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March 20, 2023

7 Employee Growth and Development Ideas for Leaders


Taking an active role in the development of your team demonstrates confidence and concern for the future of the organization. It also gives employees feelings of significance, community and value – which is always important and even more so in today’s work environment when so many companies struggle to attract and keep top talent.

We also know for remote and hybrid employees there’s often less of a focus on development, which has its downsides. And, with up to 80% of employees working remotely at least part of the time, according to Gallup, that means there’s a big risk for leaders who don’t prioritize employee development.

If you want to boost productivity, morale, engagement and retention, create a culture that values employee growth and development. When employees are encouraged to have a growth mindset, set and achieve goals, and feel like their needs are being met, they’re going to stay longer, contribute more, and help you achieve results and differentiate your employee experience.

What is employee development?

Employee development is the method in which employees learn new skills and broaden their knowledge over time to grow their careers, with support and guidance from their employers. Staff development is part of the overall employee experience. It should be supported and guided by the employer and part of the employees’ goal-setting and career path.

It builds muscle for employees to develop skills to perform their current job better, learn new skills to help them take on another role (reskilling) and gain new capabilities to address gaps within an organization (upskilling).

Employee growth and development can come in all forms, including onboarding, on-the-job training, classroom and online training, shadowing, coaching and mentoring, experiencing other parts of the organization, industry conferences and networking and cross-training.

All these ways – and more – enable employees to see and experience the people and organization in different ways, which helps expand their skills and knowledge so they grow and develop as professionals and humans.

Why is employee growth and development important?

Employee development is an important investment that pays off for the employee and employer.

Employees feel invested in and supported to have, own and achieve career goals and a clear career path. The skills and experiences they’re gaining can elevate their impact in their current and future jobs with the organization and even well beyond their time with the company.

This leads to:

  • A more positive employee experience as well, which has a positive impact on engagement, productivity and retention. In fact, 76% of employees say they are more likely to stay with a company that offers continuous training. (SHRM)
  • Employee growth and development leads to a stronger culture, which makes for a better experience and point of differentiation for current and future employees. More than 4 in 5 organizations (84%) agree that building a learning culture can enhance organizational resilience and build a better culture for employees. (SHRM)
  • Companies gain stronger, more skilled teams who are better equipped to deliver business outcomes. An MIT Sloan study found a 250% return on investment in just eight months for an in-factory soft skills training.

7 Employee Development Ideas

Put these seven tips into practice to help your employees grow:

1. Encourage professional development

Most employees are not satisfied with the status quo, especially those who are high-potential and highly driven. If given the proper guidance in their development, they will become the future leaders of your organization and be your best ambassadors of the qualities, skills and capabilities that are critical for your organization’s success.

Consider your organization’s full potential and how professional development can help them achieve it. Organizations that are transforming and growing are better off when they encourage their people to transform and grow, too. A growth mindset in employees sparks the kind of behaviors that are critical for an organization to grow.

Did you know? 74% of employees say that a lack of professional development is preventing them from reaching their full potential. (ClearCompany)

2. Help each employee create a development plan

We believe every employee should have a professional development plan. If this isn’t the case in your organization yet, take steps to make it happen. If you can’t get to everyone right away, start with your high-potential people and those you can’t afford to lose. Work your way through your team as quickly as possible, so everyone has a development.

Just like you wouldn’t want to go on a journey without a destination and a map, the same goes for people’s development plans. Avoid the temptation to send people to one-off conferences or take random classes without first having a destination and plan in mind.

Help your employees establish goals that are aligned with their strengths, interests and experience, as well as with the overall business strategy and needs of the organization. For example, organizations going through tremendous change may need to build their organizational capability around resilience and navigating change. Others working on culture may need to elevate capability in fostering psychological safety and Heart First Leadership (leading with empathy and authenticity).

Establish goals and expectations to help them set their sights on career opportunities, so they can see how they can grow within the company and what that growth looks like, and why it’s important. For some organizations, career paths and individuals, growth and development may be an upward track and for others, it may be a zigzag to learn different skills and capabilities in different parts of the organization.

3. Pair employees with mentors

Although useful, staff development is so much more than training classes and conferences. Find someone who is in a similar role to the employee, or a role where you want the employee to be in the future. Mentoring relationships can foster positive and productive working relationships, helping employees learn and gain encouragement and support in their careers. When coached with encouragement and goals in mind, your employees can help your business adapt to changes and reach the next level of success, while they’re reaching the next level of success, too.

4. Help them build their networks

Recommend opportunities within the organization, as well as networking or professional groups that will help them build strong connections. Explore ways employees can share knowledge. Encourage them to travel to other sites/offices to shadow others and get to know other parts of the business.

These interactions are priceless in helping people learn from others and make important and lasting connections around the company that elevate collaboration and innovation – all the while helping get important business done.

5. Challenge employees with stretch assignments

Get your employees to leave their comfort zones. Employees can’t move forward if they don’t grow, and they can’t grow if they never leave their comfort zones. Consider special projects that employees can lead or work on that strengthen skills, get them working with other colleagues and leaders, and build new muscle for themselves and for the company.

6. Show employees you value and trust them

If you want to help employees develop, show you value them and trust them to do their jobs by getting out of the way. Let them know what your expectations are by modeling the behavior you expect – show them you trust them.

Let them know you see them and appreciate them. Have regular check-in meetings and “stay interviews” to listen to how they’re feeling and what they’re excited about or any concerns on their mind. It’s a great way to stay connected, show you care and ensure they’re feeling positive about their growth, development and contributions.

This not only lets employees know what they need to succeed and gives them a greater sense of success and ownership, but it also shows them that credibility and trust are important in your organization.

7. Celebrate their growth

Check in regularly on how they’re doing and what they’re learning. Take notice and recognize employees and teams as you see them develop and grow. Acknowledge where you’re seeing new skills emerge and how it’s having a positive impact on the team and company.

Invite employees to share their learnings and how they’re applying what they’re learning. It’s a great way to reinforce what’s working well and what you want to continue to see. Consider starting 1:1s with kudos and shout-outs in team meetings to celebrate individual and team growth.


Employee development is an important investment that pays off for both the employee and the employer. Think about all the ways you can foster a culture of growth and development for your team, and how that can help employees – and your organization – achieve their full potential.

Encouraging employees to have their own growth and development plan and to take advantage of formal and informal opportunities to learn with others will go a long way to helping employees and teams become even stronger and reach their highest level of success.

What do you do to support employees with their growth and development and encourage employees to reach their goals?

—David Grossman

Get insights that you can use to show your team they genuinely matter. When you do, those employees will be more engaged, producing stronger results for the business. Download your free copy of the eBook – A Persona of Today’s Employee – today!

Click to download A Persona of Today's Employee eBook

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