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Low-Cost, High-Impact Employee Development Ideas

The world and workplace are changing fast, and if you're not a little confused, you're not likely paying attention. Many factors are contributing to the confusion, such as globalization and rapid advancements in technology. As a result, investments in continuous employee development are needed to stay relevant and avoid becoming obsolete. Investing in high-performing employee development is a proven strategy to enhance organizational competitiveness. Employee development helps organizations remain competitive by preparing the workforce for continuously shifting demands. Today's leaders are often challenged by both cost and time constraints associated with implementing continuous development strategies. This article presents a few evidence-based, low-cost, high-impact employee development ideas to help leaders address these concerns.

Senior Leader Engagement

Handing off development to the human resources function without senior leadership involvement puts training at risk. A senior leader's perceived engagement in development impacts the emphasis placed on the participants' learning. Research confirms that when leaders provided dedicated support to training, employee motivation and retention of the learning content improved.

Employee Development Methods

While managers may want to continuously develop their employees, they often lack the time or budget to make it happen. The following are lower-cost high-impact methods leaders can utilize for continuous development:

  • Coaching: Good leaders will use existing coaching relationships to provide development feedback for their employees. Coaching with a development focus leads to improved morale and overall productivity.

  • Reflection after feedback: Pausing for thought after receiving feedback improves the development investment made. Instead of pausing for reflection after development, companies, and leaders feeling the pressure to move quickly often continue providing more feedback and miss opportunities for individuals to learn and grow. After providing feedback simply try asking a question to create the space for focussed reflection such as, "what are you taking away from....?"

  • Social media and Employee Networks: Integration of social media and networking into ongoing development is an inexpensive means of supporting employee development. Leaders and trainers may choose to be actively involved as group facilitators or they may simply initiate peer-to-peer learning networks. These networks create an inclusive environment allowing people from diverse backgrounds to collaborate toward attaining mastery.

  • Mentoring: Internal company mentoring programs provide low-cost development for both the mentor and the mentee. Mentoring creates a reciprocal and collaborative relationship demonstrated to improve employee performance, sense of value, retention, and internal career progression.

A Myth Exposed

Unfortunately, some leaders perceive that developed employees are more likely to leave when an opportunity arises. However, research has confirmed that formal job training and job transition training are not connected to increased employee turnover risks. Only when an employee receives development they do not use does it increase the employee turnover risk. Looking ahead, leaders will benefit by recognizing the importance of continuous development and senior leader engagement in employee development investments. Development does not have to be expensive to have a high impact.


Aslam, M. (2017). Professional development and networking for academic librarians. International Research: Journal of Library and Information Science, 7(1)

Dearstyne, B. W. (2010). Coaching for professional development: Managers should encourage, foster, and support employees' continual development as a way of helping them master changing work and keeping morale high. Especially in an economic environment where resources are limited, coaching and focusing on employees' professional development will help keep them motivated and productive. Information Management Journal, 44(4), 36.

Johansen, B., & Euchner, J. (2013). Navigating the VUCA world. Research-Technology Management, 56(1), 10-15. doi:10.5437/08956308X5601003

Nelissen, J., Forrier, A., & Verbruggen, M. (2017). Employee development and voluntary turnover: Testing the employability paradox. Human Resource Management Journal, 27(1), 152-168. doi:10.1111/1748-8583.12136

Oh, H., Choi, Y., & Choi, M. (2013). Comparative analysis of OECD member countries’ competitive advantage in national human resource development system. Asia Pacific Education Review, 14(2), 189-208. doi:10.1007/s12564-013-9255-z

Towler, A., Watson, A., & Surface, E. (2014). Signaling the importance of training. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 29(7), 829-849. doi:10.1108/JMP-03-2012-0092


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He is the founder of Organizational Talent Consulting in Grand Rapids, MI, and Program Director of online graduate and continuing business education at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, IL. Executive leaders who work with Jeff describe him as thoughtful, decisive, intelligent, and collaborative. Jeff is a business executive with over twenty years of talent development and organizational strategy experience working with C-suite leaders in Fortune 100, Forbes top 25 private, for-profit, non-profit, and global companies in many industries.

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