What Is Staff Development and Why Your Workforce Needs It

We start our journey at the simplest time of the staffing process. The new employee, fresh-faced and full of ambition, begins their new career at your business. Through both well-established practice and an empathetic amount of patience, you, the employer, take the time to train them through their new role. After the introductory period of staff development, you lead your new worker into their role, sporting a proud tear upon your cheek. They are off on their own, taking on the new job with the utmost preparedness.

And that’s it. The employee training process has ended. Your new worker will continue throughout their career with your company with the organic growth in everyday practice. They will learn and adapt on their own, never needing another training period.

If your thought process involves the static interpretation roughly defined above, you are in for a world of rehiring and augmenting your staff. Ultimately, even the most expert employees will need staff development going forward. The education behind a professional career does not stop at the onboarding and training cycle.

So, what is staff development and why does your workforce need it going forward? Let’s get into it.

What Is Staff Development

Let’s start by answering the simple question.

Ultimately, staff development is the concept of training an employee in a new skill or advancing their current knowledge. In development, the employee and employer work together to learn or hone abilities. This does not include the introductory training period mentioned before. Staff development takes place after the training period.

It’s not teaching a worker how to do their role. It is training an established worker how to do their job better or adapt to new concepts or procedures.

Yes, we agree that our introduction may have waxed a bit poetic, but it’s important to paint a picture of common misconceptions when it comes to staff development within a workforce. Simply put: many employers forget it’s necessary or believe that great employees can (and will) grow and adapt on their own.

This isn’t to say that great employees will not adapt in their roles, learning new abilities and skills through hands-on and challenging experiences. Henceforth, it is to say that believing an employee can learn everything without further training can be detrimental to the growth of your team, which inadvertently stunts the growth of your company.

We will break down the three different development types to better clarify the concept.

1. Improving Current Job Performance

Overall, this may be the most abstract of the three developments. The employer wants to improve a staff member or team’s performance on their already established skills. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the team or worker are doing their jobs incorrectly, but that improvement can be found.

At the end of the day, even star employees can improve on something. Perfection is not attainable.

Improving current job performance may involve a refresher course on initial training and policies. It may involve getting your team together to discuss issues they have noticed throughout their time at work and how they overcame them. This sharing of ideas allows everyone to learn and get better at their position. It’s getting better at the job by learning and discussing experiences within the job.

An example would be certifications. For example, Scrum certifications require retaking the test every two years. Retraining for the role and taking the new test would be considered development procedures.

“Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence. “

​–​ Vince Lombardi, American Football Coach

2. Learning New Skills

This is a simple concept to grasp. As a staff, you learn how to use new software or technology that will be implemented into the role.

For example, let’s say your company is switching from using Microsoft’s operating system to Apple’s. You (or an outside source) will have to train the team on how to use the new operating system for their established tasks. While fairly generic, this still counts as learning a new skill. It is still staff development.

Another example is that of hardware. If you are implementing new cash registers and point-of-sale systems into your restaurant, someone will have to train the staff on how to use them. That’s learning a new skill.

Of course, there are more complex skills that an employee may need to learn (like new software or technology), but it’s on a case-by-case basis. Regardless, having to learn a new skill is considered staff development.

Furthermore, this area of development usually involves the employer learning a new skill, too. If a business is implementing something new, everyone needs to learn it. Even the bosses.

3. Learning New Attributes

Similar to the concept of new skills, new attributes involve training staff on something entirely new. Something that wasn’t necessary to learn in the onboarding and initial training.

The easiest example of attribute development is leadership seminars. An outside source or professional comes in to teach a team or employee new skills that may be seemingly unrelated to the job or loosely connected.

Though auxiliary, these new attributes help the employees improve in their corresponding roles. Referring to the example, learning communication and leadership techniques has never caused ill will on an employee’s performance, regardless of the job at hand. In some way, it still improves the employee’s work in their current role.

That’s the main point of staff development, after all.

What Are the Benefits of Introducing Development?

The concept of employee development is fairly easy to understand. The employee gets better at their job by learning new abilities that correlate with the role.

Unfortunately, implementing training (especially if unnecessary to the job, like the leadership skills example above) can take up business resources and cost for outside sources. It may be difficult to find the time to train employees, pulling them from their day-to-day tasks. It may be expensive to find outside trainers to come in and work with your team.

So, are development procedures actually worth your time? What are the benefits?

Your Staff Gets Better


Staff development makes your workers better… Do we really have to mention this?

Well, it’s important to note that there is little downside to development in regard to development. Though a downside of extra training may be cost or time, wasting time is never an issue. Development will improve your employees 100% of the time. It may not be an exponential improvement, but it will be an improvement.

You don’t lose intelligence by learning new things. That’s not how the brain works (I hope).

Employees Want to Grow

In a 2021 report by Monster, 45% of those surveyed stated they would be more likely to stay at their current job if it offered more training. Employees do not want to be trapped in jobs that provide a low-hanging and solid ceiling. They want to grow and get better. They want to learn new skills that improve their work and outside life.

Offering or requiring further growth as an employee through development plans can help employee retention, a problem steadily on the rise during the Great Resignation.

What is the Great Resignation?

Ultimately, a life-threatening pandemic caused workers to reevaluate both their work-life balance and their work happiness. This renaissance of sorts led to a plethora of employees deciding to take up more enjoyable careers or fight for more work-life balance. It was more than just a phase. According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, 47.8 million U.S. workers quit their jobs in 2021.

You want your employees to get better at their careers. Your employees want the opportunity to get better at their careers. What’s stopping you from handling two beneficial birds with one training-based stone?

Attract Top Talent Easily

If the majority of employees value the ability to grow within their companies, then applicants must feel the same way. It’s a simple thought process of A+B=C. Workers, regardless of their employment status, want to work for companies that promote and offer the opportunity of growth as both workers and humans.

Why would you join a company that doesn’t want to see you do better? Why would you join a company that doesn’t have the option of promotions and higher wages?

Therefore, offering development opportunities to your workers is a helpful tool in attracting expert employees. If an employee wants to join you because you offer growth opportunities, then they obviously have a mind for work ethic and improvement. Those are the employees you want, after all.

Stating that you offer growth on your job postings is a start, but you must be able to provide further details during the interview process. Furthermore, providing it to current employees will help it spread via word of mouth.

Increase Employee Performance and Care

An engaged employee is a better employee. A worker that cares is less prone to accidents, more communicative, more energetic amongst a team, and more loyal in retention. It doesn’t take an expert psychologist to notice the attitude improvements around a person that cares about their role and responsibilities.

At the end of the day, keeping a team of employees equally engaged can be a demanding task. The more you ask of workers, the less you may receive. It’s a trick teeter-totter outweighed by the need to stay afloat. You wouldn’t use a teeter-totter as a boat.

I may need to work on that analogy.

This falls into the ‘Learning New Attributes’ part of development. Teaching employees how to manage communication or leadership can help them handle tasks with ease, improving their engagement. Offering more responsibilities and advancement opportunities can cause employees to plug in and care more about the product they produce.

Of course, attribute development is not a catch-all for employee engagement. It still takes want from the employee (insert horse and water cliche here). But, offering more responsibilities and trust can help make engagement more enticing.

Save Money by Promoting From Within

As a staffing agency, we often get inquiries regarding finder high-up employees. Managers, supervisors, seniors, executives, and so on.

Regardless of if you are working with a staffing agency to hire a leader or not, vetting and hiring still take an ample amount of time and resources. Therefore, promoting from within can end up reducing the headache like a well-powered medicine. Development of your already-existing staff can make this an easier and quicker process.

Let’s create an example. Let’s say you have a software developer, Tom, already in place. You are now looking for a supervisor or manager for the software development team. You know that Tom is fantastic at his job, but has no experience in management. As a company, you agree that Tom could be willing to take on this role, though, but just needs the correct development. Therefore, you put Tom in some leadership development courses.

Now, you can move Tom up the ladder to the leader. Therefore, you now have to hire to fill Tom’s place as a developer and don’t have to hire a leader. That will take less time and resources than finding a supervisor.

You’ve moved someone up the corporate ladder through developmental efforts. Furthering the win-win, Tom will now express this opportunity to develop at your company, helping your workplace establish a promotion-based reputation. Applicants will want to work for you with thoughts of improving as software developers. You’ve established that growth in the company is not hard, but celebrated and encouraged.

Extra Tips for Staffing Development.

  • Offer opportunities for growth
    • As staff members become experts at their roles, providing opportunities to grow within the organization in areas that they show interest in can foster retention and add value to the organization. In addition to funds set aside for training, shadowing tier 3 personnel or the training modules created by tier 3 can be a very inexpensive way to provide self-development.

      As we stated, all chips are already set in place within your workforce. You, as an employer, just have to be able to identify which employees are willing and able to adapt to new roles and development. Some candidates may not be able to rise up (for multiple reasons), and that’s perfectly fine. They should still be seen as valued members of the workforce.
  • Promote collaboration
    • It is essential to develop collaboration with teams that depend on each other in functional areas. Strong collaborative relationships can be similar to air support on the battlefield. Communication is a vital medium of collaboration. Meaningful team-building events, temporarily working at remote sites to meet others and monthly town hall meetings can be a few methods of establishing communication. Solicit feedback and recommendations in a “safe zone” environment where anyone can professionally communicate ideas, concerns, and suggestions.

      Not only does this help create a workplace that encourages development, but it may help produce development naturally. Employees will feel free to share issues and resolutions, helping other members of the team learn through example.
  • Promote “happy employees”
    • Attitudes are contagious. If employees are dissatisfied, it can spread like wildfire. The same can be said about happy employees. At the first indication of unhappy employees, management must identify the reason and provide reasonable and genuine solutions.

      Letting a workplace become toxic is the quickest way to lose all hope of development. While not directly correlated with the practice of development, unhappy employees make it impossible. If someone doesn’t want to learn or grow, then they won’t learn or grow. It’s that simple. Be willing to listen to your team and figure out what’s going on to cause unsettledness.
  • Don’t punish failure
    • Although finding the root cause of a problem is a proper investigation, punishing employees for failure will lead to apathetic employees. Mistakes are essential to learning. When one makes a mistake, management should sincerely guide the employee and encourage him or her with support. This approach develops genuine trust and a strong sense of responsibility in the employee.

      Development is not often a one-to-one ratio. Putting an employee into a higher role or training them for one can often lead to some stumbles. Even the most practice and preparedness cannot lead to zero mistakes. Experts make mistakes, too. Therefore, if you dedicated an exponential amount of time to developing an employee, don’t take that as creating and instilling perfection. Growing from mistakes is just as important to development as training.
  • Set clear objectives and expectations
    • Employees should know what is expected of them. If goals are not clear, assumptions can be interpreted in several ways based on perception. Once the employee understands the objectives and expectations, the desired outcome is more accurately aligned with the overall strategy.

      Development opportunities should not be hidden tests or sneaky programs. It should be a straightforward process. Let the employee know the growth you want them to learn and work on so they can be a part of the process.