An Overview Of Development Methods


When organizations put effort into developing their talent, they are not just providing employees with skills they can use on the job; they are showing their workforce that they are a valued part of the organization and that they deserve investment. This increases employee engagement and satisfaction, leading to better returns for the organization as a whole.

There are a number of ways organizations can develop their talent. Read on for a general overview of employee development methods.

Formal and Informal Mentoring Programs

By promoting mentoring relationships, organizations can create a dynamic, supportive environment in which employees know that learning and growth are valued. Aspiring employees in these environments feel comfortable reaching out to more experienced individuals for guidance. Indeed, most mentor-mentee relationships develop informally and are initiated by the less-experienced individual, who seeks advice from a more knowledgeable colleague or superior. Although managers may not take an active part in starting these relationships, they can build awareness of the importance and advantages of having a mentor in the workplace.

Managers can also take an active role in formal mentoring programs by directly pairing aspiring individuals and more experienced mentors. Doing this institutionalizes learning in the organization and at the same time gives the mentees access to expertise they may not have known was available to them. In formal mentoring programs, managers identify people who can act as mentors and provide them with training on how to build an effective coaching relationship. They also identify individuals with less experience but great potential who could benefit from mentoring.

Long-Term Transfer Programs

In long-term transfer programs, individual employees are rotated for long periods to other departments, locations, work groups or jobs. This is a way to develop employees, strengthen their ties with external groups, and build individual competencies that might be valuable to their permanent work group. Academic institutions have been doing this for years as part of traditional Study Abroad programs.

Before transferring an individual employee, managers should make sure to discuss with them the benefits and objectives of the transfer, plan for any challenges, and outline the support they’ll receive during the transfer period.

Short-Term Rotation Programs

Short-term rotations can range from a few minutes to a few months. Many companies conduct short-term rotations during onboarding of new talent. This way, new employees can learn about different departments, what they do, and how they fit together within the larger organization. Short-term job rotations also foster bonds among departments and help employees learn about the large-scale goals of the company.

Special Job Assignments

When employees are sent on special assignments it is usually with the objective of doing research on new systems or technologies their organization can use, or as a scouting mission in search of new partners or business locations. Managers may also send subordinates on assignment in their place if they themselves cannot go, allowing the employee to represent the company, take on larger responsibilities and learn new competencies.

Action Learning Projects

Action learning projects are development at the executive level. In these projects, organizational leaders group executives from throughout the company to solve a given problem. By doing this, they can leverage the skills and competencies of high-level managers from different functional departments. These executive-level focus groups are often virtual.

Field Trips

This approach allows individuals to learn firsthand about products, equipment, programs or management practices in a different location. Field trips give employees brief exposure to new technologies or systems and motivate them to learn more. They can be planned in advance or emanate from a specific work problem. Employees may be asked to report back with ideas, insights, or possible solutions to a given problem.

Professional Conferences

One of the best-known employee development methods is professional conferences. These are focused on a specific issue, career track or service, and feature a number of speakers. Sending employees to professional conferences can help them expand their knowledge base and skill set, generate insight, and provide networking opportunities.

Many managers ask that employees keep a log of their experiences at the conference and brief their colleagues about it on their return to the office.

Developing talent is a strategic move to boost employee engagement and increase returns for the company. There are a number of ways managers can pursue development, depending on their organizational needs, employee preferences, and time and financial constraints. In the end, however, development initiatives should be looked upon as part of a company’s investment and talent-retention plans.