<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none;" alt="" src="https://dc.ads.linkedin.com/collect/?pid=40587&amp;fmt=gif">
Employee Engagement Development Retention + Mobility

8 Best Practices for Employee Career Development Programs

By Onyeka Ndukwe on August, 16 2021
Back to main Blog
Onyeka Ndukwe

Want to know more about employee career development programs? Read this blog post to learn about 8 best practices for employee career development programs. 

This blog post is to help you get 8 best practices for any employee career development programs you want to create for your organization. In a hurry? Jump straight to your section of interest by clicking on a link (see below).


Article table of contents (jump to a section):

1. What is Employee Career Development?
2. The Importance of Employee Career Development Programs
3. 8 Best Practices for Employee Career Development Programs

What is Employee Career Development?


Employee career development is an HR activity which involves an organization helping its employees to develop their careers at their current workplace. 



Creating a solid employee career development plan can involve the following:

  • Proper application of an organization’s current job description data. If this data is not updated or is missing altogether, it could hamper your ability to create this plan.
  • Creating employee career paths to show your workforce the career possibilities at your organization.
  • Utilizing assessments to discover skills gaps between current job and ideal job for employees.
  • Availability of quality learning resources to help address employee skills gaps.

This can be a lot to tackle, especially with the mountain of tasks and responsibilities being piled upon HR departments worldwide.

Worried about creating an employee development plan? Don’t be.

With the recent advances in technology, HR teams can now show their employees a visual career path through the use of career pathing software.



Example of visual employee career path


The Importance of Employee Career Development Programs

Employees starting at the bottom and climbing the internal career ladder as far as is possible has been the traditional method of career development. Promotions would get an employee up another rung on the ladder until they retired or exited the company.

This formula was predictable and did not always account for the skills of the individual being promoted. Objectivity was not prevalent in the workforce years ago. Biases could have a large impact on an employee’s ability to progress (i.e., nepotism, sexism, ethnicity, age discrimination).

A lot has changed since then.

Switching employers regularly and exploring new careers is the norm, not the anomaly. Today, an employee’s career journey is no longer linear. It’s more like a roller coaster—complete with unpredictable peaks, valleys, and changes in direction.

At the same time, the way we define career success is changing. Employees no longer measure it exclusively in terms of salary increases or corner offices. Instead, it may take the form of work that aligns with their values, or a job that makes the most of their skills while still enabling them to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

According to a 2021 article by Microsoft on hybrid work disrupting our current work climate, 41% of employees are considering leaving their current employer this year and 46% say they’re likely to move because they can now work remotely.

The truth is out. As you’re reading this, some of your employees are already prepping to leave your company. The ones who leave might surprise you. For many organizations recovering from the business impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, that is a sobering fact.

To not have an employee development program in 2021 is to jeopardize your organization’s future success.


8 Best Practices for Employee Career Development Programs


  1. Support business goals

    While self-guided career development is about empowering employees to take greater responsibility for shaping their careers, the framework of development options needs to align with the needs and priorities of the organization.

    If the business goal is to retain employees, the development opportunities on offer may be very different than if the goal is to boost profitability, or to reinforce organizational culture.

  2. Record employee objectives

    Make sure each employee clearly articulates their motivation for developing their career. While those motivating factors may change over time, it is important to record them in a living document to ensure the outcomes reflect their objectives.

    Questions to consider:
    • Do they want to advance to a leadership position?
    • Do they want to stay in the current job and keep their skills and knowledge up to date?
    • Do they want to explore a different career path in a new department or job family?

  3. Include accountability structures

    Whether it is a monthly meeting with their supervisor, a peer-led group where everyone reports on their progress, or another form of accountability, make sure employees know they are accountable to someone other than themselves when it comes to setting and achieving career-development goals.

  4.  Reward and acknowledge achievement

    Depending on the employee’s goal, success may not always come in the form of a promotion or other public achievement. It is important to find ways to acknowledge and celebrate diverse milestones.

    This could involve having employees log their progress and earn badges along the way based on the number of hours spent on development, the competencies or proficiency levels achieved, or some other metric. Peer support and recognition programs can also be used to acknowledge progress.

  5. Ensure easy access

    Binders on shelves will most likely sit there gathering dust, and spreadsheets are hard to maintain and update when you have several dozen competencies and hundreds of proficiency levels to manage.

    Invest in a platform that enables you to easily update the list of learning resources for each competency and proficiency level, and enables employees to access and explore resources at any time, from any location, and preferably on any device.

  6. Promote and educate

    Ensure that the entire organization, including employees, managers, and executives, understands and supports the new initiative. Develop promotional and instructional materials that address each audience’s concerns and outline the expectations.

    Make sure information about the development program is part of every employee’s onboarding or orientation process. Peer support and recognition programs can also raise the profile of the organization’s development activities, especially when they are integrated into social networks.

  7. Integrate development with other processes

    The most successful development programs integrate with other key talent processes, including performance management, succession management, recruitment and staffing, and even compensation and reward.

    When development is fully integrated, it becomes a powerful support for the full talent-management cycle. For example, it can broaden the hiring pool by identifying candidates who—with a small investment in training—can become high-value, long-term employees.

    It can turn performance reviews into opportunities to grow and succeed. And it can help organizations deepen their bench strength and support stability by training employees to fill key roles that will be vacant in future.
  8. Build the case for executive support

    In an in-depth study of 14 organizations published in The Journal of Public Sector Management, ‘best-in-class’ companies reported that top management’s commitment and support was critical to the success of any career management and development system.

    Getting executive buy-in will help to ensure that your development program is supported, recognized, and widely adopted.



Learn More About Employee Career Development: 


Post last updated: August 16, 2021