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Is Your Employee Development Program a Waste of Money? 5 Signs That It Might Be

Organizations understand the importance of attracting and retaining highly skilled and talented employees. Companies are recognizing that in order to be a desirable place to work, they need to provide opportunities for growth and development for their employees. Organizations are spending large amounts of money creating and implementing employee development programs. However, the important question becomes: is that money being wasted? Read on to learn more about the most prevalent blunders organizations make when designing programs, and some of our remedies for these common mistakes.  

  1. Absence of Strategy

You would be surprised at the number of leadership development programs that are created without clear objectives and lack a cohesive strategy. In our series about how to utilize competency modeling in your organizations, we have shared with you some of the best ways to get the most out of your competency model. As you can see in the image below, Competency Models can be integrated into every aspect of the employee life cycle, from recruiting and selection, to career/succession planning, and everything in between.

Competency Models can also play a pivotal role in your employee development initiatives. Having a strategic approach to creating your development program, rooted in the critical competencies you have identified as important to your organization, will strengthen your program. It will ensure that the development opportunities you provide to your employees are the right opportunities, offered at the right time.

1. Lack of Executive Buy-In

In our article, Is Training Worth the Investment? 3 Lessons for Leaders, we discuss how important it is to generate buy-in for any type of organizational program, and this begins with upper leadership.  It is essential to involve key stakeholders to take ownership of the program and have a vested interest in the roll-out. Make sure to involve leadership in communication around your employee development program and encourage them to participate in the trainings, as well. Their involvement will set an example for the rest of the team.

2. Stuck in Tradition

When people think about employee development programs, most think of formal classroom-type training, despite the fact that research and experience suggest that this isn’t the best approach for adult learning. The 70:20:10 Model for Learning and Development has been shown to be the gold-standard when it comes to implementing employee development programs. In this model, 70 percent of employee development should come from job-related experiences, 20 percent from coaching and interactions with others, and 10 percent from formal educational training sessions.

On-the-job development can come in many forms: internal rotations, stretch assignments, job shadowing, or leading a project. This type of development allows employees to learn and gain experience in the essential skills they need to be successful. It also allows them to learn from their mistakes and receive immediate feedback on their performance. Employees also develop by interacting with others. These types of activities should include: getting direct feedback from peers and managers, discussions with mentors or coaches, and participating in professional networking events, to name a few. Employees can learn new skills and ways to develop their strengths.  Encouragement and feedback are prime benefits of this type of learning approach.


The final 10 percent are the more traditional, formal training opportunities. While less emphasis should be put on these types of trainings, they are still important for a successful employee development program. Some topics lend themselves well to traditional training formats and they usually offer the most bang for your buck. Formal training allows organizations the largest stretch of their development budget by offering more employees opportunities for development for less expense. The next two sections explain why training sessions often fail to deliver effective outcomes.

3. Non- Engaging Trainings

Boring trainings are well, just plain boring. No one wants to be there and they are not likely going to get much out of the session. We’ve all been to trainings where we see people on their phones, checking their messages and emails, having side conversations, or just not paying attention. Adding fun, interactive activities and continuously encouraging people to participate throughout the training will help increase engagement and morale. Making sure the training is engaging is almost, if not more important than the content itself. Implementing engaging, interesting trainings will ensure that employees will get the most out your employee development program.

4. Missing the Usefulness Factor

Not only do you need to pay attention to how interesting your employee development initiatives are, you also need to make sure they are useful. Even if the content is relevant, and the training is engaging, if the employees don’t walk away with practical, tactical tools that they can immediately start using when they get back to work, your development programs are missing the mark. A useful way to keep employees engaged in the training and ensure that actions are being followed through, is to create a personal learning planner customizable for your training.  


By following these 5 simple steps, you can be confident that your employee development plan and initiative will be worth the investment. When implemented effectively, successful employee development programs can lead to increased job satisfaction, organizational commitment, employee engagement, and so much more!  

  1. Develop a strategy

  2. Have executive buy-in and participation

  3. Spend 70% of initiative on job development, 20% on coaching and interactions, and 10% on training sessions

  4. Create fun and engaging trainings

  5. Develop useful and practical takeaway tools

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