Attract and retain talent with 3 employee development shifts

By: Tim Schieffer

What you need to know

  • Employee development opportunities can help organizations attract and retain talent.
  • Individualized plans and pathways leverage team members' strengths and align with their aspirations.
  • Cross-functional learning experiences expose team members to different management styles and lead to more innovative solutions.  



group of coworkers attending a leadership development meeting

Organizations that offer people-centered learning and development programs have a better chance of attracting and retaining talented employees and then turning them into leaders.

Nearly half (48%) of employees consider training opportunities as a factor in choosing where to work, and 76% of employees are more likely to stay at a company with professional development benefits, according to Wharton

If your most promising team members are curious go-getters, they won’t be content to stay in place for long. Understanding and embracing this might seem counterintuitive. That’s because many organizations still design career paths around position descriptions, silo talent in department-specific duties and communicate in a top-down structure. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

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Cultivating a culture of continuous learning benefits team members because it recognizes their potential and reveals multiple paths for growth. They know they won’t stagnate or get stuck waiting for the person ahead of them to retire. It also seeds an internal talent marketplace with the skills and ideas needed to take your business to the next level. When leaders begin to see themselves as “talent agents” for their people, their impact extends beyond their team to strengthen the whole organization.

Integrate employee development into a connected culture

Organizations must shift from standalone training and rigid career paths to create a more connected culture that centers employee potential and personalizes their journey. Providing people at all levels with resources, support and opportunities for growth is essential. Investing in them shows you want to recognize, nurture and reward the value they bring to the organization.  

Keep your employer brand relevant by re-aligning learning and development opportunities with employee and manager input. Explore these three areas to get started.

1. Shift to design career paths around experiences, not positions.

Most employment relationships start with a job posting. A position is described, qualified candidates are interviewed and the role is filled. But that’s just the start. From frontline retail associates to upper-level managers, engaged team members bring their unique strengths and personalities to accomplish duties as assigned.

The best employees go above and beyond what they were hired to do. Recognition programs are an important way to honor outstanding performance, but learning and development opportunities should, too.

The best leaders acknowledge that, although they've hired someone to perform a specific job, they're hiring them to bring their best to an organization. Outlining an individual development plan (IDP) is one way to formalize this. IDPs document an employee’s professional goals and aspirations, strengths and talents, development opportunities and an action plan to pull all the components together. Invest in internal talent mobility by training leaders to embrace a coaching vs. managing mindset.

Expand individual job responsibilities to also include collaborative projects. Working on a cross-functional team, employees can develop hands-on skills and become fluent in a wide range of business areas. Contributing to a customer experience project or developing a new product is a way to develop specific knowledge and work on important communication skills.

Related: Four elements for a standout recognition culture.

2. Shift to provide job rotation opportunities instead of creating talent silos.

Encourage employees to gain exposure to different roles and organizational departments through job rotations. Temporary work assignments can serve as a win-win solution for meeting strategic business goals and developing more dynamic leaders. Implementing knowledge-sharing and mentorship programs empowers emerging leaders to solve department-spanning problems.

Cross-functional training through a formalized job rotation or upskilling plan helps employees develop a broader skill set and experience a variety of leadership styles. This enables them to take on more diverse responsibilities and also enables career pivots for people who want to explore a new pathway without leaving the company. 

3. Shift to create a feedback loop rather than rely on top-down communication structure.

Communication requires careful listening. Gather input from employees and leaders regarding HR services and initiatives. Then, take action accordingly.

Related: How to quickly and strategically analyze those results.

When a medical staffing company noticed an uptick in resignations in a job category, the L&D team gathered employee feedback on why employees were leaving. According to Harvard Business Review, their team collaborated with operators to identify barriers and opportunities to enhance the upskilling experience at key moments in the employee lifecycle. Retention improved by 50% after they implemented a layered, four-week program to address the issues.

Your organization can partner with employees to develop experiences that serve their needs and aspirations and complement the organization’s vision.

Personalized employee development is important at all levels and across work environments. Learn how future-thinking organizations empower front-line service teams.

view our white paper: engage front-line workers for better customer service
Tim Schieffer
Tim Schieffer

Tim is the Employee Experience Insights and Strategy Leader for ITA Group. With 20+ years of experience serving clients in multiple industries, including e-commerce, communications and finance, he offers a unique perspective on how to attract and retain top talent. His passion for delivering personalized employee engagement strategies helps create cultures centered on empowering people. Outside of work, you'll find him cheering on the Green Bay Packers as a proud part-owner. Go Pack Go!