Employee Training and Development Guide for Leaders Looking to Maximize Team Potential

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A group of trainees claps during orientation.

Jobs are initially created in response to the need for a specific set of tasks and responsibilities to be accomplished. For example, an established nonprofit organization may create a new position for a junior accountant to handle the needs of a newly signed partner. Likewise, a new charity or foundation that received a generous donation may hire administrative assistants to tackle various projects and responsibilities.

While many employers and companies may only hire employees for a certain set of tasks and responsibilities, others go a step further and realize the potential of their hires. The junior accountant may initially start off handling a specific account. With dedicated training and development, the accountant may grow into a full-fledged leader in the nonprofit organization. The new administrative assistants may start off working part time, but given opportunities to learn, grow, and excel, they can advance into larger leadership roles with that charity or foundation and its affiliates.

Employee training and development is fundamental to companies that wish to realize the full potential of their human capital and want to provide opportunities for their employees to grow and evolve. From skills seminars to on-the-job training to educational and tuition reimbursement opportunities, comprehensive, effective employee training can help employees to thrive and become change agents. Certificate and higher education programs, including Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership degrees, can also enhance employees’ current skill sets while bracing them for future career challenges.

What Is Employee Development?

According to PayScale, “Employee development programs are ways to improve an employee’s broader skills as a person over an extended time period in a more holistic approach.” Employee development is different from employment training, which may only provide new hires and workers with the necessary skills they need to succeed in a specific role.

For example, a commercial property management company that specializes in building and maintaining local shopping centers may be in need of hiring a manager to oversee a new location. The role could focus on developing partnerships with larger retail chains, hiring a staff to oversee mall operations, and developing innovative ideas to increase profit and revenue.

What employee training is like for this type of position can include learning how to use specific payroll and administrative software for organizing, training on how to effectively manage new employees, and seminars regarding specific processes that the manager must adhere to within the higher organization. Employee development, though, takes the extra leap to help workers to develop beyond the core tasks and responsibilities of their current roles.

Employee development can include regular educational events that provide the employee with technical skills, both related and unrelated to the field, such as coding, data and analytics management, and website development. It can also include off-site training at conferences or through academic programs. Managers who want to rise within their company could attend leadership seminars to network with other professionals and learn about industry trends.

How specific organizations develop their employees can vary. Some may provide all their employee development opportunities in-house. Organizations face risks when they don’t embrace or understand the value of developing their workforces’ skill sets. Employees who don’t feel they have the ability to grow or evolve from their current roles may leave for other jobs that may provide them with development opportunities. The employees themselves may feel unfulfilled with their current work.

The larger organization may be unprepared to face unanticipated challenges, such as the popularity of a new technology or shifting market trends impacting the organization’s viability. Employees who’ve been given more advanced skills may be able to help in addressing these trends. If those employees don’t exist, though, the organization may have to spend additional money on temporary hires or consulting work to help address those new needs.

Benefits of Employee Training and Development

Multiple parties benefit from employee training and development.These include the organization, its partners and affiliates, and the employees themselves.

Employee training ensures that employees are able to effectively complete the various tasks and responsibilities of their positions. A marketing assistant who’s been effectively trained at a charitable arts foundation has the ability to perform their job without committing many errors or mistakes. This benefits the marketing assistant by ensuring that the assistant is receiving a rewarding career experience. This employee training and development also benefits the arts foundation, as its immediate marketing needs are being met without error. It also helps the partners and affiliates of the foundation who benefit from engaging, error-free marketing materials.

Without effective training, the employee may suffer from poor performance, the organization may be hurt or damaged, and the foundation may not be able to effectively get its message across to partners and affiliates. This doesn’t mean that every employee’s mistakes have long-lasting consequences on the organization and its partners and affiliates, but illustrates how damaging poor employee training can be.

Entrepreneur notes that the effectiveness of employee training can be monitored by employers keeping an eye on employee engagement to see what may be working, not getting too focused on the initial monetary benefit or return on such training, and acknowledging that they need to provide their employees skills to make them versatile workers in the first place.

Employee development offers extensive benefits for workers and organizations, as well as partners. According to Robert Half International, a management and consulting organization, some immediate and long-term benefits of employee development include increasing the team’s collective knowledge, raising employee job satisfaction, improving the organization’s appeal and reputation, attracting more highly qualified candidates and generating stronger employee retention rates.

For example, for a public health organization dedicated to providing medical treatment and services to residents of a major city, employee development programs and initiatives can help to:

  • Increase the knowledge of the overall workforce, both in health-related subjects as well as in other professional fields
  • Improve public health employees’ fulfillment and satisfaction with their own work, regardless of what their current roles may be
  • Generate a stronger public perception by showing that the organization cares about its employees and their future
  • Attract the best candidates who may be pursuing similar roles at other health organizations, many of which don’t offer similar employee development programs
  • Retain employees who may wish to advance to other roles

Employee Training and Development Methods

In an article published in the ACC Journal, authors Kateřina Maršíková and Eva Šírová discuss three main types of vocational education and employee training: on-the-job training, off-the-job training and a combination of both. These employee training methods can also be applied to development opportunities.

According to the article, characteristics of on-the-job training include demonstrating tasks; coaching and helping employees to gain confidence in their skills; mentoring and counseling; conducting workshops; and practicing job rotation, in which employees experience what it’s like to work in multiple roles in the organization.

Off-the-job training is delivered outside the organization itself. Specific methods include lectures on pertinent industry topics; discussion with field leaders; and team-building practices such as ropes courses and trust exercises, according to the article. Often, off-the-job training methods are provided by companies and organizations that specialize in specific employee training methods or hold strong knowledge and resources in a given field.

Organizations can also include a mixture of on-the-job and off-the-job methods in their training initiatives. For example, a training seminar regarding workplace conduct and harassment may be delivered on-site at a company, but employees can complete a follow-up exam or questionnaire off-site using their own digital devices. An introductory workshop may be given about a professional competency such as coding, while more advanced lessons in the subject may be given off-site.

Organizations can also choose if they want to deliver certain educational or training programs on- or off-site. For example, many organizations require their employees to be trained in CPR. The training itself can take place on-site, such as a certified CPR instructor or specialist visiting an organization, or off-site, where employees travel to a location where the training is offered.

According to an article published in Inc., effective training and development includes defining the overall strategy and needs for the business and training, and ensuring that all the necessary materials for the training program are in place and that employees and the training itself are regularly being evaluated. Ultimately, there is no “best” or “preferred” method when it comes to training and developing employees, so long as organizations are dedicated to helping their workers to grow and succeed.

Cross-Training and Developing Employees

Many of the previously discussed examples have focused on how to train or develop an employee who may be working in a specific role, such as the partnership coordinator or marketing assistant. However, employees may be trained in multiple jobs and responsibilities, even though they may not perform those same jobs and responsibilities daily. This is referred to as employee cross-training.

Writing for The Balance Careers, F. John Reh states that “cross-training is good for managers, because it provides more flexibility in managing the workforce to get the job done, and it is good for employees because it helps them learn new skills, increase their value to their firm and combat position fatigue.”

Take, for example, two different positions that are closely related in roles and responsibilities, such as a receptionist and an office administrator. The receptionist’s day-to-day duties include greeting guests who walk into the office, fielding phone calls from individuals and partners, signing off on packages and materials delivered to the office, and performing necessary opening and closing procedures. The office administrator focuses on addressing the administrative needs of employees and executives, managing office supplies and files, and scheduling any necessary replacements or repairs.

These employees can be cross-trained in the specific tasks and responsibilities of each other’s positions. If the receptionist is sick or needs to take extended time off, the office administrator who’s also trained in that role can help to accomplish the receptionist’s duties during the absence. If the office administrator leaves for a new position or is promoted to another role at the organization, the receptionist can help to fill in, thanks to the additional cross-training received.

Reh provides recommendations for organizations looking to develop their own cross-training programs. These include letting workers identify roles and tasks in which they hold interest, establishing job rotation programs and offering incentives to employees who participate in cross-training activities. “Cross-training reduces risks, improves employee engagement and satisfaction, and potentially improves your firm’s support of customers and overall performance. Think creatively and aggressively about cross-training in your organization,” Reh states.

How to Motivate Employees

Even for employees who’ve been given the same extensive training and been provided access to multiple enriching development opportunities, they still may not have the motivation to perform their jobs well. They may make simple or avoidable mistakes, or not strive to excel in their positions.

The specific reasons that can cause a worker to be unmotivated may vary. Workers may feel underpaid and that the organization doesn’t appreciate their efforts. Some may feel like a cog in a machine, where their specific duties can be easily replicated or performed by someone else, and that they add no true value to the organization. Many may believe that their company or industry has no growth or advancement opportunities, causing them to question the necessity of delivering strong work.

Writing for Forbes, Brent Gleeson surveyed different business leaders about what they each believe are effective and strong ways to motivate employees. The leaders provided different responses and ideas, such as understanding what motivates a specific employee, providing rewards when group goals are met, providing employees with what they want (higher salary, more responsibilities), reducing conflict, identifying staff members’ key strengths and assigning them related responsibilities, and making employees feel appreciated.

Not all of these employee motivational strategies, however, can be accomplished by every leader or organization. It’s likely that multiple employees in an organization would enjoy a higher salary, but organizations often don’t have the necessary funds to provide raises to each worker who wants one. Providing rewards to employees may help to improve results, but it may also encourage those workers to not produce the same results if incentives aren’t in place. Giving employees too many tasks may make their daily job responsibilities more difficult and complicated, making it that much more difficult to replace them should they advance to other roles or move on to other organizations.

Leaders at organizations should carefully consider which motivational strategies may be best used to boost employee morale and obtain stronger results. All the methods described above can be effective, but depending on an organization’s own structure and team, certain strategies may better help to achieve larger goals.

Developing an Employee Training Program

Some employee training programs may be more beneficial than others. Writing for Business.org, Skye Larsen recommends that employers consider the following steps when designing effective employee training programs:

  • Understand the benefits of the employee training
  • Provide training and development before it’s necessary
  • Plan for certain needs and challenges
  • Consider what tools may be needed
  • Measure success

For example, employers should consider what they ultimately want employees to gain or benefit from the specific training, such as reducing costs or increasing efficiency. If there’s a projected shift in a particular industry or market, such as a new software becoming more popular, providing training and development ahead of time will help the organization.

Larsen also writes about the importance of choosing a leader who can effectively guide or manage the training program: “The right captain will help keep the ship afloat. Choose someone to lead the program who has strong ideas and an enthusiastic interest in how to develop employees. Then you can rest assured that the program won’t sink the second you leave it.” While some employees or team members may be talented in specific skill sets, others may be better equipped to handle the unique challenge of delivering an effective employee training program.

Writing for HR Technologist, Lidia Staron discusses several ways in which the effectiveness of employee training programs can be measured. These include pre- and post-training assessments, data mining, evaluating participant experiences, and evaluating engagement from the training. “It is also important to know that training is not a one-time event. It is a continuous process wherein employees learn and master the skills they need to grow in the job,” Staron writes.

Reaping the Rewards of Employee Training

Employee training and development can be delivered in various formats, locations and settings, and can help employees reach new goals. Effective training can also benefit organizations by increasing output, generating a strong public perception and helping to develop better morale among team members.

Strong employee training and development programs won’t necessarily fix all of a company’s problems or all the conflicts its employees may be facing. Even with effective training and development in place, there may be times when an employee is unmotivated or feels unappreciated by the organization. In these instances, capable and forward-looking leaders can help to identify what particular factors may motivate employees and help them to meet their specific wants and needs.

Each organization needs to evaluate its current needs and goals and the challenges it may face in the future and help to ensure that all its employees, from new hires to veteran workers, are trained and prepared for the challenges. The most valuable component of any organization is the staff that fills it, and ensuring that these workers have the best skills possible will lead to the most desirable outcomes.

Recognizing the importance of employee training and development, as well as the ability to determine which training and development programs may best benefit teams, is a crucial skill for successful leaders. Rider University’s online Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership prepares students to effectively refine organizational processes, motivate and empower team members, and effectively analyze what employee development tools, programs and initiatives can help businesses and their workforces to reach their full potential. Discover more about Rider University’s program today.

Recommended Reading: 

What Is Organizational Leadership and Why Is It Important?

Leadership Careers: Top Opportunities in For-Profit and Nonprofit Organizations

Five Key Traits of a Leader


ACC Journal, “Perspectives of employee training and development: methods and approaches”

Business.org, “How to Design an Effective Employee Training Development Program in 5 Simple Steps”

Forbes, “The Best Ways To Motivate Employees And Get Results”

Inc., “Training and Development”

HR Technologist, “Employee Training and Development: How to Measure the ROI of Training Programs”

PayScale, “Why Employee Development Programs Matter (And How to Implement One)”

Robert Half, “Professional Development Training: A Win for the Entire Team”

The Balance Careers, “Cross-Training Employees”