5 Practical Ways to Support Employee Development

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We’ve long known that employee development is a key factor in employee retention, but the latest research goes a step further, suggesting that prioritising employee growth opportunities is the only way to compete in the current talent market. 

Multiple studies show that lack of career development is the no.1 reason why employees are leaving their jobs right now (1, 2). And when we zoom in on the tech industry, the numbers are even more revealing - 79% said lack of career progression was their main motivation for leaving their role (3). 

The message here is clear - employee development is a must-have, rather than a nice-to-have.

But how do we support employee development in a meaningful way? And how do we provide equal access to career development opportunities when some or all of our employees work remotely? That’s exactly what we’re going to talk about today!

But first, we wanted to answer a couple of frequently asked questions about employee career development.

The 🔑 to effective career development? Individual career paths.

Frankli’s employee-led career pathways help you build productive teams with infinite potential.

What is Employee Career Development? 

Sometimes known as employee development, career development is the process of helping employees grow their skills and achieve their career goals. It’s about giving employees the tools they need to reach their full potential, which, in turn, should have a positive, long-term impact on the company’s success. 

What are the Employee Development Pitfalls to Avoid?

There are a few potential issues to consider here, but the message is always the same - employee development is only effective when it responds to an employee’s individual needs and goals. It should always be a collaboration between leadership, managers and employees, and it should always be employee-led. 

Some common mistakes to avoid:

  1. Moving too fast. The “something is better than nothing” approach isn’t helpful here. Effective employee development requires careful planning and research, and what works for one team won’t work for another. Take the time to learn about your employees’ development needs and use this as the basis for both short and long-term plans.
  1. Not getting employee input. All too often, employers assume they know what employees want without actually asking them. Find out what your people would like to see in a career development program through a survey or series of dedicated 1:1 meetings.
  1. Taking a one-size-fits-all approach. A program that only addresses the needs of 40% of your employees is a program with untapped potential. Just because the majority of your people are interested in upskilling, for example, doesn’t mean career development should start and end there.
  1. Not creating a structured employee development program. Career development is about providing employees with more clarity, not less, so it’s important that your efforts take the form of a dedicated program, and not just a couple of sporadic quick wins. Read our guide to building an employee development program. 
  1. Forcing participation. Career success means something different to each employee, so it’s natural that employee and manager goals around career progression may not align. But nothing in your employee development program should feel like a mandate. You want to inspire, not discourage.
  1. Not communicating your intentions. The launch of a career development program can be intimidating for employees, some of whom may be expecting rigid career paths or additional work with no extra support. Be sure to communicate the potential benefits for employees and stress that you’ll be taking an employee-led approach. 
  1. Forgetting about non-linear career paths. Not everyone on your teams will want to move up the proverbial ladder, some will be interested in switching fields or maybe even leaving the workforce entirely. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing - effective career development helps you get the most out of your people while they’re still on your teams. More on this here.   
  1. Not adjusting employee workloads. While some initiatives, like career coaching, will fit comfortably within the employee’s current role, others, like earning a new qualification, may require a reshuffle of duties. Ensuring managers and employees are aligned on this is key to avoiding employee burnout.  
  1. Not getting the right tech support. For maximum efficiency, digitise as many elements of your career development initiatives as possible. This is all the more important for teams with remote employees. Consider tools like Frankli’s career pathways and coaching and mentoring spaces. Learn more
Employee development, career development tips
Frankli's digital tools help you build people-centric career pathways and internal coaching and mentoring programs.

5 Tips for Supporting Employee Development

1. Facilitate individual career pathways. 

One of the best ways to bring career development to life is to empower each employee to create their own, personal plan for success. You can do this using a tool like Frankli’s career pathways, which aligns employees and managers to create individual career paths with clear steps. 

This helps employees understand exactly where they’re going and how to get there, and prompts managers to provide them with sufficient support.

2. Encourage employees to create personal developmental goals.

Each member of your team probably already has operational goals or OKRs that they update regularly. 

Managing developmental goals in the same way ensures that employees and managers are aligned on timelines and next steps

3. Support managers to hold regular, career-focused 1:1 meetings. 

Once developmental goals with clear steps have been established, it’s important that employees and managers check in on them regularly, just as they would operational goals. 

Research shows that the chance of hitting a goal rises to 95% when we commit to a regular accountability check-in, like a 1:1. Encourage managers to schedule regular dedicated discussions on this, rather than trying to squeeze them into another meeting.

4. Facilitate coaching and mentoring sessions. 

Connecting employees with coaches or mentors ensures they get the support they need to get to the next level.

Coaching and mentoring programs can be run internally with tools like Frankli, offering a whole range of benefits for the mentors as well as the mentees, but, if budget allows, you can invest in sessions with coaches outside of the company too. Either way, you’re providing your people with the opportunities to build skills, grow networks and connect with leaders.

5. Embrace non-linear career paths.

A report from The Josh Bersin Company shows that 45% of employees who changed jobs during the pandemic moved industries (4), suggesting that some of the people on your teams are probably looking for a different kind of challenge at work. 

Of course, it’s not always possible to meet an employee’s career goals (if, for example, your Technical Support Team Lead actually wants to be a florist, it’s probably not possible!) but factoring non-linear moves into your employee development plan is well worth the effort. It could mean the difference between keeping or losing a key team member in 2 or 3 years.

How do you do it? Use a tool like Frankli to ensure career pathways are employee-led and flexible. Encourage managers to really tease out their employees’ career goals in 1:1 meetings. And let your people know that you’re open to facilitating non-linear career paths in the long term.

🗺️ Looking to boost retention?

Frankli’s employee-led career pathways make it easy to show people a bright future at your company.


1. McKinsey, The Great Attrition is making hiring harder. Are you searching the right talent pools? 2. Robert Walters, Lack of career progression is the main reason professionals leave a role. 3. ISL Talent, The Retention Report 2022. 4. The Josh Bersin Company, Career Pathways: Building Tomorrow’s Workforce Today

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