ATD Blog

How Career Development Programs Support Employee Retention

Monday, October 20, 2014

High employee turnover should be worrisome to any employer. Simply consider the expense to recruit, interview, and train new employees, not to mention that these employees may be less adept at their jobs than the experienced workers they are replacing. And as the economy improves and the job market grows, employees have more options—making employee retention even more challenging. 

When asked why they are looking for jobs at new companies, employees are most likely to explain that they want better pay and benefits, are unhappy with their career prospects with their current company, or want more challenges. Career development programs can address these concerns to reduce turnover. 

Develop specific career development strategies 

Career development also can help with retention because employees can develop a sense of loyalty for employers who are willing to invest in them. Likewise, when it is time to hire new employees, career development programs can be attractive to job-seekers. 

Your company can develop its own unique career development programs to increase employee retention—and hopefully increase productivity and profits. Organization leaders can use the following strategies to guide the development of its program. 

Open the door to conversations about careers. Annual or other regular performance evaluation talks can be the norm, and employees may be afraid to bring up the topic of career development with their managers. However, such talks can be healthy. Encourage them by training managers on how to handle these conversations in positive ways so that employees feel valued and empowered. 


Promote the idea of a career lattice. The idea of the career ladder is ingrained in company culture, but it can stifle employees who want to explore different career paths. An alternative to the ladder is a career lattice, which encourages sideways moves in addition to upwards movement. Other characteristics of the career lattice include:

  • flexibility in progress, with any movement, whether up, sideways, or down, considered successful
  • allowing faster or slower career progression according to the employee’s desires and current life situation
  • evaluating performance in outcomes, not in hours spent at work.

Evaluate career development programs.  As you build a career development program, include an evaluation plan to make sure the outcomes are as you hoped they would be. You want a favorable return-on-investment (ROI). If your goal is employee retention, you might measure changes in employee retention after implementing your program. Keep track of costs so you can determine whether the savings from reduced turnover outweigh the costs of the program. 

Career development programs help employees shine 


Talent management includes recognizing individual’s talents and putting employees in positions that make the best use of their skills. Employees can feel more confident in their skills and enjoy using their strengths every day at work. 

When employees perceive that their organizations encourage career development, they feel more confident about their long-term career path. Unfortunately, this is not the case in many companies around the globe. Even a majority of employees in a large survey in Australia and New Zealand by Right Management reported that their leaders did not “have the tools and skills to promote career development.” 

Employers can avoid this by integrating key features of career development support in the workplace: 

  • structured career mapping to put a tangible plan in place
  • leadership development to cultivate individuals to take charge of projects
  • succession planning, or prepping current employees to fill higher positions
  • online learning to offer skill development without placing extra pressure on employees to be present at work. 

According to the Right Management study, employees at a company with a favorable career climate are four times less likely to say that they are planning to stay with the company for less than one year than those at a company with a favorable career climate. Having these strategies present at their companies will help employees feel encouraged to advance in their career.  

About the Author

Monica Gomez is a freelance and journalism student who has written numerous articles on career advancement strategies. You can follow her on twitter @gomezmonica53. 

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Beautiful thoughts Monica !
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