Last Updated on October 24, 2021 – 6:40 pm

Every modern company prefers to attract employees with the proper skills and experience to work for them. However, hiring managers often face a different reality: searching for this kind of employee is like scouring the haystack for a tiny needle. As companies increase their spend toward employee development and training, they also go beyond a few traditional learning opportunities to create effective employee development programs. Training and Development Assignments are one way by which they can achieve this.

Employee development focuses on collaborating with employees to enable them to acquire, develop, improve, and hone existing skills. It aims to build a talent pool to bolster the company’s mission while creating highly engaged employees.

Skills themselves refer to the mix of abilities, experiences, and qualities one may use to get stuff done. Skills may include interpersonal, leadership, and organization skills – so-called soft skills. Other skills such as accounting, application development, research, and writing are technical skills.

Deliberately improving skills can help employees achieve personal career goals, including earning a promotion or becoming more proficient in specific areas. An employee’s skill set may be necessary to advance in one career or pivot to another. Let’s now turn our attention to how employees can grow skills through development assignments.

Defining Development Assignments

Development or developmental assignments allow employees to take on tasks outside the purview of their primary work assignments. However, their tasks remain well within their functional area.

The idea behind developmental assignments is to grow a workforce adequately qualified to perform current and future career functions with equal skill. Leaders advance more through challenging assignments than by exercising routine competency.

There are plenty of opportunities that emerge when participants take on novel tasks of significant complexity. These developmental tasks can include any of the following:

  • unfamiliar responsibilities,
  • establishing a new program, and
  • developing solutions to complex multi-factor problems.

Interestingly, developmental assignments may not count much towards a promotion. But, they are critical in increasing skills, knowledge, and experience, which ultimately play a big role in career advancement.

Who Benefits Most from Developmental Assignment Programs?

While the employee seems to be the obvious beneficiary of developmental tasks, the employer stands to gain a lot down the road.

The new skills and experiences that employees garner in seeing out the stretch assignments primarily benefit the employer. These tasks typically last between 3 to 6 months before the employee returns to their primary assignment. During this time, the employee will be stepping outside their comfort zone but on mutually beneficial terms with the company.

As the worker grows professionally, the company can pursue projects using resources that would otherwise not be available.

Developing Developmental Job Assignments

Developmental job assignments should primarily proceed from an employee’s Performance and Development Plan (PDP). However, it should not stop them or the organization from seeking assignments external to this.

It’s important for developmental assignments to be flexible but within a readily identifiable framework of guidelines:

  1. Clear documentation and approval of the developmental job assignment by hiring and supervising managers and other stakeholders before advertising the assignment.
  2. Establishment and documentation of learning goals before the employee commences the assignment.
  3. The form of the developmental assignment may be full-time or part-time.
  4. The employee doesn’t need to possess all the necessary skills to perform the tasks or project independently. Nevertheless, they need to have an unmistakable aptitude, ability, and copious ambition to conclude the assignment with ample oversight.
  5. Assignments need to transcend the employee’s current skill level while supporting their growth and career development. There needs to be a healthy tension between entry-level training and development and the development task in question, for instance.
  6. The salary of an employee assuming a development assignment remains the same.
  7. Clear communication that there are no guarantees of future pay increase, promotion, or job change due to this assignment.
  8. The developmental task may not evolve into a permanent position without competitive recruitment.
  9. Employees should return to their previous position after the assignment.
  10. Employees need to wait a specified period (usually six months) before accepting another developmental assignment.
  11. The line manager and employee should complete a detailed evaluation of the learning experience upon the conclusion of the developmental assignment. This evaluation should go into the employee’s personnel file.
  12. Development assignments are not official transfers.
  13. There have to be mutually agreeable reasons for ending a developmental assignment earlier than planned.

A developmental assignment task may end early for various reasons, including an unexpected end to the project, poor attendance, performance issues, or an unreliable employee.


Organizations need to carry the mindset that assignments are development opportunities. They must first understand that they can optimize the ROI from development assignments. It’s feasible if their operating principles include understanding the value proposition of development assignments, establishing effective career path strategies, and understanding the proper use of global mobility.

Employees and employers need to be keen on developmental opportunities if they will both be relevant in an increasingly dynamic age.

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