Upskilling your employees is always a great idea, especially in a tight labor market. But the investment can seem prohibitively expensive in an environment of rising costs and shrinking budgets. Employee development doesn’t have to be expensive. There are low-cost alternatives to outsourcing the work to third-party vendors or tuition reimbursement programs.


Coaching your employees makes managers less of a boss and more of a coach, which means more frequent check-ins and providing helpful feedback. But during stressful times, it can also mean offering compassion and empathy to your employees, ensuring open channels of communication exist and highlighting resources like employee assistance programs (EAP) when employees need more specialized help. Coaching means you take a personalized and customized approach to your employees’ development, so every employee-coach relationship will look and function differently.

Coaches and employees should develop goals and chart a course towards accomplishing them together. With the extra one-on-one time and attention, employees have a real chance to show their skills and pursue their ambitions.

Mentoring Program

A mentoring program can be a good addition to your employee development efforts. Matching more experienced employees with less experienced employees helps you pair employees based on their current skills, their desired skills or by department. Employees can job shadow and have regular access to someone with the experience they are looking to build. As always, you should set and track goals throughout the program. If this is something you want to implement throughout the company, it’s best to keep track of your progress so you can review it and apply it on a larger scale.

Peer-to-Peer Learning

Not all learning needs to come from the top down; Employees can learn from each other. Peer-to-peer learning allows employees to diversify their skills and close skills gaps like any other employee development program. Employees in different departments can cross-train each other. If you have the ability to offer job rotations, they are an excellent way for employees to get real experience in a different department and role.

Peer-to-peer learning can be on a short-term, long-term or on an as-needed basis. The goal is to give employees experience outside of their regular roles, and training among their peers offers a unique opportunity to forge meaningful relationships.

Special Projects

Giving your employees projects that challenge them is an easy way to help your employees stretch. You can give them real work projects that are higher risk or higher profile than they normally receive. A cross-functional project can give them the opportunity to work with people they don’t normally get to interact with and give them the chance to make connections with company management. Employees can prove themselves on these projects, show their skills and learn from their mistakes in a way they wouldn’t be able to do otherwise.


Here are a few things you should consider, no matter which method of employee development you choose.

  • Focus on behavioral skills.
  • Acknowledge employee anxieties and uncertainties about the unique circumstances we are in.
  • Supplement development initiatives with e-learning or industry trainings like webinars, classes or seminars.
  • Consider the desired outcomes before you begin.
  • Can you quantify the outcomes?
  • How do employee development goals align with business strategy and needs?
  • How will you evaluate goals?
  • How will you hold people accountable?

You’ve probably heard the saying that employees are your most important asset – well, it’s true! When you view your employees as investments, and not as disposable, employee development can happen successfully. Not to mention, it can have positive effects on your business and workforce.

XcelHR offers a full suite of employee development and performance management software that makes it easy for you to create and execute programs that:

  • Boost employee morale
  • Support workforce planning
  • Increase staff retention
  • Deliver greater employee autonomy

See why professional development is important Learn more about performance management