In the past few years, in-person events like conferences and seminars ground to a halt, creating skill gaps for employees. As a result, many businesses have looked to online opportunities to support learning and development for their teams.

Employee development can improve employees’ existing competencies and skills, and help them learn new ones that support the company’s goals. It’s important to note that employee development isn’t simply mandatory employee training, such as diversity awareness; instead, it focuses on supporting the interests and goals of your individual team members.

Why should I invest in employee development?

Investing in employee development creates opportunities for your employees to learn and grow their skill sets in an engaging format. This also allows employees to build connections with one another as they learn, which encourages stronger teams.

As an employer, this investment in your workforce pays off in big ways.

1) Retain top talent

Simply put, employees want to work for companies that care about their development. One of the best ways to show employees you’re committed to their success and continued growth is by investing in learning opportunities for everyone.

In one survey from Better Buys, 92% of employees said access to professional development is important or very important. Education is shown to benefit employers as well: Companies experienced a 34% higher retention rate for their employees who were given these learning opportunities.

LinkedIn echoed these findings, saying, “[E]mployees at companies with high internal mobility stay almost two times longer than those who don’t…. Not only are learners more likely to stay longer, but they are also much more engaged.” So, when employees are able to improve themselves, they improve their work as well.

2) Keep employees engaged and equipped

Speaking of engagement, the Better Buys study also found employees with professional development opportunities are 15% more engaged at work. This is critical to an organization’s success.

Employee engagement can help your company:

  • Increase profitability
  • Improve work quality
  • Boost productivity
  • Reduce turnover
  • Yield happier workplaces

Employee development motivates employees by giving them the chance to learn something new and useful, and by demonstrating the organization’s commitment to their individual growth and success.

According to the LinkedIn 2021 Workplace Learning Report, 76% of Gen Z learners believe learning is the key to a successful career, and watched 50% more learning content in 2020 compared to 2019.

3) Prepare your organization for the future

In business, change is inevitable. As technology evolves and trends change, companies must anticipate and be ready for the future. An effective way to prepare is to invest in continuing education for your team.

Consider, for example, the rise in digital advertising over the past 10 years. As social media advertising and digital marketing grew, the number of courses and resources available for marketers did too.

A social media marketer from a decade ago might be an expert in Facebook and Snapchat, whereas a successful social media marketer today might need to know more about TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter. Industries are constantly changing and evolving, and your organization (and workforce) should be able to keep up.

Deloitte’s Building the future-ready company report states that 42% of the core skills required for existing jobs are expected to change by 2022.

To address this, companies are turning to e-learning solutions. According to the World Economic Forum’s The Future of Jobs Report 2020, approximately 40% of workers will require reskilling, and Deloitte found that “75% of organizations expect to source new skills and capabilities by reskilling current workforce.”

4) Improve employee retention

Every time a business replaces a salaried employee, it costs six to nine months of salary to recruit and retrain a new one. Turnover has a greater impact on your business than recruitment costs, as the loss in manpower forces current employees to take on extra work to make up for it, which leads to burnout and poorer performance across your organization.

Turnover can also cause your current employees to question their own job security, consider new roles, or disengage from their work. Finally, recruiting and onboarding takes time away from meeting your other business objectives like generating revenue.

The solution to keeping your recruitment costs down and turnover rates low can lie in developing your existing employees to provide more opportunity.

5) Strengthen your internal talent pipeline

Hiring new employees is expensive, and the cost to hire rises the more senior the role, and the more experienced and educated the candidate is.

The average cost to hire an employee varies by role and requires resources spread across the recruiting, interviewing, onboarding, and training stages. One of the best ways to cut down on your hiring costs is to promote from within and invest in internal development to create future leaders.

Let’s say you have a junior marketing coordinator who joined at the entry level, fresh from their educational program and keen to learn. You’ve already invested hundreds, if not thousands, in their hiring, onboarding, and training, and you want to keep them. You provide them learning opportunities and find they have a special interest in digital marketing and paid advertising. You could have them become Hubspot-certified or pay for their Google certifications so they can take on new tasks. With additional training, they can be promoted to new roles with more responsibility. This keeps them interested in their work, and benefits your business as well.

By moving your employees up the pipeline from junior roles to more senior positions, you can not only reduce your hiring costs and cut your turnover rates, but also improve your culture. When employees have opportunities for growth and advancement, they’re less likely to leave and more likely to remain engaged in their role.

Although employee development can be a costly endeavor, when done right, an employee development program can have a huge impact on an organization.

Read: Business leadership and succession planning: How to foster leaders from within

How to implement an employee development program

Because employee development supports continued growth, productivity, and an organization’s ability to retain valuable employees, it’s no surprise the 2021 Workplace Learning Report from LinkedIn found that learning and development (L&D) is a top priority.

But implementing an employee development program can feel overwhelming at the onset. There are many options and no one-size-fits-all approach, as each organization is unique and has different needs.

Employee development helps retain and engage talent, fill your leadership pipeline, and expand the skills within your talent pool. Here’s how to get started.

1) Start with a skills gap analysis

The first step in launching a successful employee development program is to figure out what’s needed across your organization. You might start with your lowest performing teams and dig in to examine what skills their team lacks.

Running a skills gap analysis can reveal your employees’ weaknesses, their severity, and how role-critical each skill is. You’ll then need to look at either upskilling or reskilling your workforce based on your team’s needs, interests, and talents.

A streamlined skills gap analysis might look like this:

  1. Identify the critical and recommended skills for a role or team
  2. Use assessments to benchmark the minimum acceptable skill levels for those roles
  3. Have your team take those assessments to identify where they fall under the optimal levels of skill

2) Identify top employee candidates for development

The best employee development plans don’t just hone in on gaps. Rather, they also identify employees who are keen to learn and want to advance their careers. You can focus efforts on these employees early on to build skills and invest in leadership and management training.

Consider the following soft skills:

  • Good communication skills
  • Eagerness to learn and improve
  • Critical thinking and problem-solving
  • Organizational skills

3) Align employee and organizational goals

Once you identify the areas in need of development and employees who are excited about growth, your goals for both need to be connected. Employee development plans are useless if employees aren’t engaged.

Talk to your teams to understand individual goals and cross-reference those against the company’s objectives. Professional development should further the ambitions of both the employees and your organization.

4) Choose a learning platform(s)

A learning platform or learning management system provides a single place for employees to access their learning, and can also help them stay on track. Find a platform that meets your needs, whether it’s web-based, customizable, or something else.

Top learning platforms for employee development

Thanks to technology, learning is no longer limited to physical classrooms or in-person sessions. All your team needs to pursue professional development is a computer and a reliable internet connection.

Learning platforms provide curated and easily digestible course material. What’s more, many offer group rates, which are beneficial for employers. Here are a few options.


LearnED is an online-based learning management system designed to provide easily accessible learning tools that support learning and development needs for individuals and organizations.

Create unique programs from more than 300 courses to meet your learning needs. LearnED enables collaboration and connection through its conferencing time, collaboration tools, and breakout rooms in virtual classrooms, and provides real-time updates on individual’s progress so HR managers and department leads can monitor team success.

Udemy Business

More than 10,000 businesses around the world trust Udemy Business as a learning solution to equip teams with the latest in-demand skills, drive digital transformation and innovation, and achieve business outcomes.

Udemy Business enables leaders to customize learning paths for departments to develop specific skill sets. For example, you can bring your marketing department up to speed on the latest in digital marketing trends, or use Udemy Business as part of your onboarding process for new hires.

Like LearnED, Udemy Business allows leaders to monitor teams’ learning and analyze data to identify actionable insights.

LinkedIn Learning

Formerly, LinkedIn Learning is a subscription-based program available through a LinkedIn account. The professional networking site purchased in 2015 and gradually moved courses to the LinkedIn platform.

Like most online learning platforms, LinkedIn Learning offers users flexibility to learn at their own pace and from anywhere in the world.

The platform provides:

  • Over 16,000 expert-led courses
  • Flexibility to cancel at any time
  • Certificates upon completion of courses
  • Projects and quizzes to support learning
  • Mobile-friendly access


For organizations seeking a platform to support onboarding and enablement, Lessonly is a great option. The platform offers several products, including:

  • LEARN: Create onboarding and enablement lessons complete with your branding
  • PRACTICE: Specific to revenue-generating teams, this enablement software empowers teams to get up to speed 2.3x faster
  • SKILLS: A coaching program for sales teams to increase closed-won rates

Absorb LMS

Absorb LMS is another learning management system that provides intuitive online employee training software. It supports everything from new employee orientation to regulatory compliance training standards. Absorb can help businesses:

  • Increase retention
  • Boost productivity
  • Close skill gaps
  • Reduce admin workload

Absorb is another web-based software that requires no downloads or installations for companies or employees to access courses.

Other ways to support employee development

Learning and development can take many forms. While structured programs and the use of an LMS allow for close monitoring of employee development, there are other ways you can support your teams’ professional development.

Audiobook subscriptions

Audiobook subscriptions are an enjoyable perk for employees and can help your teams learn by listening to career-based books. Audible is a great example of a potential audiobook subscription to use, while a platform like Blinkist provides quick learning by giving employees the main points from books to save time.

Book clubs

Book clubs are a fantastic way to bring people together to spark conversations and facilitate continued learning. Members can meet once a month, biweekly, or whatever cadence is preferred to discuss work-related skills, leadership characteristics, and other traits they can then incorporate into their own roles.

Job shadowing and mentorship

Job shadowing and mentorship encourage more senior team members to support the learning and development of junior members. It’s also an important part of succession planning, or can be used as part of the onboarding process to help new employees understand the various departments and job functions within your organization.

Job shadowing and mentorship can be structured or more flexible, depending on the employees’ and organization’s goals.

Lunch and Learns

Why not have your teams share their expertise with the greater organization? Lunch and learns offer a low-cost way to educate teams while also giving businesses the opportunity to celebrate their teams’ successes and expertise. Lunch and Learns can also feature external speakers to mix things up and provide different perspectives.


Webinars, seminars, and conferences are valuable learning opportunities for teams and also provide a chance for professional networking. Whether they travel to an in-person conference or open their browsers for a virtual webinar, your employees will be exposed to new thoughts and ideas from experts in a given field.

Wrapping up — Invest in employee development to enrich and retain your talent pool

Employee development is an important part of your overall talent strategy. By implementing an employee development program and providing your teams with opportunities to grow and advance their careers, you can achieve a higher retention rate, more engaged employees, and greater success.

About the Author: Jocelyn Pick