Published on 2012/09/13

Employers Should Take Responsibility for Employee Development

It can be difficult for employers to swallow the costs associated with employee professional development, but ultimately the company benefits when its employees have the capacity to embrace change and innovate.

The question as to who should be responsible for an employee’s professional development is an easy one to answer; it is the Employer. However, the challenges of today’s business climate make the reality of answering the increasingly more complex and difficult for most companies.

Long-term individual development is still the responsibility of the potential employee. But once the individual has been hired, professional development becomes the responsibility of the organization. Although the employee was hired with a certain set of knowledge, skills and abilities, if the roles and responsibilities of the position change—and they will—the employer has a “corporate social responsibility” to invest in their human capital. Employees are investing in their companies by working longer hours, by handling evolving tasks and assuming increased responsibilities. Is it fair to expect the employee to also assume the cost of their professional development?

Organizations that understand the true value of professional development, culture, innovation and creativity also recognize the value of continuously educating their employee base. These organizations are the ones that will be better positioned to adapt to the rapidly changing demands of today’s work environment. Incorporating professional development within the overall corporate strategy, with so many competing interests and tight budgets, is the challenge.

Many organizations have survived by understanding that the investment in talent development is part of their outlay into human capital as it pertains to skill development for job advancement. Less forward thinking organizations believe the investment is part of overall rewards, recognition and retention programs. Some even require a time commitment from employees for the company’s investment in their learning. Professional development may well be a way to reward or recognize good employees, but this is a risky and myopic view.

Most leaders would agree there is a requirement and benefit to developing their employees. Yet this benefit may be hard to quantify; when a company is looking to cut costs, professional development could all too easily become the casualty. Given the economic environment of the past half-decade in particular, we have seen a dramatic decline in organizational employee development investiture. However, if we hope to promote a culture of innovation and creativity, organizations need to look differently at their investment in employee development.

Rypple, an innovative software company, has integrated professional development into its business model. It promotes this philosophy on its website stating: “…. we’re always experimenting and constantly learning. We have a healthy disregard for the “impossible” & “the way things are done”. We practice what we preach”.

We must also consider the cost of NOT developing our people. Do companies that have a record of promoting development get better quality hires? Long-time business leader General Electric boasts the following about its Leadership and Learning Programs: “At GE, learning is more than a classroom activity. It’s how we come together to embrace change, develop skills to change things for the better, and get energized about it all.”

The answer is an easy one. The responsibility to develop employees lies with the employer. How your organization actually solves the question, however, is the real challenge.


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Readers Comments

André Levesque 2012/09/13 at 9:11 am

I get where you’re coming from, in terms of employers benefitting from the specific, job-related continuing learning of employees, but I don’t think we should underestimate the gravity of this learning giving employees pathways to new and better jobs.

I employers should be responsible for paying for employees to attend seminars, workshops and other short-term, topic-specific training opportunities. However, when it comes to advanced degrees, courses and other more formal continuing education, the benefit is more long-term for the employee than short-term for the employer.

As an employer, I don’t want to be financially responsible for making my employees more desirable for other corporations who have the capacity to pay more for their services. I’m more than happy to pay for short-term, topic specific workshops but I don’t want to pay for my employees to build their resumes… at least not without a direct and obvious pay-off to me and my organization.

    Elese 2012/10/20 at 4:08 pm


    I spent 7 years in a company that gave talented people a lot of training — and it was a point of retention not drainage.

    There is a lot of evidence that shows that people respond to learning environments that are challenging and draw on their talents. They are more likely to leave if you don’t supply this than if you do. Especially your most talented.

    This is partly a cost analysis, but it’s good to look behind that to bigger human factors as well. (See Forbes 12.14.11 – “Top Ten Reasons Why Large Companies Fail to Keep their Best Talent”)

    Best to you. Thanks for this article Deta.
    Elese Coit

Joe Minaudo 2012/09/13 at 11:02 am

Great article Deta. Well said. Its certainly a topic that has differing views. I personally agree with you as there is also a certain level of discomfort if left to the employee. For example, as an employee; “what are the questions I should ask? I have an idea of my strengths, weaknesses and where I see myself in 1-3-5 years but how can I achieve that here?”.

As employers, we need to see ourselves as “career shepherds” and take responsibility for informing, guiding and developing. After all, it is why we are put in leadership positions!

Thanks for sharing.

Wheeldo 2013/12/31 at 12:44 pm

Enjoyed the article and agree but like to think that responsibility for employee development is shared between the employer and the employee. This means that employee should also be proactive, search for the opportunities or ask for them. We have recently also written an article about creating an effective employee development plan so we would like to share it and hear your feedback. Thanks.

Kelly Shannon 2014/12/06 at 4:42 pm

-I know it’s an old post, but I just came across this article and couldn’t help mentioning the importance of personal development, with regards to improving productivity, job satisfaction, and performance. Where is the employers responsibility for their employees success outside of work? What’s their reward if they enable their employees to achieve goals in All area’s of an individuals life, and what type of return will they see on their investment? People are the most valuable asset any company will possess. If a person is setting and achieving goals, and effectively managing their relationships, health, finance, and attitude; will that result in a better employee?

abraham roland 2015/12/07 at 1:34 pm

As an employer and a falculty in rolandlead business school i fully support employees continous training and development on the ground that apart from the fact that such development will reflect in the overall performance of the organisation, as employers we need to start considering the development of our employee as part of the vision of the organisation. we need to begin to value our employees more than the product we sell or services we render. your members of staff are your first and most important customers and they have short and longterm expectations, development and being globally relevant is a major part of their goals. when an organisation overcomes the temptation of focusing on the customers and shift its attention to employees as much as they do to customers, the employees will make it a personal goal that their developments reflect on customers satisfaction
i however share the concerns of mr Andre about the possiblity of workers moving to another organisation after such development .however, an employee is more likely to stay in the organisation that took the risk to invest in him if the organisation is growing to accomodate such new acqusition of skills. so the challenge is for the employee to see a future for himself in the organisation.

Bhav Seera 2016/01/05 at 6:55 am

The company I work for provides these training courses and from my stand point, they are definitely helpful because the amount of feedback we get and repeat customers only indicates that these courses leave the delegate with a lot of knowledge and experience. Thinking outside of the immediate box, these training courses provide such a great oppertunity to travel, explore and network between other business figures. The power of face to face training is always going to be strong because human communication can achieve a lot.

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