The Definitive Guide to Employee Development in 2024

Many HR professionals are stuck at a crossroads, facing low employee engagement scores and growing disengagement. On the whole, it’s tougher for organizations to retain talent—1 in 2 employees are open to leaving their organization. This leads to employee turnover which costs time and resources. What can be done to stop the bleeding?

It starts with scalable and actionable employee development.

In 2024, employee development remains an essential part of organizational success. Rapid technological advancements and shifting work norms demand new, adaptive strategies. You must be proactive, or you’ll end up training and developing employees only to lose them.

As a pioneer in virtual employee coaching and development solutions, we have created numerous resources to foster growth, drive employee potential, and shape future-ready workforces. In this educational guide, we outline strategies for effective employee development in the modern workforce.

In this article, we'll address each of the following topics:

  1. How Do I Have Career Development Conversations With My Employees?

  2. What Is the Difference Between a People Manager and a People Developer?

  3. Where Does My Organization Begin with Employee Coaching Programs?

  4. How Can My Organization Create an Employee Development Plan That Actually Gets Implemented?

  5. What Is the Strategic & Long-term Value of Employee Development Practices?

  6. How Is Employee Engagement Influenced by Leadership Development Initiatives?

  7. How Do I Answer the Question, “Why is Employee Development Important?”

  8. What Can Be Done If My Company Has Low Employee Engagement Scores?

  9. Can My Organization Perform Successful Career Development Training That Doesn’t Promise a Promotion?

  10. What Are Retention Strategies for High Potential Employees?

  11. What Is the Best Approach to Developing High Potential Employees?

  12. Is Employee Development Possible in the Modern World of Hybrid and Remote Work?

  13. How Can My Virtual Organization Implement Successful Employee Development Programs?

1. How Do I Have Career Development Conversations With My Employees?

If your managers are struggling to have career development conversations, then you might want to consider employee and leadership coaching. Think of it like investing money. If you drop a percentage of each paycheck into an account, that adds up significantly over time. You’re not going to reap the rewards of retirement savings overnight.

Traditional yearly performance reviews, often backward-looking and checkbox-oriented, fail to genuinely engage employees beyond that single conversation. Because it’s a “once-a-year thing,” there’s an onus put on these discussions. It can be scary, for both the manager and the employee. 

So how can you have a career development conversation with your employees? As a tool for managers, PILOT has developed the EARS model, a new approach to employee coaching. It goes something like this: 

  1. Establish: Set a positive tone, ensuring readiness and clear intentions for the conversation.

  2. Assess: Provide specific, actionable feedback related to the employee's development areas.

  3. Review: Collaboratively explore and select growth strategies, involving the employee actively in their development journey.

  4. Shake: Commit to next steps, timelines, and expectations, fostering accountability.

2. What Is the Difference Between a People Manager and a People Developer?

It’s important to remember that employee development doesn’t have to be done specifically by HR leaders. With the right approach to employee coaching training, it’s possible to build a culture of development in which your people managers evolve into people developers. 

Traditional structures burden managers with development responsibilities, which often leads to burnout and ineffectiveness. This is especially challenging, considering the current trend of active employee disengagement.

Effective employee coaching training can transform people managers into people developers.

Via Gallup

We argue for a shift that empowers employees to drive their own development and support managers in adopting a mentorship role. This can be done through collaborative environments, clear strategies for development, and continuous, actionable feedback. It creates a workforce that’s engaged, motivated, and productive.

3. Where Does My Organization Begin with Employee Coaching Programs?

Many organizations have found a way to improve low employee engagement scores by providing growth opportunities through development and employee coaching programs.

But where would you start? The key to impactful career development conversations lies in a forward-looking approach, focusing on growth and skills enhancement. Effective employee coaching programs can considerably motivate your staff.

Embrace scalability, and move beyond the notion that coaching is only for senior leaders. Apply scalable programs organization-wide. Then, focus on shared needs. Address common developmental needs, not just individual ones. Emphasize practical, applicable insights. Utilize group coaching benefits for diverse perspectives and shared learning experiences.

The overall idea here is to clearly define objectives, use remote coaching for inclusivity, and avoid limiting coaching to senior executives or as a substitute for feedback. The PILOT coaching program challenges traditional HR views by providing action catalysts.

4. How Can My Organization Create an Employee Development Plan That Actually Gets Implemented?

This Nirvana state sounds lovely, but we're cheating our employees and managers out of meaningful growth by not defining a more pragmatic and actionable apporach.

First, let’s talk about how to create employee development plans. HR professionals love to generate ideas, but turning them into true action can be challenging. You must accept that effective employee development is more than just a conceptual exercise. Build an implementation strategy that will take you from conception all the way through execution.

Strategies for effective implementation include the following:

  1. Simplify Development Plans: Focus on clear, actionable steps and objectives.

  2. Empower Both Managers and Employees: Encourage a culture of self-motivated development.

  3. Promote Ownership of Development Plans: Employees should be the primary drivers of their growth.

  4. Continuous Feedback and Mentoring: Embed regular development feedback into the organizational culture.

Focus on these action steps, and take steps to foster a culture of employee development at your organization that actually works.

5. What Is the Strategic & Long-term Value of Employee Development? 

You may have heard this question from your executive team: How are employee development practices strategic?

We have some tips on how to answer this tough question. For starters, these practices are a strategic cornerstone for the long-term success of any organization. They transcend traditional skills training and provide a means to improve your organization’s human capital. 

These holistic strategies not only benefit individual employees but add significant value to an organization.

  • Prepare for the Future of Work: Digitization and automation are transforming the modern workforce, and developing internal talent means creating a workforce ready for tomorrow’s challenges.

  • Increased Employee Engagement and Loyalty: Employee development not only helps employees reach their goals, but shows them that the organization is committed to their success.

  • Improved Leadership Perception: Leadership coaching, a foundational development practice, significantly impacts employee engagement and satisfaction because managers are better and more effective at their jobs.

  • Building a Strong Talent Reservoir: Focusing on both horizontal and vertical growth means HR leaders cultivate a nimble workforce that can adapt to changing demands. 

Remember, most employees don’t hit their full productivity until year three. Employee development programs not only help unlock that potential but improve retention. Employees feel valued and therefore feel more loyal. You don’t want your homegrown talent hired away.

6. How Is Employee Engagement Influenced by Leadership Development Initiatives?

For many organizations, employee engagement is trending downwards, and traditional HR initiatives aren’t working. Only 23% of employees strongly agree they are appropriately recognized for the work that they do. 

But that statistic is an opportunity. Because new and innovative approaches and best practices can drastically improve your employee engagement rate to 72%, more than double the average.

Why do leadership development initiatives influence employee engagement? Because it shows employees they are valued.

Via Gallup

Moving away from outdated practices that focus only on top-level development creates an environment where all employees feel valued and engaged. This mutual respect increases job commitment as employees see the organization’s investment in their growth. 

So why do leadership development initiatives influence employee engagement? When done right, they show holistic engagement, immediate action, and active roles in changes.

7. How Do I Answer the Question, “Why is Employee Development Important?”

You might shy away from this with executives, but the reality is that investing in development and coaching programs can cost time, resources, and budget. So how can you explain their value in ways that executives understand? Why is employee development important?

It’s all about articulating the value. 

Remember to emphasize that talent is a core asset. The right people can drive innovation and growth. Investing in employee development translates into overall organizational success and competitiveness. 

Plus, there is a massive cost of employee disengagement. According to Gallup, disengaged employees cost the world $8.8 trillion, which is 9% of the global GDP. Is your organization contributing to that statistic? Further, employee disengagement is the step before employee turnover. Developing employees fosters loyalty and reduces these costs.

Preventing the cost of employee turnover is one of the reasons why employee development is important.

Via Disrupt HR: It’s Time to Fight Employee Turnover

Let’s also remember the human element. Employee development provides purpose and meaning to your employees, helping them work towards and achieve their goals. You can foster a happy, engaged workforce and that naturally leads to more production and positivity for the company.

8. What Can Be Done If My Company Has Low Employee Engagement Scores?

When HR leaders solely focus on measuring data, it leads to low employee engagement scores. Half of employees in the U.S. are actively looking for new jobs. If you’re not focused on fixing low engagement scores, your employee retention is at risk.

Low employee engagement scores data points from Gallup

Via Gallup

How is this solved? Addressing low employee engagement scores demands immediate action, not just analysis. It’s easy for HR leaders to fall into analysis paralysis. But you must push through. Here’s how: 

  1. Action Over Analysis: Recognize the importance of rapid, tangible actions over extended data analysis.

  2. Effective Strategies: Implement high-impact, quickly executable initiatives like group coaching to improve engagement.

  3. Communication Is Key: Develop a short-term action plan, communicate it effectively, and ensure regular, transparent interactions.

  4. Prioritize Engagement Areas: Identify and focus on the most impactful engagement areas linked to your business strategy.

Actionable strategies are more effective than excessive data gathering. Don’t get caught in a loop of gathering data. Even though it’s easy to think you’re doing something by gathering data, you still must act on your analysis. The goal is to foster a more engaged, motivated workforce without waiting for exhaustive survey analysis.

9. Can My Organization Perform Successful Career Development Training That Doesn’t Promise a Promotion?

Every employee deserves development. But there’s a challenge here for HR leaders, because we tend to equate development with promotions.

HR leaders must reevaluate their approach, and understand how to perform successful career development training that doesn’t promise a promotion. Here are some steps to kickstart analysis: 

  1. Redefine Career Development: Career advancement isn’t just about climbing the corporate ladder. Many employees prefer to grow within their current roles rather than seeking managerial positions, even if they don’t explicitly realize it. 

  2. Create a New Plan for Career Growth: Show employees what growth looks like without a title change. The focus should be on “development,” which means helping employees improve in their current roles and empowering them with tools and training for those goals.

  3. Broaden Development Opportunities: Don’t solely focus on vertical promotions. Explore alternative options such as role redesign, job rotation, or other horizontal paths. Cater the opportunities to employee aspirations.

A holistic approach to career development means each individual can thrive in their own way, contributing to the organization’s success while fulfilling personal aspirations.

10. What Are Retention Strategies for High Potential Employees?

1 in 2 employees are open to leaving their current jobs. To ensure the pipeline of your future leadership positions, you must implement retention strategies for your high potential employees.  

But the best practices for employee development can also be applied to retaining high potential talent. These individuals are the future of your organization. 

To retain your HIPOs, consider these five strategies:

  1. Help HIPOs See Themselves as HIPOs: Engage in development conversations to encourage them to recognize and realize their potential. 

  2. Take Note of Abilities, Talents, and Skills and Ideate Together: Note each employee’s unique abilities and engage in discussions to further develop these skills.

  3. Pair Recognition with Collaborative Ideation: Pair recognition with discussions focused on skill and career development.

  4. Avoid Promotion-Focused Direction: Focus on continuous growth rather than just promotion, fostering ongoing personal and professional development.

  5. Develop a Culture That Provides Regular Opportunities for Growth Conversations: Establish an environment of continuous dialogue for growth, allowing for employees to reflect on and take ownership of their development. 

Implementing these strategies means organizations can create a workplace that not only recognizes but actively nurtures the growth of HIPO employees. That will, naturally, lead to enhanced engagement and retention.

11. What Is the Best Approach to Developing High-Potential Employees?

Many HR leaders make the common mistake of assuming that the best way to develop high-potential (HIPO) employees is to push them toward leadership roles or promotions. While that might make sense for some individuals, the effective development of HIPOs is much more nuanced.

So, how can you develop high potential employees?

First, avoiding biases and traditional views of what “potential” looks like is the key to identifying HIPOs at every level, not just in prominent roles. Extraverted, charismatic employees might be HIPOs, but plenty of HIPO introverts as well. 

This inclusive approach should focus on diverse talents, including how individuals approach problem-solving and innovation, rather than simply leadership aspirations. 

Learn how one company empowered more than 65% of their employees to take charge of their careers with employee coaching!

Then, once identified, effective development hinges on strength-based plans and a collaborative process. Managers play a critical role in integrating development into daily interactions that fosters a culture of continuous growth. Customizing development goals to align with individual strengths and aspirations ensures meaningful progress and engagement.

12. Is Employee Development Possible with Hybrid and Remote Work?

Employee development isn’t limited to being in person. Your strategies can transcend location, which is critical in a world where hybrid and remote work is the new normal. Still, when we don’t physically see our colleagues, are there effective ways to encourage employee coaching and development? 

The answer is yes, but it requires an active strategy focused on employee coaching and development from HR leaders and professionals. Key strategies include the following: 

  • Assessing Workforce Capabilities: Understand employee skills and engagement levels across all work environments.

  • Identifying Skill Gaps: Pinpoint and address specific skills lacking in remote or hybrid settings.

  • Creating Targeted Training Programs: Develop virtual training to bridge these gaps and improve the employee experience.

  • Virtual Group Coaching: An inclusive solution ensuring access to development resources, regardless of location, fostering community and shared learning.

  • Utilizing Tools Effectively: Bridge the gap between tool availability and actual use, moving towards user-friendly solutions.

Remember, maintaining the human element is crucial. Tools support the hybrid and remote work model, but genuine connections and a supportive environment are vital for an effective experience.

Download the free eBook: Five Real Ways to Create Employee Development for Everyone

13. How Can My Virtual Organization Implement Successful Employee Development Programs?

With the new reality of remote or hybrid work, it’s time to expand the common notion that employee development can only happen in a physical location. If your workplace is spread across multiple locations, you still must value employee development programs.

How can you address this new way of working? Start by implementing successful virtual employee development programs by focusing on these three best practices. 

  1. Evolve Your Programs for Virtual Environments: Leverage the unique advantages of virtual spaces to make your programs more accessible, engaging, and impactful. Focus on using technology that enhances learning​​.

  2. Simplicity and Empathy: Anchor development programs on fundamental principles and focus on practical, real-world applications. This approach encourages broader participation and ensures the relevance of the program to a diverse audience​​.

  3. Active Involvement and Inclusivity: Engage employees actively from the start. Offer diverse growth activities accessible to everyone, regardless of location or learning style. Infuse creativity into the programs to make learning more engaging and effective​​.

Don’t limit your organization simply by how it’s set up. These strategies ensure your programs are effective, engaging, and inclusive.

Scale Your Employee Development Program with PILOT

The future of work demands a reimagined approach to employee development. It’s time to stop measuring data over and over and start taking action. 

Are you ready to see real results with employee coaching?

Learn more about how PILOT is leading the charge for virtual employee development programs – book a demo today!

In order for things to change we’ll need to shed old paradigms and approaches. The future of work is self-directed and our organizations must prepare managers and employees.

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