Workforce development is an essential process for organizations that want to cultivate a top-quality workforce. Here’s a look at the concept of workforce development, how it works, the benefits of workforce development, and more.

What is workforce development?

Definition of Workforce Development

Workforce development is considered an interconnected set of solutions to meet employment needs. Workforce development can include changes to culture, changes to attitudes, and changes to people’s potential that help to positively influence a business’ future success. Workforce development is also sometimes referred to as employee development and is considered an important aspect of business success.

How Workforce Development Works

Workforce development works by preparing workers with the skills necessary for a specific type of job. It prioritizes the value of ongoing workplace education and skills development, as well as addresses the hiring demands of employers. Because the goal of workplace development is to place workers in jobs where there are career development opportunities — and to nurture that development — a company can ensure they have an adequate supply of qualified individuals for their needs.

It used to be thought of that by training an employee with better skills, they would be more likely to leave and take that investment with them, but this isn’t necessarily the case. Research shows that skills development and opportunity for professional and personal growth are important aspects of employee retention, especially among millennial workers. When an employee feels like their leadership skills are being valued and nurtured, they are less likely to leave a company.

Examples of Workforce Development

Workforce development is different from workplace training, in that workplace training is often focused on a specific job or skill that is necessary to know immediately in order to perform an employee’s job. It is generally a compulsory component of employment and urgent in nature, whereas workforce development is considered a more long-term, ongoing strategy to help improve a workforce.

Workforce development helps to create a culture of learning and constructive attitudes that builds a workforce’s tangible and intangible abilities to manage and deal with future challenges.

Often, workforce development opportunities are highly individual and can be completed at any time, through a variety of mediums. It can be self-selected in a way that training opportunities cannot.

Workforce development can include skills such as public speaking, presentation building, and leadership development.

Benefits of Workforce Development

Benefits of workforce development

There are two main benefits of workforce development. The first is that it provides individuals with the opportunity to acquire knowledge, skills, and attitudes that result in improved work performance or gainful employment. The second benefit of workforce development is that it provides employers with an effective method to communicate, share, and meet their demand for skills.

Other pros of workplace development include challenging and engaging employees in the workplace, often resulting in increased engagement and retention; reduction in rates of staff turnover; happier, more fulfilled employees; and a feeling of empowerment among staff, which allows them to develop the confidence required to meet challenges in a less anxious and more resilient manner. All of this ultimately creates a more agile workforce.

Best Practices for Workforce Development

Given that workforce development has such positive effects for both the employer and employee, ensuring an effective strategy is key. Some aspects to think about include:

Delivery method. While classroom learning may have been the way of the past, online development opportunities are the key to the future. Not only does this not interrupt workflow, but it also helps remove obstacles to on-the-job learning, and allows employees to choose the times that work best for their learning style. Discussion forums, videos, self-paced eLearning courses, webinars, and resource banks are just some of the development tools that can help employees.

Learning, not training. Some employees may balk at the idea of mandatory training, whereas presenting opportunities as being simply about learning a new skill or developing an interest can increase uptake. Learning opportunities can include mentorship, group brainstorm sessions, online programs, or trying something new without the fear of failure.

Communication. Having regular and transparent discussions about business objectives and employee goals will help ensure everyone is on the same page and creates a supportive relationship between employer and employee. Getting real-time feedback from employees can quickly tell you if a development strategy is working, and how to fix it if it isn’t.

Employee-led. Arguably the most important strategy for workforce development is to let the learner set the what, where, and how of their development. This way, they can focus on the skills they need to develop for their roles, without wasting time on something they already know. This tailored approach helps increase willingness to participate as well as engagement. By incorporating smaller chunks of easily-accessible learning into an employee’s daily work, they are more likely to participate and benefit from workforce development programs.

Workforce development is a win-win: Organizations are able to leverage their employees’ newly acquired skills and expertise, while employees get to take advantage of learning opportunities that enhance their value in the workforce.