Senior designer demonstrates skills to younger employees
Employee training and development can come in many forms. Start by talking to your employees about their career aspirations, and match resources that align with your company goals. — Getty Images/ dragana991

Today’s employees are looking for more from their jobs than just a paycheck. More than 70% of millennials are looking for career growth opportunities; yet, only 2% feel like their employers encourage professional development.

[Read more: A Guide to Continuing Professional Development]

Offering training and development can help retain great employees and benefit from your team’s growing expertise. Strategic employee training and development can help your business be more innovative, develop great leaders and prepare for industry trends. Here are the various types of employee training and development you might offer, and explain why doing so is a great investment in your team and your business.

What is employee training and development?

Employee training and development is a company’s investment of effort and time that helps boost the performance of its employees. Training and development are often used interchangeably; however, training refers to a precise program with measurable goals.

For instance, an HR specialist might receive training to use a new compensation and benefits marketplace. Development, on the other hand, relates to acquiring broader skills that can be used throughout a professional career.

Because training and development serve different purposes, many business owners take different approaches to what opportunities they offer in each category.

Employee development is shown to improve performance, increase flexibility and innovation, and lead to better leadership.

How to offer employee training

Employee training workshops and courses tend to be directly tied to anticipated business results. Training not only helps companies retain great employees, but also creates a pool of talented, well-qualified individuals who can be promoted or replace talent that leaves. Employee training ensures that your business will have the resources it needs to continue growing and expanding.

“According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), small businesses stand to receive a variety of benefits from effective training and development of employees, including reduced turnover, a decreased need for supervision, increased efficiency and improved employee morale. All of these benefits are likely to contribute directly to a small business's fundamental financial health and vitality,” wrote Inc.

If you’re not sure where to start with employee training, start with your business objectives. First, consider: What are your goals for the next five to ten years?

Next, evaluate which employee capabilities are necessary to help you reach those goals. For instance, if your goal is to break into a new product category, you may need someone with specific R&D capabilities. Or, if you’re hoping to expand your business to a new area, you may need someone with strategic marketing expertise.

In addition, assess your team’s existing strengths and weaknesses. Find out what hidden talents or side projects your team may be able to build on with a little advanced training. You can also speak to team leads to find out what skills or technology-specific training will help them accomplish their targets. Ultimately, each training opportunity should ladder up to your overall vision for the company and consider how your employees can benefit from this long-term vision.

How to offer employee development

Employee development varies slightly from training in that it is continuous and sometimes informal. A mentorship program is one example of how employee development can happen with relatively little effort.

To get started, many small business owners create employee development plans. These plans strategically help each individual develop personally and professionally, and are developed in collaboration with the employee.

[Read more: 5 Steps for Creating an Employee Development Plan]

While employee development plans may not be linked to specific business outcomes, they are nevertheless important to the success of your company. Employee development is shown to improve performance, increase flexibility and innovation, and lead to better leadership.

Another plus to consider is that development can be relatively affordable. Development can look as simple as hosting “lunch and learns,” or offering opportunities for entry-level employees to shadow executives. Start by speaking to your team members about what they hope to achieve in their career, and then match resources at your company or external opportunities to help each person further their goals.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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