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What is Employee Development and How Can It Help Your Business?

People often hear the words training and development together, without distinguishing the difference between the two processes. Training is involved in giving an employee the immediate skills required for a current job. This can be done in classrooms, seminars, and group events. Development, however, is the process of preparing someone for a future job in an individualized manner. This may come in the form of job rotation, coaching or mentoring. The main difference comes in the timing of the two. In short, training is the short-term need and development is the future needs of the employee.

So why is development important to your business?

In the book The Progress Principle by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, progress is discussed as a crucial factor in maintaining a healthy inner work life. Research shows time and again how external incentive plans don’t lead to the sustained productivity that employers need. Employees have the desire to grow and develop within their company and to feel like what they are doing is worthwhile.


Employees have the desire to grow and develop within their company and to feel like what they are doing is worthwhile.


With that said, it is no surprise that companies may experience a skill gap, making it difficult to find experienced workers. Peter Cappelli wrote an article on the SHRM website titled The Skill Gap Is a Myth. Companies end up paying hand over fist for recruiting and training new employees. In doing so, they leave another company with a skill gap after stealing their top employees, perpetuating the cycle. The point is, instead of working to hire new employees, companies should be working to develop their current ones. This would yield lower costs to fill positions, a better fit with company culture, and more satisfied and committed employees.

There are several resources available for companies to utilize when developing their employees. Steve Olenski wrote an article titled 8 Key Tactics for Developing Employees, that parallel some of the information from The Progress Principle. Managers need to remove barriers in the way of employees’ development. They need to hone in on the individual treatment of workers, based on their aspirations and desires. Managers should take the time to speak with high potential employees to discuss their career goals. It is important to set milestones and use performance metrics, so employees understand where they need to be, and how they can achieve their goals.

Several businesses take the time to create excellent training programs for their new employees. Once the workers are situated, some businesses may choose to look outside of their current employees for new skills needed rather than develop the talent they have in the organization. If companies wish to see higher productivity and satisfaction in their workers, development may be a great place to start. This increases engagement, and will ultimately lead to lower costs in the companies recruiting and training budget. Furthermore, it will set a precedent of opportunity for other employees within the company.


Conor Kennedy is a Graduate Assistant in the Graduate Programs in HRD at Villanova. He also serves as the Treasurer of the VU SHRM chapter. Learn more about him here & connect with him on LinkedIn!

Photo by on Unsplash

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