From the Blog

Back to basics: What is an employee development program?

In this quick read, we unpack the benefits of employee development programs (EDPs) and explore the differences between them and employee development plans.

What is an employee development program and how is it used?

EDPs are organisational-wide initiatives designed to drive employee growth and organisational success. An EDP is usually implemented at an organisational level and includes a structure that can be scaled across an organisation. Generally, they are used to:

  • improve capability across a workforce to meet organisational goals
  • lift engagement to improve retention
  • drive productivity.

EDPs may also be used to help organisations navigate specific challenges or to deliver new initiatives, such as:

  • meeting diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) targets
  • embedding sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs
  • ensuring compliance across an organisation.

These programs use a structured and standardised approach to learning and development, including:

  • employee training programs and training courses
  • workshops and seminars
  • e-learning modules.

An EDP will often incorporate scope for development plans that are personalised and delivered at an individual level. These plans can be used to improve capacity across an organisation, identify skills gaps and identify the employees that have potential for career and leadership growth. 

Benefits of employee development programs

A research paper published in April 2024 by the Human Resource Management International Digest1 found that EDPs improve employee motivation, productivity, satisfaction and retention. In fact, it found that businesses without EDPs were more likely to underperform and face higher costs associated with employee turnover. Let’s take a closer look at some of the benefits.


Employee satisfaction and employee retention

EDPs motivate employees by ensuring they feel appreciated and respected. When talented employees feel valued, they have higher job satisfaction and are less likely to look for new opportunities elsewhere. Increased enjoyment at work is also more likely to lead to a sense of loyalty and ensures that employees are driven to give their best at work. 

Competitive advantage

The research found that EDPs improved organisational adaptability and innovation. EDPs are also associated with improving employee engagement, which leads to increased motivation and productivity. This helps businesses remain competitive in an environment that is constantly changing.

Cost savings

Investment in EDPs leads to long-term financial benefits despite the initial costs. EDPs reduce costs associated with employee turnover and ensure individual goals are aligned with organisational objectives (ensuring a focus on organisational targets at an individual level).

What’s the difference between employee development programs and plans?

A development program and individual plans are essential for driving growth. 

Formal development programs establish the timelines and structured approaches for achieving a company’s goals. They also drive the setting and achievement of those goals.

An employee development plan, however, is personalised and tailored to individual employees’ goals, strengths and areas for improvement. It provides a road map to meet the individual development needs of an employee. Plans typically include:

  • goal setting related to capability improvement, personal career goals and career growth
  • skills gap analysis and capability assessment
  • action plans outlining resources required to support progress towards goals
  • regular review and feedback sessions to track progress and make adjustments.

Resources that might be used in a plan include the formal training programs, workshops, seminars and e-learning modules that also form part of the wider development initiatives, but may also incorporate development opportunities such as:

  • employee coaching
  • on-the-job observation
  • chances to learn new skills, take on new responsibilities or lead special projects
  • self-paced e-learning.

So, a key difference is that an employee development program targets a group of employees or the entire workforce to deliver company goals, while a plan is used to focus on individual employee performance, individual goals and career development. An EDP takes a standardised approach and is often managed by an HR department and HR professionals, whereas a plan is created by a manager and their team member. Of course, it’s important to remember that a program will often include the development of individual plans.

Looking to set up employee development plans for your people? Read Creating an employee development plan to find out how.

How can YakTrak help?

Using YakTrak’s employee development software ensures that:

  • people development efforts and initiatives can be scaled across an organisation
  • coaching is delivered consistently
  • goals and progress are tracked across an organisation
  • learning and coaching is embedded into the day-to-day of your operations
  • a consistent operating rhythm and cadence is developed
  • management and HR have visibility over your professional development activities.

Ready to get on track with the Yak? Get in touch with us today to find out more.


1 ‘Employee development programs: American researchers review previous studies and find practical implications for best practice for organizations’ (2024) Human Resource Management International Digest, Vol. 32, No. 3.

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