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The Employee Experience Platform | Culture Amp


Professional development is an element of the employee experience that can often go overlooked. Access to opportunities for learning and development (L&D) is traditionally organized on an ad hoc basis. This means companies may not have a clearly structured employee development plan or access to metrics for growth tracking. Culture Amp data shows that employees who don’t have access to meaningful L&D opportunities are two times more likely to leave an organization within a year, and that development is the second most influential driver of engagement.

If your company wants to engage and retain team members, it’s important to have an employee development strategy in place. To create an employee-first culture, you must invest in an employee development plan that is personalized, continuous, and measurable.

As the world of work continues to evolve, employees are re-evaluating how well their goals and desires align with their current roles. Whether it’s a career pivot or simply upskilling in a particular field, access to growth and development opportunities is one of the top drivers for employee decision-making today.

Whether you have basic development tools in place, or you are looking to redefine your organization’s approach to employee learning and development entirely, the right development framework sets you up for success – and for engaging and retaining your best talent. From empowering managers to support development conversations to tailoring development based on individual employee needs, embedding growth into the employee experience is crucial to future-proofing your organization. In this guide, we’ll break down the fundamentals of employee development and share how to make a growth mindset part of your organization’s DNA.

What is employee development?

Employee development is defined as the shared initiative of an employer and employee to strengthen the employee’s skill sets and expand their knowledge. This is also sometimes referred to as professional development, staff development, or people investment.

Effective development goes beyond simply training for employees; it is ongoing, adaptable, and personalized. To improve development at your organization, start by considering the 3 E’s of development:

  1. Experience: On-the-job experiences that help employees grow (e.g., stretch tasks, special products, mentoring others, etc.)
  2. Exposure: Learning through observation (e.g., working with a coach, seeking feedback, shadowing, networking, etc.)
  3. Education: Structured learning (e.g., courses, books, conferences)

You can also use the GROW coaching model, which is a model designed for solving problems, setting goals, and improving individual performance. The acronym GROW stands for:

  • Goal, or what an individual is looking to achieve
  • Reality, or the facts of the current situation
  • Options/Obstacles, or all the different ways you can address the situation
  • Will/Way forward, or how you will choose to act
The GROW Coaching Model

By using these two approaches to create a culture that embeds employee development into day-to-day work, performance reviews, and 1-on-1 conversations, you’ll help managers better support the growth of their team. You’ll also create a workforce of employees who feel their success is valued, leading to better business outcomes.

“When we frame learning (using a tool like the 3E’s) as a more holistic and nuanced range of activities, we help employees recognize that development happens every day and isn't just limited to attending a course.” – Dany Holbrook, Senior People Scientist at Culture Amp

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Why is employee development important in the modern workplace?

Employee development is a demand of the current workforce. Culture Amp’s research team has found that a lack of career growth was cited as a self-identified reason for leaving the company for one out of three employees. Employees were also found to be 46% points more engaged when they could develop skills that were relevant to their interests.

It’s a growing trend – employees are moving to organizations that allow flexible working arrangements, better work/life balance, and stronger growth opportunities. Many companies have been adopting a new perspective on career development. While your organization may already be focused on building an employee-first culture, putting these growth opportunities at the forefront is a key factor in how to motivate and develop staff.

While demand for a development plan for employees is increasing, traditional tools for driving and supporting these opportunities for growth can be cumbersome. They may provide little to no direction, lack a definitive structure, or leave managers with no clear process for guiding their direct reports. A robust, clear strategy for L&D provides managers and employees with a clear framework for charting a way forward together.

Building an employee development strategy

No employee’s path will be identical to another, so it’s important to implement an agile approach to development that can be personalized to each employee. Employees are all navigating a unique set of challenges, so make sure the development tools your organization uses offer equitable access to all employees – no matter their background, tenure, or skill set. Continuing conversations around L&D ensures that your managers have what they need to help employees build out specific, actionable steps toward a tangible goal.

To be effective, people development must be an ongoing process. From working with a mentor to upskilling and gaining experience in another department or role, find ways to work development into an employee’s day-to-day. Actionable steps provide managers with a measurable “checklist” when it’s time to touch base and see how an employee is progressing. Further, ongoing development offers employees the confidence to grow and advance at your company.

Here are a few key tips to consider when crafing a strategic employee development strategy:

  1. Craft clear career paths. Career pathing, which describes the method of planning out the path to a specific position or promotion, brings clarity to teams and individual employees. By creating and sharing clearly defined career paths for the different roles and tracks in your organization, your employees can understand what's possible to achieve at your organization, and what it takes to achieve that growth.
  2. Create an intentional space for learning. Create a company culture that truly prioritizes learning and development by ensuring that leaders and managers carve out time for growth and development. Role models are important, and if leadership doesn't prioritize L&D, employees may worry they'll be penalized if they actually take time out of their day-to-day to work on development.
  3. Consider the intrinsic synergy between development and performance. At Culture Amp, our people scientists recommend “continuous performance management,” which describes a more holistic approach focusing on continuous improvement via regular pulse checks, coaching, and employee development conversations.
  4. Understand and plan for common development planning challenges. While development planning looks relatively simple on the surface, many employees experience hesitation and confusion. In these cases, there are four questions you need to clarify upfront to your employees:
    • When to create the development plan ("When should I do it?")
    • What should be included in the development plan ("What should I do?")
    • Who else will be involved in the development plan ("Who will help me?")
    • How the development plan will be used and kept accountable ("How do I track my progress?")

See 7 more tips for more impactful development programs

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7 steps to setting up career paths and competencies

Learn how to develop a motivating career framework, set up career paths, and define competencies – all in 7 proven steps.

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Support employee learning and development with the right tools

Tracking and evolving development plans may feel like an added task for managers who are already stretched thin working to hit targets, keep projects moving, and manage a team. But employees rely on managers for guidance and support when it comes to development.

That’s why reframing L&D as an ongoing, day-to-day part of the employee experience can help managers balance a heavy workload while keeping growth a priority. Managers will be there to guide employees, but employees can really own their growth and drive the development process forward.

Rather than relying on a manual approach, consider employee development tools that offer an automated workflow, which streamlines the process and reduces the time required by traditional methods. The voice of the employee will shape the foundation of their growth trajectory, so start by identifying areas that are important to them.

With Develop by Culture Amp, employees can craft their own development plans with the help of their managers, ensuring that the plan and the associated goals are well-aligned with team and organizational goals. Managers have open access to this information, making it easy for them to understand each employee’s desires, and – working together with the employee – identifying the steps needed to move forward. Once managers have helped determine the next steps, employees can own their growth by completing tasks within their personalized development plan.

How to measure employee growth and development

Measuring and tracking employee sentiment around development empowers you to prioritize L&D initiatives and demonstrate business impact. When starting out, these three indicators will help you understand the impact of your employee development strategy, and you can use the insights they provide to continue evolving your approach:


  • Understand how your employees are engaging with your employee development tools. With solutions like Develop by Culture Amp, you can easily access data on development activities to understand how your employees are engaging with these tools. You can even drill deeper into the data on participation by demographic variables to identify any discrepancies.


  • Use survey insights to learn how employees feel about their development process. Consider the following statements to gauge employee sentiment around the development process:
    • I have a clear sense of my development goals
    • I have a clear understanding of the skills and knowledge I need to develop
    • I see a motivating future for me at this company
    • I am clear where I want to be in my career or job in a few years time


  • Collect data on what employees want and need to learn. Insights into development needs and interests could include:
    • Development focus - e.g., developing in current role vs., looking for a new opportunity
    • Top growth areas (skills)
    • Top self-reported strengths (skills)
    • Most motivating aspect of work
    • Least motivating aspects of work

While these indicators can be tracked manually, tools like Develop automatically aggregate this data into a centralized view to help you prioritize the most valuable L&D initiatives at scale.

How are employee development practices strategic?

Culture Amp research shows that companies prioritizing L&D as a facet of the employee experience see:


  • 24.3%more company growth (by headcount)

  • 46%higher engagement for employees whose skills are being built in line with interests

  • 21%more motivated employees

The results are in – an investment in employee development is crucial for keeping your business ahead in today’s world of work. Executive teams are continually presented with competing priorities, but with development as a core element of your business strategy, you’ll be on track to growing and retaining your people at scale. When you intentionally nurture the goals and interests of your people, you boost engagement, satisfy employees, and support better business outcomes.

Getting started

When you invest in employee learning and development, you’re investing in your business. Personalized and continuous employee growth helps managers align the company’s vision with the career goals of their direct reports and instills confidence in employees that the work they do contributes to a larger purpose.

Employees want to know where they fit in your organization – not just today, but in the future. Instead of waiting until your employees seek growth opportunities elsewhere, develop and retain your people now – and reap the rewards. Develop by Culture Amp is an effective tool for building an employee development strategy that works for your people and your business.

Backed by rigorous people science, Develop makes it easy for to unlock measurable, scalable, and easy professional development. Here are three ways to leverage Develop today:

  1. Paint a motivating future for your employees. Using Develop’s simple, centralized competency frameworks and career paths, you can provide employees with clear requirements for success at your organization. Moreover, employees can set and update development goals right in the platform, making it easy for managers to gain visibility into how their direct reports are growing over time.
  2. Empower managers to support employee growth. Make meaningful and frequent growth discussions easier to manage for your managers. Managers and employees can easily access and collaborate on individual development plans and goals, making it simple to revisit and adapt development as times and priorities change.
  3. Demonstrate L&D impact. Track development initiatives and show positive impact – all in one powerful central dashboard. Use the insights from Develop to gain leadership buy-in, determine the most valuable initiatives to invest in, and ultimately take a more strategic and thoughtful approach to employee development.

Built for individuals, teams, and the wider company, Develop by Culture Amp provides all the tools you need to help your people grow with your organization, including Career Paths, a tool for providing clarity around career progression and role expectations to every employee.

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