Three keys to fostering employee development

When employees see the opportunities to develop their skills, they are more likely to stay with an organization and contribute to a vibrant workforce culture.

Success within an organization is intricately tied to the growth and development of its workforce.

But when Theresa Sweeney-Miller, Vice President of HR Consulting at CBY Professional Services, asks an organization what it does to provide both feedback and opportunity for its employees, the answer often is that it conducts performance reviews.

While those reviews are an important first step to understanding employees’ roles and identifying areas for growth and improvement, they are different from employee development discussions.

A one-on-one approach

Performance reviews focus on a worker’s success in a given role. Employee development goes beyond their current role and captures an employee’s future career aspirations.

Development discussions begin by talking with each employee about their future goals, their current gaps, how they might fill those gaps and what their path might look like.

It’s a proactive approach to discussing goals and helping employees grow in the direction they desire.  

The only way this happens, Sweeney- Miller says, is if leaders engage in meaningful conversations with their teams to identify developmental needs.

By understanding employees’ interests and desires, leaders can tailor development plans that align with individuals’ strengths and areas that need improvement. 


“The number one thing employers need to make sure happens is leaders need to talk with their people and with other leaders about employees’ potential. Whether you have a formal program or not, part of your job as a leader is to meet with your people, talk with them, and learn about what they’re interests and desires are.”
Theresa Sweeney-Miller
Vice President of HR Consulting

In fact, a lack of such one-on-one conversations often leads to employees continuing in the wrong roles, not fitting in well with the company culture, or leaving the organization. 

Sweeney-Miller believes development plans should be custom-fit to each employee, yet all leaders could use a similar framework. A worker might be performing poorly in one area but would excel in another using a different skill set. Without getting to know employees and customizing development plans, a leader might not recognize that shortcoming.  

When leaders know their employees’ skills and goals, they can invest in the right training to help build a stronger, more confident team. Rather than looking strictly at performance or skill sets, Sweeney-Miller encourages leaders to also assess the value and culture alignment. From there, the necessary skills could be trained or taught to drive improved performance. It’s a strategic approach to balancing technical expertise and cultural connection.

Three keys to fostering employee development

For many organizations, consistency is the biggest challenge to quality employee development. Failure to meet that challenge can lead to employees seeking another job that offers well-defined opportunities to grow. Sweeney-Miller encourages organization leaders to foster a culture of employee development by following three key steps:

1. Create a structure for development conversations

Establish a framework that encourages regular team and one-on-one discussions between leaders and employees about development opportunities.

2. Visualize growth opportunities

 Have a visible organizational structure that allows employees to see and understand the growth opportunities available to them.

3. Follow through

 Demonstrate tangible examples of successful development initiatives to reinforce the organization’s commitment to continuous learning.

The best way to combat skepticism and change perceptions about an organization’s dedication to that effort is through consistent execution of development programs.

By demonstrating a sustained commitment to employee growth, organizations can overcome resistance and build trust in their initiatives. 

A partner in the process

Sweeney-Miller has seen organizations transform after implementing employee development initiatives. While creating such programs takes time and commitment, the result is happier employees working in their areas of strength, excited about growth opportunities.

Sweeney-Miller encourages organizations considering whether to establish employee development programs to reach out to her at CBY Professional Services.

From conducting human resources assessments to identifying workplace gaps, providing recommendations to educating leadership, analyzing company culture to rolling out programs across an organization, CBY Professional Services offers a comprehensive approach to enhancing employee development.

Sweeney-Miller and the CBY team will guide organizations through the challenges as they unlock the potential of a strong workforce.

Learn how CBY can help your business grow.