Promoter Score and getting insights on how to improve employee morale and increase employee retention.

employee development definition

Employee development does serve employers, because it helps people develop skills they need to compete (or will need in the future). But first and foremost, it should center employees’ individual interests and goals. 

Employee development differs from employee training in that it’s more personal, aspirational, and future-oriented. Employee training typically concerns hard skills and knowledge needed for the job an employee already has, or is moving into.

Related: How to Create a Successful Employee Training and Development Program Through Visual Communication

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The four approaches to employee development

Employee development goes far beyond formal, structured learning. It also includes mentorship, career coaching, stretch projects, job shadowing, or even work exchanges. 

Generally, approaches to employee development fall into these four broad categories:

Formal education

Courses, classes, and workshops, delivered in person or through eLearning.

employee training course online


Evaluating and giving feedback on existing performance, so employees can improve. 

employee performance review


Job experiences

On-the-job, hands-on learning. This can include “stretch” roles or projects, which are slightly beyond the employee’s existing skills.

employee training program

Interpersonal learning

Coaching and mentorship, including reverse mentoring or peer mentoring. 

employee marketing skills training matrix

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Why is employee development important? 

Employee development isn’t optional or “nice to have”. If you want to attract talented people, think boldly, and build an organization that can keep up in the new business landscape, implementing a robust employee development program is one step towards those goals. 

Here are the key reasons you need to make employee development part your learning and development strategy now. 

Future proof your organization 

Every industry (and the world in general) is now changing constantly, and that’s unlikely to ever slow down. The skills and knowledge we need to keep up will keep evolving, too. 

Organizations can’t expect to hire people who are already proficient in these still-emerging skills. Instead, they’ll need to develop and upskill the employees they already have. 

Becoming a learning-focused organization that emphasizes employee development is the only way to compete and plan for success. That’s why from April-June 2021 to July-September 2021, the demand for Learning and Development professionals increased by 94%.

“Skills really are the number one game in town. HR teams see skills development as the number one initiative to help future proof their organization.”

David Perring, Director of Research at Fosway Group

Recent research from Fosway found that becoming a learning organization, and emphasizing reskilling and upskilling, were top priorities for the majority of HR professionals. 

Attract the best people and adapt to the labor shortage 

If you aren’t helping today’s workers grow, you are wasting their time. 

Careers don’t have the defined, ladder-like structure they used to; employees will likely try many different types of work throughout their careers, at different organizations. 

Instead of learning strictly in accordance with their employer’s needs, they’ll be guided both by their own interests and by how their industry changes. If they don’t see room to grow in a way that will serve their own goals, talented workers will not be interested in joining your organization. 

And yet, just 53% of individual contributors are satisfied with professional development opportunities at their current employer. That presents a huge opportunity for employers who can emphasize employee development. They’re offering talent a powerful reason to choose them over another organization.

Keep people engaged and do better work

Employee development is crucial to building a great work culture, and delivering a positive experience. 

Employees who feel underutilized are 10 times more likely to be looking for a new job than those who feel that their skills are being put to good use. This trend is not going to change — in fact, the emerging Gen Z demographic values employee development even more highly.

It’s common sense that more fulfilled, engaged, and curious workers would produce better outcomes. When people have the opportunity to learn and develop, they are more productive

Here are some simple questions you can use to assess how engaged your employees are: 

Employee Survey Results

Organizations that pursue open innovation, taking a flexible, collaborative approach to challenges, are more profitable and drive more revenue. Constant learning is critical to building that kind of culture. 

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Tips for creating an employee development plan 

Getting started with employee development doesn’t need to be overwhelming. 

Use this straightforward framework as you build your own employee development plan. First, see where people’s interests are. Then analyze what skills will get them there, plan how they’ll learn them, and follow up. 

Here’s a handy infographic that illustrates the training and development process: 

Nonprofit Fundraising Timeline Template

1. Start from your needs

What are your people most eager to learn about? Try polling employees, or hold 1-1 meetings, to figure how they want to expand and grow. 

Then, analyze how their interests line up with skill gaps your organization needs to close. Ideally, you can get people closer to their goals, while future-proofing your own organization. 

If employees need support in thinking about their career goals, you could use a framework like this one: 

Quad Company Goal Setting Mind Map Template

2. Get specific

What specific skills and knowledge, specifically, will it take to close these gaps and help people develop? 

For example, maybe you’ll need to get comfortable with analytics, to make data-driven decisions. What system or tool will you need to learn, specifically? Or maybe you want to improve customer relationships. That could involve building soft interpersonal skills, or teaching your workers how to use a new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. 

3. Collect learning content

Pull together the tools, content, and resources your employees will need to develop. That could include: 

  • Learning content, from online courses to YouTube videos
  • Visual aids, like custom infographics from Venngage
  • Identifying potential mentors already working within your organization
  • Possible stretch projects employees could complete with support 

4. Create a plan

Next, put it into action with a detailed plan. How will your employees use these materials to achieve their learning goals? 

Follow the SMART goal-setting model as you create your plan — specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Be sure to set dates by which you’ll move through key steps, like course or project completion. 

SMART Goals Team Brainstorming Board Template

To create an individual development plan for each employee, try following a template like this one: 

Healthcare Individual Development Plan Worksheet Template

5. Follow up

As you reach key milestones, don’t just consider your development program done. Instead, keep in close touch with employees. Your goal isn’t just to evaluate success, but to understand their experience of the development program. 

Look at outcomes both quantitatively and qualitatively. Of course, you will examine important metrics like learning scores and project results. But you should also look into whether employees found the program fulfilling and rewarding. Do they feel good about their experience? Did they get closer to their goals? 

Related: 5 Steps to Create an Actionable Employee Development Plan [with Templates & Examples]

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Employee development examples and templates

Employee development can help your organization achieve so many different kinds of goals. 

Here are a few examples of employee development programs, and some visual templates you could use to support them. We have plenty of employee development ideas to get you started. 

Soft skills

Soft skills, such as communication, leadership, or collaboration, are among the most transferable, because they’ll be applicable to nearly any type of job. 

That makes them universally valuable to employees. If you wanted to help people build leadership skills, you could use a template like this one: 

Leadership Skills Inventory and Self-Assessment Checklist Template

Orientation and onboarding

It’s never too early to start offering employee development. In fact, the first few weeks on the job can be a time of exciting growth, change, and progress. 

Try offering development support as part of the new employee orientation process. You can start your relationship not just with training for the current role, but by inspiring employees to think about how they’ll develop in the future. 

Here’s an example of a development template you could customize to help your new employees. 

New Employee Training Checklist Template

Ongoing development, reskilling, and upskilling

Remember, employee development and learning never stops. Encourage your people to chase their goals and dreams throughout their time at your company. That could mean progressing in their role, or gaining skills that could open doors to a new role entirely. 

If an employee shows interest in pivoting from customer support to marketing, you could provide a customized resource like this one: 

Marketing Skills Training Matrix Roadmap Template

Or, support someone who wants to improve their public speaking with a resource like this: 

Improve Presentation Skills List Infographic Template

Alternately, your whole organization might need to embrace skills that will become critical in the future. For example, you might learn crisis management to keep up with seismic industry changes: 

Crisis Management Program Infographic

A culture of development

Empower everyone, from new hires to senior leadership, to reach their professional goals. Embracing employee development won’t just make people happier and more productive — it will have a ripple effect across your organization.

Visual materials are one important component of great employee development. High-quality infographics combine text, diagrams, and images to make even complex information easy to absorb and understand. 

With Venngage, any learning professional can easily make custom development and training materials to support their employees. Time and skill don’t need to be a barrier — you can generate beautiful, educational materials in just a few minutes. 

To get started browse our library of templates and start bringing out the best in every person who works for you. 

About Genevieve Michaels

Genevieve Michaels is a freelance writer based in Vancouver, Canada. She specializes in long-form content writing with a focus on B2B marketing, tech, and software. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and Art History from the University of British Columbia. Prior to going freelance, she worked in communications and administration for visual arts organizations.