Unlocking Success through Employee Development: An In-Depth Guide

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Uncover the crucial role of employee development in propelling business growth. Learn what it is and why it's important, and find eight specific benefits and ways to begin.

[Featured image] An employee wearing a white t-shirt under a blue denim button-down smiles during an employee development training class.

If you're looking to have an engaged, high-quality workforce committed to the success of your business, one of the best things you can do is invest in employee development. Read this guide to learn exactly what employee development is and explore eight specific benefits of developing your employees.

What is employee development?

According to Merriam-Webster, the verb "develop" means "to expand by a process of growth" [1]. Employee development is similar in that it involves employers investing in employees to make them more motivated, skilled, and knowledgeable. In other words, it fosters employee growth and allows them to realize their potential fully.

Employee development can also improve employee morale and strengthen work relationships. What's more, when you show employees that they matter by investing in their growth, they respond with greater loyalty and better performance. It's a win-win.

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8 specific benefits of employee development

To get a better sense of how employee development can help your business, here are eight specific benefits:

1. Better talent pipeline

Employees are attracted to companies that encourage them (and pay them) to grow professionally. When companies care about employees, word gets around. So, if you invest in employee development, chances are you'll get a talent pool that contains plenty of qualified and motivated individuals. 

Employee development also empowers employees to grow and advance within the company by preparing them to take on new roles and responsibilities as they become available. This can help an organization fill leadership or specialized roles more quickly and efficiently.

2. Empowered employees

When employees gain knowledge and skills, they feel more empowered. According to the global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, empowered employees tend to be more creative, engaged, confident, and autonomous (or willing to make decisions). These decisions tend to be smarter and lead to better outcomes for the business [2].

3. Reduced skill gaps

Regular assessment can help identify areas where your workforce may need additional training and support. When you engage in employer-sponsored education and training, you can target these skill gaps to ensure your workforce is at its peak with the most high-demand skills. 

4. Increased worker satisfaction

Research shows that many workers look at job training opportunities as gifts [3]. So, it’s not surprising that job training results in greater worker satisfaction. In addition, it's pleasing to employees when they learn new knowledge and skills, making them feel more competent at their jobs. 

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5. Improved job performance

Employee development can help employees acquire skills that they can use to perform their jobs more effectively. Depending on the position and place of work, it's possible to boost job performance with a combination of technical and workplace skills. A few focus areas to consider include:

  • Time management

  • Organizational skills

  • Communication and collaboration

  • Business-specific software

  • Writing and presentation skills

6. Higher employee retention 

Your people are often your company's greatest asset, so keeping them is essential. Research shows that employees are more committed to companies that invest in employee training programs than companies that don't [3]. This means that employees are less likely to leave when companies provide training. 

Retaining top talent will save you money on costly external recruiting efforts, such as outside recruiters, job postings, candidate screenings, reference and background checks, and employee orientations.

7. Enhanced collaboration

When employees participate in educational or training programs together, they forge bonds. Teams that bond often communicate and collaborate better, which can help your business thrive. Employee development in a team setting also establishes a shared understanding of your company's goals and priorities, increases trust between colleagues, and can lead to a more diverse range of perspectives and ideas.

8. Boost in profits

When choosing how to run your business, it's always good to consider your bottom line. 

Research shows that employers who engage in employee development have significantly higher sales and profits than employers who don't. This is particularly true if employee development is strengths-based, meaning an employer focuses on enhancing an employee's strengths rather than weaknesses when creating development programs [4].

How to invest in employee development

Knowing the different ways you can invest in employee development helps ensure your team is the strongest and most knowledgeable it can be. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Make use of employee development plans.

An employee development plan is a tool that companies can use alongside employee evaluations. After the employer and employee discuss professional strengths and weaknesses, they work together to develop a blueprint for filling in knowledge and skill gaps with specific learning and training opportunities.

According to a report by Degreed and Harvard Business Publishing, 48 percent of workers prefer having regular evaluations to determine areas that need improvement, and 61 percent want training that addresses gaps [5].

Utilize online and in-person training.

Employees enjoy virtual training because they can complete it from home and interact with people from all over the world. Employers can save money with virtual training because they don't have to pay for expenses like hotels, airfare, and meals. 

In-person employee training offers a few other benefits. First, employees have an opportunity to interact face-to-face and ask questions, which often results in better communication and greater clarity. Second, when several employees attend in-person training, they learn simultaneously. This can be helpful when employees need to be on the same page, like when launching a new project, product, or service.

Engage in employee mentorship.

Mentoring benefits the mentee (person being mentored), the mentor, and the organization. The mentee gains knowledge from a trusted organization member, which can boost competency and confidence. The mentor gets satisfaction from sharing knowledge with a mentee and contributing to the organization's success. Your organization benefits from more knowledgeable and connected employees. 

Different types of mentoring include shadowing, which involves following and observing one mentor for a specific period of time, or rotating from department to department for overall learning.

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Article sources


Merriam-Webster. "Develop" Accessed April 10, 2024.  

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.