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Hannah Taylor

Empowering Your Workforce: A Guide to Workforce Development

For a resilient, thriving workforce that has all the skills needed to be competitive - now, and in the future - invest in workforce development.

You have goals for your business. Big goals. That’s great! But do you have the right talent in your workforce to help you achieve those lofty goals? Building a highly skilled workforce is no easy task, yet it is essential to long-term business success. That means investing in workforce development.

Workforce development not only ensures your employees’ skills align with the needs of the business, boosting profit, productivity, and scalability, but also supports individual career development and job satisfaction. It’s a win-win result.

In this guide to workforce development, we’ll be exploring what ‘workforce development’ means, what it looks like in practice, and why it’s so important, now more than ever, to invest in your workforce’s continuous learning. Let’s get started.

What is workforce development?

An approach to enhancing workers' skills based on the needs of individual companies and local communities, workforce development is the bedrock of continuous business success and economic growth.

‘Workforce development’ can refer to local government initiatives aimed at upskilling the labor market, reducing unemployment, and driving economic growth, such as apprenticeship schemes and incentives to businesses to provide training.

In this guide, we’ll be focusing on the importance of workforce development in individual organizations, where the goal is to provide all the training and development opportunities necessary to enhance employees’ skill levels, increase productivity, and improve job satisfaction.

Workforce development and workforce planning

Workforce development is a critical part of the workforce planning process, helping businesses put a plan in place to fill any identified skill gaps and support workers’ career ambitions through training and education. With the support of workforce planning tools, you can figure out what training options will be most effective.

Why is workforce development so important in 2024?

One mistake leaders make over and over again is underestimating the value of continuous learning. Yes, you hire people based on their proven expertise, but by continually investing in their training and education, you can unlock their full potential. 

Bearing that in mind, why is it so pressing that businesses begin taking workforce development seriously now, in 2024? There are three key reasons:

  • Technological advancements: It’s no secret that technology is advancing faster than ever before, with AI and automation changing the way we work across all industries. Workforce development ensures employees are appropriately trained to work with new technologies and increase human capital by developing roles that are less likely to become redundant in years to come.
  • Economic resilience: Organizations across the globe have felt the impact of economic downturns in recent years. Workforce development ensures businesses remain competitive by creating agile workforces able to adapt to changing market needs and support the global economy.
  • Employee retention and satisfaction: Following the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been greater awareness of how offering training and development can positively impact employee satisfaction and retention. When unable to access training and development, employees are faced with a decision: stay in their role and risk stagnation or explore new roles elsewhere. According to Gallup, employees who are able to develop continually are twice as likely to commit to spending their career with their employer. A people-first approach to business development, workforce development prioritizes employees' needs, treating individuals as valuable assets worth investing in.

Why should organizations invest in workforce development programs?

Workforce development is powerful. There’s certainly no denying that! You may be wondering about the day-to-day return on investment your business can see by prioritizing your workforce’s training and education. We believe you should invest in workforce development programs because they deliver:

  • Higher productivity: Highly-trained, highly motivated employees will work more efficiently and effectively, producing higher quality outputs.
  • Increased innovation: Constant learners are more likely to bring new ideas to the table, supporting innovation in a business landscape that demands adaptability.
  • Future readiness: Keeping your employees up-to-date with market trends, technologies, and specific industry practices helps future-proof your business.
  • Happier employees: Building a motivated workforce includes treating your workers like the assets they are rather than numbers on a spreadsheet. Offering training programs shows your willingness to invest in their careers, increasing job satisfaction.
  • Reduced turnover: Job satisfaction is directly related to turnover. Employees who feel their employers value their input are more likely to display loyalty.
  • Attract the best talent: Many job seekers look for workplaces that encourage continuous learning and development. By offering such benefits, your company will attract top talent.

8 types of workforce development programs

If you understand the value of workforce development but are still unsure where to get started, we’ve got you covered. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of workforce development strategies you should consider when investing in skills management:

1. On-the-job training

On-the-job training is a tried and true method of upskilling workers or reacting to the results of skills gap analysis. On-the-job training is focused on improving the specific skills employees need to excel in their current roles and is delivered during office hours. 

On-the-job skills training can include:

  • Shadowing a colleague
  • Receiving one-on-one guidance from a manager
  • Working short-term with another team
  • Training in new tools and technologies

For example, a team of graphic designers may receive on-the-job training when learning a new design technology.

2. Reskilling-focused boot camps

Boot camps are intensive, immersive sessions intended to teach workers new skills — quickly. Skills boot camps may last a week or several months, depending on the complexity of the topic being taught, offering employees a chance to access dedicated training sessions led by subject matter experts. 

Such programs are particularly helpful for reskilling workers (helping workers develop the necessary skills for the future of work). For example, in a constantly evolving field like technology, boot camps are a time-efficient way to train the workforce in new software or processes en masse, ensuring they’re ready to meet new business needs with minimal delays.

3. Leadership development programs

Being a good leader requires a unique skill set, including strategic thinking, team management, interpersonal skills, and more. Leadership programs help prepare future leaders to take on this challenge and ensure current leaders continue to use effective and healthy approaches.

4. Certification programs and professional development courses

Role or skill-specific certification programs and professional development courses validate a worker’s expertise in specific subjects or technical skills, opening them up to new career opportunities.

Many roles require candidates to hold specific certifications or qualifications, such as:

  • Project Management Professional (PMP)®
  • SHRM Certified Professional
  • Harvard X’s Data Science Certification
  • Google Data Analytics Professional Certificate
  • OSHA safety certifications

5. Wellness programs

A slight departure from the rest of our list, wellness programs teach employees to manage their well-being at work. While not directly related to skill-specific development, providing workers with strategies to support their mental health, physical well-being, and stress effectively will go a long way to building a happy, engaged, and motivated workforce.

6. Career advancement for succession planning 

When key business roles are set to be unfilled, either due to departures or retirements, you need to fill them quickly. Career advancement training prepares an employee to take over these responsibilities, ensuring a smooth transition.

7. Conflict resolution training

We’ve all experienced conflict in the workplace. What’s important is how disagreement or adversity is dealt with.

Conflict resolution training teaches workers to manage disputes effectively, focusing on facilitating open communication and practicing empathy. Diffusing disputes isn’t just about problem-solving skills but teamwork and mutual respect.

8. Diversity and inclusion training

Providing diversity and inclusion training programs is non-negotiable in 2024. Everyone deserves to feel safe at work and respected by their colleagues, and D&I training is integral to building a workplace that champions diversity, challenges biases, and supports disadvantaged workers.

D&I training helps address workers’ unconscious biases and creates an inclusive, supportive environment for everyone. In turn, this helps employers attract diverse talent.

Workforce development success stories

So, what does this advice look like in practice? Countless companies have seen great success when implementing a workforce development program. Let’s look at some real-world employer examples.

Capital Group

Capital Group, a financial services firm, believes prioritizing long-term employee growth is the key to retaining talent and consistently meeting clients’ needs.

What sets Capital Group apart from its competitors is its Technology Rotational Experience (TREx) program. This career development program lasts 25 months and allows employees to explore roles in multiple IT teams. In fostering a culture of learning and providing the opportunity to work with new teams and explore new technologies, Capital Group allows its workers to develop their careers without having to move companies.

Capital Group also offers:

  • Boot camps
  • Expertise courses
  • A talent marketplace supporting career mobility


CGI, a global IT and business consulting firm, fostered a culture of continuous learning and mentoring by investing in a third-party workforce development program. After identifying a gap in its workforce’s digital skills, it knew it needed to provide additional training to support young, diverse talent. The training program focused on training new hires on data and technology skills and upskilling its existing employees in people management, core coaching, and mentoring skills.

This strategic investment not only helped future-proof the organization in a digital-first world by developing its employees’ abilities but also improved its recruitment process. As a result, CGI saw a boost in the number of students applying for roles and the number of high-quality applications for its graduate scheme.

How can technology help with workforce development?

We will always shout about the merits of workforce development from the rooftops. But here’s one final tip: you won’t see a great ROI unless you align your development and training plans with your organization’s long-term goals.

That means determining the skill gaps in your organization’s existing workforce. Whether you have a headcount of 20 or 20,000, this can be a time-consuming process. Thankfully, many software tools exist to support skills management.

Runn makes skill tracking easy by laying out your workforce's skills inventory in an easy-to-understand format, from languages and technical abilities to management skills and sector or project experience. You can understand where your team’s expertise lies, including their skill levels, at a glance, informing resource planning and investment in workforce development initiatives.

Try Runn for free and empower your workforce today.

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