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Employee Development in Today’s Landscape: What Employees Want!

January 29, 2020

By: Wendy Sheaffer

Providing employee development opportunities is one of the most important moves an organization can make to improve employee retention. A 2018 LinkedIn Learning report found that a shocking 94 percent of employees said they would remain with a company longer if it did more to invest in their career development. Considering that more employees quit their jobs in 2018 than at any other time since 2001, organizations need to focus on ways to combat turnover and convince their talented workers to remain on board.

They can start by thinking about staff development from the employee’s perspective. Rather than creating employee development programs that meet the organization’s needs, companies should think about providing resources that employees find engaging, valuable, and convenient. After all, employee training and development are supposed to be for their benefit, so understanding what they want is a good way to design programs they’ll utilize.

What Do Employees Want in Career Development?

Support From Management

Offering employee development resources is only part of the equation. Without support and management guidance, it’s easy for employees to think that the organization doesn’t want them to utilize the resources, learn, and grow. Although managers are already facing major challenges, they need to realize that developing their teams and helping people to reach their potential is a huge part of their leadership responsibilities. In fact, LinkedIn Learning found that 56 percent of employees would complete a development course if a manager suggested it to them. 

Managers can also play an invaluable role as mentors, helping employees to formulate a professional development plan that guides their learning over time. Providing this guidance signals that an organization values its people and is committed to their long-term success, improving retention rates.

Micro-Learning Resources

Organizations once relied heavily upon seminars and “after hours” or “learn at lunch” programs to promote employee development. Unfortunately, these strategies didn’t meet the needs of most learners. In the first place, lengthy seminars, presentations, and workshops tend to dump information onto participants all at one time. While these programs may cover important topics and provide valuable guidance, the odds of information retention aren't good. Very little of that content will be put into practice, especially if participants are more suited to a “hands-on” learning style. Requiring people to participate in time-consuming programs on their own time can also give the impression that the organization doesn’t value their personal time.

Unsurprisingly, employees consistently point to a lack of time as their primary reason for not engaging with the development options available. Providing learning resources in smaller, more easily accessible formats, such as e-learning tools, interactive simulations, or even short videos, can help employees fit development into their busy schedules.

Soft Skills Training

Although technical skills remain important to job success, organizations emphasize soft skills in their selection process. In fact, a recent Cengage survey found that 73 percent of employers are struggling to find candidates who possess the right combination of technical and soft skills. Some of the more valuable soft skills include creativity, communication, empathy, self-awareness, and the ability to manage conflict. Employees recognize that these skills are essential to leadership success and are eager to find opportunities to develop them to further their careers.

Improving soft skills helps employees become more adaptable and collaborative, enhancing productivity and engagement. Too often, companies don’t recognize that building soft skills isn’t just a key part of developing future leaders. Improving organizational effectiveness in several areas enables employees to work together to overcome obstacles on their own, benefiting everyone. Innovative new employee development tools utilizing the latest in virtual and augmented reality technology make it easier than ever for employees to develop these soft skills


While they may want some guidance and support from their employers, most employees want to have the freedom to shape their own development to further their career goals. Forcing people to complete employee training programs for a position or role they have no interest in isn’t going to keep them engaged in the process. By allowing employees to take the lead when it comes to shaping their development path and building their skills, organizations can empower them to establish their own goals and create new opportunities for themselves.

Employees can start this process by working with a manager to craft a professional development plan that defines their career objectives and identifies potential resources to help them achieve those goals. Playing a proactive and central role in planning the development process encourages people to be more invested in learning and gives them more agency in terms of what they choose to prioritize.

Designing development programs that meet every employee's unique needs can be quite a challenge for an organization. By involving people in the development process and using assessments to determine what learning resources will be most effective, companies can create employee training programs that meet their unique needs and help them achieve their career goals. When employees feel like they have that support and guidance, they’re more likely to remain committed to an organization, engaged in their work, and far less likely to seek opportunities elsewhere.

Wendy Sheaffer

Wendy is the former Chief Product Officer of The Omnia Group. She is a subject matter expert in behavioral assessments and in using Omnia’s 8 columns as a tool to make more-informed hiring and development decisions and effectively engage staff. For more information, email or call 800.525.7117.

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