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Nurturing talent: How to create an employee development program that works


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Your business is only as good as the team you’ve recruited to run it for you. Even the greatest leaders in the world can’t create miracles with a subpar and underdeveloped team. 

That’s why so many business owners look to create development programs that identify strong candidates for advancement and help to nurture their careers in the right direction. Doing this allows you to create an executive team from the ground up, developing the way you want them to and establishing a sense of employee loyalty in them from the very start. 

And loyalty is essential in the business world. Loyal employees work harder, stay longer, and will pass up other opportunities to stay with your business. They feel a sense of belonging and want to give back to a company that has given so much to them.

Outside hires will need to learn the ropes and slowly work their way up to peak performance, whereas an employee promoted internally can hit the ground running and become productive much faster. 

That’s why so many businesses have implemented employee development programs, to ensure that their team members are learning the right way and preparing for long and productive careers with your organization. But how can you create an employee development plan that works? What steps should you take to create and implement your program and create a winning team that will benefit your company with loyalty and efficiency?

Read on to find out.

Have clear expectations and a clear plan before you even hire someone

It’s never a good idea to hire someone without a development plan in place. You should clearly know what kind of person makes an ideal team member — a set of core values that anyone who walks through your door should embody. 

Additionally, you should have an education and training plan for all new hires, with personalized advancement training available in the future should they decide that’s what they’re looking for.  

When hiring young graduates, you may be looking for someone with a history of good grades and learned skills that can be applied in the workplace. But these people may not have relevant experience in the job itself. 

For example, if you’re running investment advice websites, you might look for someone with a degree in finance who may have just started in the investment world. It would be necessary for their development to engage in discussions with more experienced employees so they know what courses to take based on where they want to take their careers.

This kind of mentorship can be a vital part of the development program that you create. Make it a regular process to match incoming hires with experienced and efficient employees to ensure they learn all the right lessons and understand where they can go in the future.  

Assess employee goals and aspirations

Before enrolling team members into a development program, you first need to get to know them better and understand what they’re hoping to get from their work with your company. If they want advancement, that’s something you need to know. If they’re content to stay in the role they have, that’s also something that should be communicated and respected. 

A recent survey by Jobcase found that one of the top frustrations of American workers is limited opportunities for advancement or promotions. Only 32% of employees say they ever received advancement training or education assistance opportunities. 

By creating a development program for the employees who desire to move up within your organization, you’re already giving them something new and exciting while taking an interest in their careers. 

Some want to climb the corporate ladder, becoming managers, supervisors, and executives. You might also find that someone you’ve hired for a specific role really wants to do something else under your company umbrella. 

Ask these questions throughout the interview process, and make it a regular part of employee evaluations so that you’re always up to date on any changes of heart. 

Use their talents and strengths to create a customized plan for them

You can’t just create a static employee development plan and roll it out company-wide. 

Why not? 

For starters, not everyone wants the same things. Additionally, not everyone learns the same way. One employee might thrive with solitary training modules they complete independently. Others might prefer a more human touch to their development education and would thrive under the guidance of a live mentor. 

If you see someone who is a natural-born leader, you’ll want to start training them for management. If you see someone with great ideas and a creative mind, perhaps teaching them about the marketing side of your business will be more up their alley. The key is to create a flexible workplace that allows everyone to thrive in their own way.

Don’t be afraid to let them explore something new, even if it’s outside of your company

Sometimes your employee might need to go elsewhere to get what they need. Perhaps what they’re looking for isn’t something you can offer right at that moment. That’s perfectly fine. Don’t be afraid to point team members in the right direction, even if that opportunity is outside your company. The thinking is that by helping employees find happiness and fulfillment in their careers, they’ll be more likely to stick around and be productive members of the team.

If that team member goes off and gets even more experience outside your organization, in the future, when you might require those skills, you can always bring them back. They’ll come in believing in you with a sense of loyalty because you were instrumental in helping them accomplish goals. 

Let your employee set some of their own goals and tasks with your guidance

When developing an individualized development plan for your employees, sometimes it’s best to have the employee give you input and help you develop their path to success. 

That means going over the proposed plan with them and asking them how they best learn, what they want to learn, and what success looks like to them. This is valuable insight that you’d never get without asking. By involving the team members in their training, you’ll be able to craft an effective program that leans into their strengths while challenging their weaknesses.

Ask for input from other people in your company who work with that employee

When developing plans for team members, it might help to speak to some of the other notable employees within your company to help you cement the plan based on feedback. Speak to their supervisors and managers and compare what they tell you to what the employee said. 

Sometimes it can be difficult to assess our own strengths and weaknesses, so it’s helpful to have a third party close to the employee who can provide you with insight you might not have uncovered on your own. 

Have regular check-ins with the employee about the program and how they feel about it

The best way to determine how your development program is progressing is to hold regular one-on-one meetings with team members they were designed to help. Ask them their opinions on how the program is progressing and how it could be better. 

When creating something as important as your employee development plan, it’s important that you continuously gauge its effectiveness. As an outside observer, you might not be able to see some of the present flaws. That’s why the team members should feel free to voice their opinions and let you know what’s working and what isn’t. Effective communication is essential for any team to function properly.

Frequently assess the program, making adjustments as necessary

You should also be assessing the program constantly and have the flexibility to make adjustments. While communicating with employees can be helpful, as we covered in the last section, you’ll also need to rely on cold, impartial data to help you along the way. 

Implementing tech and communication tools that measure the team’s results is important if you want to build an efficient employee development program. Imagine that you’re running a transportation and logistics company. Powerful telematics software would help you track your drivers and routes to evaluate performance. With this valuable data, you could develop a program that would improve their skills and abilities according to their work results and goals.

By using the Extract, Load, Transfer data integration process, also known as ELT for short, you can take unstructured data from an employee and convert that into definitive metrics that help analysts understand whether the development program is on track and contributes to larger organizational goals.

If your plan is lacking, you need to switch things up. Poll your employees and managers and try new things. Then, analyze the data to see if it made any difference. This trial and error will be necessary from time to time as your team evolves and industry norms shift. 


Employee development programs create strong team members who can grow and thrive while developing a strong sense of loyalty to you and your organization. By continuing to work with your employees to build their skills according to their goals, you can create a more effective team that will push your organization to new heights.

Originally published Sep 06, 2022, updated Mar 06, 2023

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