Last Updated on October 24, 2021 – 6:43 pm

Professional development is an integral perk of the modern workplace that enables organizations to identify and leverage untapped potential among their workforce. However, it needs to happen in a collaborative and inviting environment. Sometimes though, the outcomes could be better. This article reveals the ways by which employee development efforts can have a higher chance of success.

Some organizations focus on improving employees who post top performance. However, this alone barely translates to the strong leadership that would give the company wings to scale and grow.

While employee development is right, getting a few steps gone wrong can hurt both employees and the company. There may be a wastage of resources, and employees will not build the skills the program should endow them with.

Where Managers Miss It in Employee Development

Here are a few things to watch out for when managers plan employee development schemes.

#1 – Implementing employee development without structure

It almost never works out well to choose to figure out what to do in the advanced stages of employee development. Jonathan Wasserstrum, CEO and co-founder at Squarefoot, says people at startups are usually uncomfortable developing a structure since there’s really not much happening in the early rounds of a business.

Without a structure, inexperienced people end up making key decisions in employee development. They rely on guesswork, and without reliable data, the program ultimately fails.

Research and consultation with other companies help to surface best practices that ensure you don’t try to do employee development on a whim.

Companies may also use proven learning and development platforms. Some even use personality assessments to match employees with suitable training materials. They can use coaching videos or onsite training.

#2 – Misdiagnosing company problems

Not every development program is suitable for your organization. That’s why the appropriate first step is to understand what your problem is and the circumstances you operate in. Internal brainstorming sessions will offer clarity into your situation, and employees can offer valuable insight on common issues that managers may be missing.

Leaders and managers typically see the big-picture, but they’re often bereft of what goes on in the play-by-play. This lack of sensitivity or tactical insight happens because they’re not close enough to the problem to understand it adequately. That’s why feedback is an excellent way to show how much you value your team’s contribution.

It’s important not to neglect anyone who can improve your understanding of the problem. They’ll enrich your perspective and help you define a better path for employee development.

#3 – Focusing too much on the ideal

Organizations need to think practically. While employee development goals and objectives are often based on theory, they need to be realistic to work.

A critical theme of implementation is to consider what’s practical throughout the program. Planning should focus on inculcating elements of realism throughout.

Objectives need to be realistic relative to budget, resources, timelines, and so forth. It’s also essential to consider the feasibility of implementing video resources and the duration of instructor-led sessions. Also, consider the number of courses and learning opportunities to introduce realistically.

#4 – Creating generic road maps

No matter how it appears, no two employees are the same. With different strengths and skillsets, they also have distinct goals for their career. Employee development that discounts professional and personal preferences will eventually hit the rocks.

Employees will inevitably drag their feet if a training program does not contribute positively to their career path. It’s best for employees to decide how they want to advance within the context of a company, and conversations are the only way to make this work.

These conversations should focus on individual career interests and goals. Only then is it possible to identify befitting development activities for that individual? Besides, expect everyone’s perspective for their career development to differ.

It’s also crucial to be clear on progress metrics for employees, which is another reason why measurable goals and realistic time frames are important. It’ll ensure that the staffers have identifiable objectives and a way to track their development performance.

#5 – Misinterpreting the law

Should employers pay employees for time spent in development activities? After all, they’re not doing work that’s paying off immediately. Wouldn’t such compensation amount to wasting money throwing financial caution to the wind? Then again, there are legal implications to consider.

Employers need to understand that there’s a distinct difference between employee development and on-the-job training.

Houston labor and employment lawyer, Scott McLaughlin, says employers have an obligation to pay an employee if they mandate that employee to participate in an online class or another continuing education event. Such training includes sales, sensitivity, anti-harassment, or any variant of required training.

These obligatory activities directly impact employee performance in their current role, whereas optional developmental training prepares employees for the future. The law does not mandate employers to pay for the time. Since employee morale might dip during the training, a company can adopt a middle-of-the-road approach and pay a token for the employee’s time and effort.


Employee development differentiates good companies from great companies. Good companies know how to make it work, and the first step to doing what good companies do is to quit making the mistakes that bad companies make with employee development.

If you want to learn more about employee development, you can check out our blog posts here.