ATD Blog

Why Employee Development Is a Necessity

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

With every half-full glass comes one that is half-empty. The good news is that we have emerged from the Great Recession and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that our unemployment rate stands at 5.3 percent. Understandably, workers are more confident about the employment outlook. Here’s the half-empty news: With this positive trend, employers must work harder to retain and develop key talent. 

What does this mean for organizational leaders? Employee development planning is no longer optional, it is essential to staying competitive. Here’s the really good news: There are resources to help managers create meaningful development plans for their employees.

Why Employee Development Now?

Long-term employee-employer relationships have eroded over time for a variety of reasons.  Employees now depend less on their employers for health and retirement benefits, leaving fewer motives for them to stay with a single employer. 

Affordable Health Care Act.  Whether or not you agree with it, the Affordable Health Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare), has reduced the need for employees to stay in a job for the health care benefits. The increased flexibility has persuaded some workers to make a change or take the plunge into an entrepreneurial venture.

The Great Recession. Many employees felt ill-treated by employers during the economic recession. Multiple lay-offs and below-market salaries led some to reject full-time work with a single employer in favor of several contract options that offer higher salaries, more flexibility, and the all-important “right of refusal.” 

Increase in Opportunities. With the recession behind us, companies are hiring again and asking recruiters to find specialized skills and preferred talent. As the pool of unemployed dries up, employers will need to woo prospective employees away from the competition.

Access to Information. Anyone with internet access has 24/7 ability to view a plethora of jobs and network with thousands of groups and individuals. Websites like Glassdoor provide information for candidates on the inside culture of organizations before they decide to apply or accept offers. Access to salary information arms candidates to better negotiate these issues.

Dwindling Retirement Benefits. Employers used to keep employees long-term with the reward for their loyalty coming in the form of a pension. Those days are nearly gone. According Towers Watson, the percentage of employers offering traditional plans to newly hired employees had declined from about 50 percent to just 7 percent in 2013, with numbers projected to decrease even further in the coming years. 

Enter the IDP


Employers cannot recruit all of the talent necessary to compete in a dynamic business world, so they must develop capabilities internally. The employee Individual Development Plan (IDP), while not new, is re-emerging as an important tool for managers.  A carefully constructed IDP can accommodate the learning and development needs of almost any employee. 

Regardless of their experience with employee development, managers can use IDP's to foster a culture of development and continuous learning to make their organizations a place where employees want to work.  Employees, especially Millennials, place enormous importance on having career development opportunities in the workplace. Building relevant and flexible IDPs is a first step towards providing that support to valued employees.

IDPs Made Easy 

Creating a meaningful IDP takes time and thoughtful communication between the employee and the manager, but the potential rewards are well worth the ongoing effort. Here are some tips that will make your development efforts flow smoothly.

Ask questions. Get your employees to discuss their career direction and possible learning activities. This will foster motivation and buy-in as they create a specialized plan. Asking questions and listening shows that you care about their development and ideas.

Let the employee take the lead. Ultimately, your employees will own their plans. Encouraging them to take the lead in implementing and maintaining the plan will make it their plan, not yours.

Be open-minded. Be ready to hear your employees’ ideas, even if they are not aligned with your own. Asking clarifying questions and exploring different directions can open up new ideas for everyone. 

Be creative. The possibilities for challenging assignments are limited to yours and your employees’ creativity. Think beyond the obvious assignments within your own department.


Delegate. One person’s strength is another’s development opportunity. Chances are that your employees are less skilled and knowledgeable about some of your responsibilities. Many managers have earned their roles because of their depth of skill and knowledge.  Delegating meaningful work to employees not only helps take work off your list so you can focus on leadership needs, it provides rich development opportunities for less experienced employees.

Keep “checking in” brief. A common concern among managers when creating IDPs is the time it takes to check-in regularly to gauge progress. “Checking in” does not have be a formal meeting; a few minutes during a one-on-one will usually suffice. 

Be proactive. An IDP is a proactive strategy. It is better now to spend time working on your employees’ development than wishing later that you had. Your employees need the time to learn new systems, skills and roles, before it is critical to apply them. Further, employee development supports retention. While there is no guarantee your employees will stay, millennials in particular are more likely to seek an employer who supports their career.

Clearly, the need for timely development aligned with an employee’s career direction will continue to be an important strategy for employees, managers, and companies. To help you navigate this endeavor, there are two new, timely, and practical TD at Work resources. 

First, Keeping Your Career on Track by Susan Kaiden is intended to help individuals identify their best skills and evaluate how their background compares with requirements in today’s job market. Its companion issue, “The Manager’s Guide to Employee Development,” is a concise, practical how-to guide on having career and development discussions with employees and creating and implementing an actionable IDP. 

For more insight, join me for the webcast, Leading Employee Development Conversations on November 6 at noon EST.


About the Author

David Hosmer, EdM, CPTD, CCM, is an independent practitioner doing business as Cascading Coaching. He is frequently called upon for his expertise in strategic organizational redesign, leadership and management development, career services, as well as design and facilitation of micro- and macro-level interactive learning initiatives.

Hosmer’s experience spans more than 25 years in varied industries, repeatedly exceeding expectations in the areas of L&D, coaching, talent management, and organizational effectiveness. For 15 years, he was a director in several renowned domestic and global organizations. He has built and transformed four OD and talent development functions aligned with company strategic imperatives. Several of his teams have won or have been nominated for internal and external awards.

He has fulfilled full-time talent development and OD leadership roles at MIT, Charles River Laboratories, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Wyeth (Pfizer), Boston Edison (Eversource), Private Healthcare Systems, Fleet Boston (Bank of America), Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

His clients have included MIT, Boston University, Clark University, California Community Colleges, Hult International Business School, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Harvard Medical School Primary Care Institute, Tufts University, Robert Paul Properties, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Charles River Analytics, Havas Media, Axis Communication, and the Association for Talent Development.

Hosmer earned his master’s degree in education from Harvard Graduate School of Education, bachelor of arts in psychology from Boston University, and personal and professional coaching-specialized graduate studies from Cambridge College. He is author of numerous articles and book contributions. Hosmer has also served as keynote speaker and guest panelist for several professional and career conferences and webinars.

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