Benefits of Employee Development

Alison Webb

The information contained in this article is not intended as legal advice and may no longer be accurate due to changes in the law. Consult NHMA's legal services or your municipal attorney.

Employee development is an important facet of employee satisfaction. In a 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction Survey done by the Society for Human Resource Management, “opportunities to use skills and abilities” ranked the most important factor in job satisfaction. Providing employees with opportunities to develop their skills and abilities shows that an organization is invested in an employee. The return on that investment is greater employee retention.

Most often cost is what limits the number of trainings available to many public sector employees throughout any given year. Either budgets cannot accommodate an increase in the training line, or there is a need to find a place to cut costs. Budget constraints and costs are not the only hurdle we face. Many departments simply have too much on their plate to consider sending an employee out to a comprehensive or specialized program or establishing a mentor program. Even if our communities could afford it, our employees don’t have the time.

What is important to remember is that employee retention is a major financial benefit to municipal employers. The initial cost to onboard an employee will vary depending on the department into which they are hired, but studies show that the average cost to replace an employee is one fifth of the employee’s annual salary.

Employee retention in the public sector can be difficult in a changing economic and cultural climate. The changing workforce demographics also play a part in how long an employee stays on in an organization. We know that monetary considerations are not the top driver for employee retention, especially in the public sector. While many communities have generous benefits and good leave plans, two factors that play a big role in retention, many of us are lacking in the area of employee development.

Employee development is the training that helps employees perform their jobs better, and the career development opportunities that encourage greater personal responsibility and professional growth in their field. Employee development is the responsibility of both the employer and the employee. Continued development allows an employee to stay relevant and effective as changes in technology, the law, and their specific fields evolve. There are two types of employee development: informal and formal.

Informal development is far more common among organizations like municipalities. This includes learning through experience and participation, where the employee controls the objective of what they are learning. Formal development, where we spend time training, mentoring and coaching employees, holds high value for many employees, as well as the employer. Because formal development can be costly and (worse!) can take time away from their general duties, it often gets overlooked by managers. As a state, we are fortunate to have organizations like NHMA, HealthTrust and Primex (to name a few) that offer formal development opportunities for a minimal cost or through membership programs.

Most of us know the importance of employee development and its return on investment. Satisfied employees are more productive employees, etc. The tricky part is creating space for that development to take place. Working with employees’ strengths and interests can help. But communicating with your employees about the importance of their own development and allowing them to come up with ideas that will drive that development further can make a huge difference.

Opportunities like mentoring and coaching programs encourage long term interest in an organization and give senior employees a way to meaningfully share the knowledge they possess. Including development goals in annual evaluations is a terrific way to incorporate self-initiated development in an employee’s year ahead. Engaging employees in these discussions gives them confidence to pursue new initiatives and the sense that you care about their tenure in your organization:that you value them enough to want them to grow and succeed.

The benefits of providing quality development opportunities for employees are compounded when you consider that employees become more empowered and effective through these processes and that our communities are less likely to experience costly turnovers. If we give employees the opportunity to train, become better educated, and implement what they have learned, it can only inure to our mutual satisfaction.

Alison Webb, MPA, PHR, is the human resource director for the City of Dover.

Additional Resources

“2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement, How Employees Are Dealing With Uncertainty.”
The Society for Human Resource Management.

Boushy, Heather and Glynn, Sarah Jane. “There Are Significant Business Costs to Replace Employees,” November 16, 2012. Center for American Progress.

Collison, Jesscia and Esen, Evren. “Employee Development Survey Report” The Society for Human Resource Management and Catalyst.