What is your employee development strategy to retain talent?

Dany Holbrook, Senior People Scientist at Culture Amp, explains how organisations can create an effective employee development strategy.
By: | July 13, 2022

Like their counterparts around the world, organisations in South-East Asia continue to feel the impact of the Great Resignation as employees seek better career opportunities that align with their priorities in life.

To attract and retain the best talent in a constantly evolving world of work, HR leaders need to recognise that having the opportunity to learn and develop new skills and capabilities is now the top reason why most people join an organisation, and the reason they will stay, suggested Mervyn Dinnen, HR & Talent Trends Analyst.

Speaking at May’s HR Tech Festival Asia 2022, which examined key workforce trends in Asia, he added, “Learning and development (L&D) should be increasingly part of the hiring process, ensuring all candidates are aware of their opportunities for growth and development should they join, and being open about the approach to internal mobility.”

Besides helping to foster more engaged and motivated workers, an effective employee development strategy provides opportunities for employees to learn new skills and improve existing ones, and to perform at a higher level.

When these employees see a willingness to invest in them, they are also more likely to reciprocate with increased loyalty and better performance. And, as Dinnen suggested, organisations can then identify and train future leaders while opening the pathway for employees to advance their career within the organisation, an increasingly important criteria in talent retention.

According to Mercer’s COVID-19 pulse survey, limited career advancement is a primary reason companies in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines are struggling to attract and retain talent.

Besides renumeration, employees are now driven by factors such as company culture, work-life balance, flexibility, and progression opportunities. Forward-thinking companies, Mercer said, are turning to non-monetary measures such as enhanced employee engagement, flexible working arrangements, training and upskilling, as well as job enrichment and job redesign.

Clearly, employees who do not feel that their organisation is contributing to their development or providing career advancement opportunities are less likely to be engaged and more likely to leave.

Between March 2020 to March 2021, almost half of 10,000 employees left their organisation due to a lack of development opportunities, according to exit survey responses Culture Amp studied.

Dany Holbrook, Senior People Scientist, Culture Amp, told HRM Asia, “If we add up all the reasons that can be solved by having development conversations around career opportunities, career change, L&D and role fit, that equates to 48% so essentially, half of all employees are leaving due to lack of development.”

Highlighting why organisations should prioritise employee development, she revealed that employees who disagree that their company can make a significant contribution to their development are twice as likely to leave; for those who strongly disagree, they are 2.5 times more likely to leave than on average.

How to drive engaging and effective employee development

To reduce attrition, organisations need to drive engaging and effective employee development that balances the needs and desires of employees and the business.

Holbrook explained, “Where possible, employee development should ideally sit in a ‘sweet spot’ that intersects business needs and alignment; individual aspirations, motivations, and passion; as well as individuals’ skills and strengths.”

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“Where possible, employee development should ideally sit in a ‘sweet spot’ that intersects business needs and alignment; individual aspirations, motivations, and passion; as well as individuals’ skills and strengths.” – Dany Holbrook, Senior People Scientist, Culture Amp


Individual development should be personalised, flexible, and dynamic in meeting the development needs of employees at different stages of their career. “This could be one or a mix of develop for now (role mastery), develop for future (career growth), or develop for interest or passion (still generally work or role related),” she said.

She also highlighted the importance for coaching and guidance in the context of employee development. Individuals should be guided through continuous coaching by a manager or coach, who can connect insights, bring context, and help break down steps.

To drive intentional behaviour for managers and individuals simultaneously, the process should be enabled through tools and content. However, organisations should consider what their people need and when, and to support them without overwhelming them with options and content.

Lastly, employee development should be amplified through timely, specific, and actionable feedback that includes space for self and coached reflection. “Research shows that reflection is most effective when it involves others, which allows for collaboration, changes, and determining news ways of working,” Holbrook added.

To provide an easy and guided approach to employment development, Culture Amp offers  Develop, a solution that guides employees through a two-part workflow, the first of which helps them to identify their motivators and their demotivators, before reflecting on their strengths and their future career aspirations.

In the second part of the workflow, they narrow down their development focus, choose specific development areas, and are guided towards setting clear, actionable, and measurable goals.

Particularly, this collaborative, science-backed workflow helps managers to have meaningful growth conversations with their direct reports, allows them to better understand what motivates employees and identify development opportunities.

A successful employment development strategy starts with managers

As the liaison between employees and upper management, line or direct managers oversee the work done by employees and play a key role in retaining and developing talent.

According to Culture Amp, direct reports are twice more likely to leave within the next 12 months if a manager shows a lack of interest in their career. Employees who are supported by their managers to develop skills that are relevant to their interests are also likely to be more engaged (80%) than those (34%) who develop skills they have little interest in.

With many managers having to manage a hybrid workforce today, communication is of critical importance.

READ: Attract new talent by evolving employee experience

Organisations can allow managers to hold better development conversations with employees by providing a guided experience that is enabled through tools and content. Culture Amp’s Develop, for instance, is designed to empower managers and employees to have high-quality growth conversations, set personalised development goals, and set a clear and motivating action plan.

When considering planning and launching development planning within the organisation, HR and L&D can help managers prepare for development conversations by providing guidance and providing early access to the materials that will be provided to their direct reports.

Next, they need to ensure that managers are comfortable with the processes involved in FAQs, conversation guides, and enablement sessions, before introducing targeted manager learning. “This includes more specific skills practice for coaching skills, as well as more challenging conversation topics such as misalignment between what employees have outlined in their development plan, and what managers think they should be focusing on,” Holbrook said.

To reinforce and consolidate plans, she also recommended one-on-one tools or conversation guides that help to build the coaching and feedback skills that managers require to support employment development initiatives throughout the organisation.

To find out how you can grow and retain your people with science-backed tools that drive personalised, continuous growth, click here.