Last updated: 28.03.23

Improving Employee Development in 2023: The Complete Guide

Within the space of a few short years, the UK workplace has changed dramatically. With ongoing technological advancements widening skills gaps, flexible working options giving workers more choice over where they work, and an ongoing cost-of-living crisis squeezing wages, it is no surprise that three in five UK workers are currently looking for a new role

In an age where budgets are squeezed and resources are tight, employers are looking for new ways to flatten this curve and retain more of their employees. For many, the answer has been to improve their employee development programmes to upskill and engage their top talent. In fact, a study from Docebo found that over 83% of workers would be more likely to choose to work for an employer that prioritises continuous learning and development opportunities — a statistic that is hard to argue with. 

In this blog, we’ll discuss what employee development is, why it is important, and practical tips on how you can improve your employee development programme in 2023 to retain employees and drive growth. 

The benefits of employee development for your business

Implementing an effective employee development programme can hold many advantages for your business. 

H3: Support employee retention

As skills gaps widen and the Great Resignation continues to trend, many employers are looking for new ways to retain employees. An effective employee development programme can help increase staff retention and reduce employee turnover by 59%. And with as many as 94% of employees stating that they would stay longer at a company if it offered learning and development opportunities, many employers could miss out on vital growth opportunities if they do not address their employee development strategies in 2023. 

Boost employee performance

As the demands and needs of your workplace continue to evolve, so too must the skills of your employees in order to keep pace with your competitors. 

Investing time and resources into effective employee development programmes can not only help your employees meet the changing requirements of your business, but also boost their performance. By equipping your staff with the skills and knowledge they need to advance their careers and do their jobs well, many employers see an increase in employee performance as a direct result of their ongoing development efforts. 

Enhance engagement in the workplace

Employee engagement plays an important role in productivity and retention. A work culture that fails to recognise the importance of employee development opportunities and doesn’t adopt a clear strategy could suffer from lack of engagement. 

Not only can this lack of engagement cause you to lose top talent, it can also create skills deficits within your teams that could eventually see you lose out on business. 

Reduce costs

Replacing an employee can cost up to 60% of their annual salary. With lack of training and development opportunities acting as a leading cause of employee attrition, implementing an effective development program can help mitigate the costs of recruitment and lost productivity during the onboarding and training process. 

Attract new talent

65% of employees consider lack of workplace development a reason to seek a new employer. And with 90% of workers now considering looking for a new role, a robust employee development programme could be a key differentiator in helping you win top talent over your competitors. 

Futureproof your business

As rapid digitisation and macroeconomic change continue to shape the UK workplace, many employers have been left scrambling to plug the growing skills gap. In fact, according to a survey by McKinsey Global, 87% of organisations are either currently experiencing skills gaps among their employees or expect them to occur within a few years. 

By investing in an effective employee development strategy, you can help arm your workers with a diverse set of key skills that will ensure your business can adapt to future change. 

Build trust

People like to know they are in safe hands. Use your employee development programme to your advantage by letting your clients and prospects know how your upskilled and engaged workforce can benefit them. 

What are the two types of employee development?

Employee development doesn’t look the same for every employee. While the goals for each individual may be different, there are two main types of employee development: professional and career. 

Professional development

Professional development exists to help your employees become experts in their respective fields. Companies often facilitate this kind of learning by offering employees the chance to obtain certifications or other credentials to demonstrate their proficiency in a certain subject. 

For many employees, professional development can help them perform better in their roles and further their careers — particularly for less experienced employees or those whose careers rely on obtaining qualifications. 

Career development

Career development tends to focus on softer skills such as stress management, communication, leadership skills, conflict management and more. 

The goal of career development is to enable employees to become more proficient in handling more strategic positions, such as taking on managerial, leadership or executive responsibilities. 

What are effective employee development strategies?

Employee development can take many forms and rarely has one correct answer. In fact, the most successful employee development plans often utilise various approaches depending on the goals of the business and its workers. 

Below are the four most common approaches many businesses take to employee development. Understanding each approach will help you apply the strategies that will best help you meet your business goals. 

In-person and/or online learning

Ongoing education is by far the most popular way businesses choose to engage and develop their staff. Where some employers may choose to offer their staff a paid placement on a formal university course, others may choose to provide bitesize or ready-to-go learning modules that allow employees to learn a range of skills at their own pace. 

However, the way these options are delivered should also be a key consideration for employers. As many employees continue to look for more flexibility and control over the ways they work and learn, many businesses are turning away from traditional in-person education in favour of online learning. By empowering workers with the ability to learn at their own pace and have more control over the learning process and outcomes, many employers are driving greater employee engagement and more valuable learning experiences.

For more information on how to effectively implement online learning into your employee development strategy, contact a member of our team


Regular assessment is the cornerstone of any successful employee development programme. Until you understand an employee’s current performance, needs and skills gaps, any attempt at further development could prove fruitless. 

Regular assessment from peers, managers and clients can act as an important starting point in assessing an employee’s strengths and areas for improvement. These evaluations are most effective when shared with the employee in question and utilised to inform the best development training options for that individual. 

Job experiences

While theoretical education is a vital component to many employee development programmes, practical job experiences shouldn’t be overlooked. 

Getting hands-on experience can help arm employees with both the knowledge and practical know-how to help them execute new skills with competence and confidence. 

Great ways to implement this form of learning into your employee development programme include job transfers, promotions, job rotations, work shadowing and sabbaticals. The options you utilise should reflect both the needs of the individual and your business.

Interpersonal relationships

Interaction with superiors and coworkers can also have a big impact on career growth. Developing soft skills from these individuals can be just as crucial as the development of more practical hard skills when it comes to business growth and progression. In fact, employees with patience, empathy and integrity have the potential to better engage and lead your teams to success. 

Common challenges businesses face when improving employee development programmes — and how to overcome them

Improving an employee development programme — and doing so effectively — is not without its challenges. As the demands from both businesses and employees for effective employee development grow, businesses face multiple challenges in making this a reality. 

The most common challenges facing organisations who are looking to develop employees can include:

Resource limitations

HR teams have many competing priorities as well as time and budget constraints. 

Application considerations

To ensure employee development programmes deliver value, they need to be easily applicable and actionable, giving employees control over their learning and development. 

Employee time constraints

Many staff members have full schedules, so finding time to participate in a workshop or course can be challenging. 

New ways of working

Following the Coronavirus pandemic, many employees now follow hybrid or remote working models that can prove challenging when delivering upskill training. 

Overcoming employee development challenges

To break down these barriers and establish an employee development programme that serves your business, many employers turn to digital training. A favourite among many employers, online learning can help businesses overcome the above challenges by providing flexible, affordable and easily actionable development training in a wide variety of subjects. 

What are the benefits of upskilling your staff with digital training?

Digital training offers many benefits to employers who are looking to implement effective employee development programmes. Not only does it allow businesses to overcome resource, time and application constraints, it is also proven to be:


Perhaps the most appealing benefit of online learning for many employers is its cost-effectiveness. In fact, online learning can offer savings of 70% or more compared to other traditional training methods. Cost savings from this type of learning come from:

  • No travel costs
  • Less downtime spent by travelling to a venue
  • Lower travel and subsistence costs
  • Lower printing and distribution costs
  • Easier and faster to update as a result of legislation changes
  • Lower tutor and classroom costs


Digital training enables your team to learn at their own pace, whenever and wherever it suits them. This not only allows you and your staff to fit training around the needs of your business, but also lets your employees learn at a pace that suits them — something that 58% of workers want according to a recent LinkedIn survey.

Improved knowledge retention

As online learning allows learners to learn at their own pace, employees are able to better reflect on and retain knowledge they have learnt. 

Tailored to you

No matter the goals of your employee development strategy, there are multiple ready-to-go digital training options available to you and your employees. So whether you need online learning specific to your industry, or want to develop your employees on business fundamentals, there are multiple options available to you.

Saves time

Online courses typically require 40-60% less employee time, allowing them to develop skills more efficiently whilst also reducing employee downtime. 

Top tips to improve your employee development programme and set your business up for success

Improving your employee development programme could be one of the best business decisions your organisation makes in 2023. But with so many options available, it can be difficult to define a strategy that works best for your business goals.

Here are our top tips for improving employee development opportunities in your business:

Leverage online learning

The two greatest challenges facing UK businesses have been the shift towards remote working and the rapid acceleration of digital technologies. 

Just as employees are demanding greater flexibility in when and how they work, expectations around learning and development are also shifting. If employees can work from anywhere, why can’t they learn from anywhere, too?

Thanks to the rise of online learning experiences, it is now possible for any business to facilitate remote learning as part of their employee development strategies. In fact, over 40% of Fortune 500 companies already “extensively” use elearning to train their employees, and with the global corporate e-learning market set to hit an annual growth rate of 15% by 2026, companies that fail to offer this form of learning could lose out on top talent — and ultimately, clients. 

For more information on how you can effectively leverage online learning as part of your employee development plans, contact a member of our team or explore our range of ready-to-go e-learning courses and training solutions

Offer bespoke employee development plans that are tailored to the individual

No two people or career paths are the same — their learning shouldn’t be either. To create an effective learning programme, businesses should aim to create bespoke employee development plans tailored to the needs and ambitions of each individual. 

According to the Brandon Hall Group’s State of Learning Practices Study, 93% of companies strongly agree that personalised learning helps to improve performance at both an individual level and for the organisation as a whole.

Once again, making use of technology is often critical here. The rise of online learning now means businesses have greater flexibility on what content and topics you can train your staff on, allowing you to create a mix-and-match approach that caters to different needs and learning styles. 

A one-size-fits all approach is no longer an acceptable employee development strategy. Instead, work with your employees to identify their goals and skills gap, and create bespoke employee learning paths that benefit both your company and the individual. 

Make digital skills gaps a priority

Three in four workers feel under-equipped when it comes to digital skills, with 39% of employees stating they are concerned about not receiving sufficient training in digital and technology skills. However, in order to thrive in a digital world, organisations must ensure these skills are kept up to date. 

Experts predict that the cost of the digital skills gap will cost G20 countries £9.5 trillion in GDP growth over the next decade. To ensure your business doesn’t suffer from this gap, employers must strive to continuously train and upskill their employees in relevant digital skills. 

Don’t forget about soft skills

By 2030, Deloitte Access Economics predicts that soft-skill intensive jobs will account for two thirds of all jobs. So as the importance of soft skills grows, it is vital that employers also focus on developing these skills in their employees — and not just the practical skills associated with each worker’s role. 

If you want to equip workers with important skills for the future, don’t neglect to include soft skills such as critical thinking, creativity, communication, collaboration, and social and cultural awareness. Businesses that do this successfully can anticipate a return on investment of up to 250%. Not bad!

Make your employee development initiatives are measurable

As you implement your employee development initiatives, it is essential to make sure that you’re tracking and measuring its value. 

To achieve this, you need to identify relevant success metrics and desired outcomes for your employee development programmes and set up a regular monitoring and review process. Over time, you will build up a clear picture of data that will enable you to accurately assess what’s working — and, more importantly — what needs improving.

Off the back of this, you will be able to ensure the success and longevity of your employee development programme, as well as clearly demonstrate the value it brings to ensure it remains a priority within your business. 

Why businesses shouldn’t overlook the importance of employee development

In order to stand out in a crowded market, businesses rely on the skills of their workforce to add value for their clients and prospects. With employee development being directly proportional to business growth and employee engagement, employers must focus on retaining top talent and upskilling their workforce in order to ensure future success.

Why Virtual College?

With 27 years’ experience, helping you translate your business requirements into learning is our specialism. We collaborate closely with you to:

  • Get to the heart of your culture and your people and what matters to them
  • Build impactful experiences designed around your learners
  • Evolve your training programmes for the long-term by analysing impact and considering ever-changing business and people goals

Speak to our team today to find out how we can help you improve your employee development strategy in 2023 and beyond.