Employee retention and professional development

Retain employees through career development

One of the biggest drivers of employee engagement and retention is investing in the employee’s ongoing learning and development.

Did you know that half of your workforce is actively seeking employment elsewhere? According to some studies, employers should plan for immediate and ongoing turnover in their workforce – for years to come. Employees want different things from employers in exchange for their efforts and loyalty: pay, health insurance, paid time off, flexibility, a good work environment, a boss that cares, a great team – and the drivers can be different for each employee and change over time.

Employee development is critical

One of the biggest drivers of employee engagement and retention is investing in the employee’s ongoing learning and development. Unless employees are feeling neglected, unappreciated, or mistreated, most would prefer to continue working for you – provided there exists a reasonable opportunity to learn and grow.

According to a 2020 survey:

  • 74% of surveyed employees feel they are not reaching their full potential due to lack of development opportunities.
  • 61% of adults in the U.S. seek career development opportunities when considering job opportunities.
  • 59% of millennials say development opportunities are extremely important when deciding to apply for a position.

Development program best practices

The best employers prioritize development of their employees in a coordinated way, ensuring that future leaders gain the skills needed for success and that all employees continue to have options to grow their skillsets and make progress toward goals.

The best professional development programs:

  1. Align development needs with business strategy. Avoid offering development programs simply to retain employees. Tying the development program to business strategy helps the employee use what they learn and in turn helps the business succeed.
  2. Identify individual employee needs, including learning methods. Different employees learn best through different methods. Ensure your programs teach through different methods (visual, audio, one-on-one, etc.).
  3. Establish clear structure, including content, timeframes and methods. Just like schools, your development programs need a curriculum and syllabus to ensure everyone gets the most out of the program.
  4. Prioritize resources (time, dollars). Front load the development program with critical concepts and frameworks to ensure the employee’s time and your dollars are maximized.
  5. Incorporate practical, applied learning. Theoretical learning may work in academia, but in the business world, it is learning that is applicable to the day-to-day work that drives results. Review your curriculum to ensure what is being taught will get used.
  6. Set clear goals and timeframes. Setting expectations for employees sets them up for success. Goals and timeframes should be measurable and realistic. Ensure your curriculum addresses the necessary components to meet the goals and timeframes.
  7. Celebrate success and milestones. It can be as simple as a certificate of completion, to a more elaborate graduation party. Regardless, make sure you celebrate the wins for your employees to make it real for them and to encourage future participation by others.
  8. Evaluate program success and measure progress over time. Before deploying your development program, determine what key metrics you will track to determine its effectiveness and success. A good place to start is comparing employee productivity and retention after completing the development program to the typical employee who has not taken the program.


For more information about learning and development strategies, contact Carrie Cox using the information below.

Carrie Cox

Vice President
HR & Org. Development Services

Carrie has experience in a variety of human resource functions, including labor laws, compensation structures, employee classification, benefits administration, performance management and human resource best practices. She has served clients in a number of industries, including manufacturing, construction, banking, government, and not-for-profits. Carrie is a member of the national and local chapters of the Society of Human Resource Professionals (SHRM) and serves on the Wichita chapter board of directors.

She is a certified practitioner for the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® and the Hay Group’s Emotional and Social Competency Inventory. Her additional certifications include Certified Professional Coach from the Academy of Creative Coaching, Professional in Human Resources (PHR) from the Human Resource Certification Institute, and SHRM-CP designated by the SHRM.

Your employees are a critical investment.
See how we can help them reach their potential.