What is a Workforce Development Program?

Posted by Des Sinkevich on January 29, 2020

Today, offering opportunities for career advancement and training is more important than ever. It’s not enough for a company to offer standard benefits to attract talented new hires; while everyone wants a competitive 401k match, healthcare, and paid time off, more and more workers are looking to companies that also offer education benefits. Having a comprehensive training and education program can also impact current employees. In fact, 45% of workers say they’d stay at a company longer if that company invested in their education and career growth.


If your organization is looking to increase retention rates and be competitive when attracting new hires, focusing on workforce development is a must. But what is workforce development? How do you implement a training program in your organization? Here’s what you need to know.


Read more: 7 Ways Education Benefits are a Win-Win for Companies and Employees


People working on large computer monitor.

What is workforce development

Workforce development is the practice of offering training, education, and career development opportunities to workers. However, workforce development shouldn’t be confused with job training. It’s not designed to give employees the basic skills they need just to do their jobs; the goal is to enable long-term success for both the employee and the organization.


A workforce development program is a systematic approach to applying workforce development strategies. Usually administered with the help of a learning partner, the workforce development program meets the needs of both the employees and the business through continuous training and development.


Employers may use workforce development programs to strengthen their talent pipeline, retain employees or increase employee satisfaction. Companies that offer education and training benefits tend to have higher retention and employee satisfaction. In fact, organizations that focus on workforce development priorities can see retention rates as much as 34% higher than companies that don’t offer these opportunities.


What is the difference between training and workforce development?

Training generally refers to the basics that employees need to know to do the job they were hired to do. New hire training, training when there’s updates or new processes, or refreshing job skills could all fall under the category of “job training.”


Workforce development, however, is focused on teaching skills and knowledge that may be outside the realm of standard “job training.” That means skills that could help workers advance in their careers, qualify for promotions, or even start a new career in a different role. Workforce development training could be short, structured training sessions on specific topics or involve taking classes and earning a degree or diploma.


Choosing the right learning partner

Workforce development programs offer plenty of benefits for both employers and employees. Some benefits include

  • Increased retention rates. When you invest in your employees, they’re more invested in the company. 94% of employees say they’d stay longer with a company if that company invested in their learning and development.
  • Increased employee satisfaction. Investing in your employees’ careers can increase employee satisfaction overall. If they feel that they matter to the company and are given the skills they need to succeed, they’re more likely to be happier with their role and employer.
  • Career advancement opportunities. Offering a workforce development program can allow dedicated employees to grow with the company, advancing their careers and building a strong, loyal internal leadership team.
  • Increased customer satisfaction. When employees are happy and confident in their roles, that happiness can positively impact customer satisfaction. Workers are better able to do their jobs, leading to shorter wait times, less confusion, and better service overall.


Read more: Education Benefits Can Bring Long-Term ROI


How to create a workforce development plan

When creating a workforce development plan for your business, start with the goal you want to achieve. Then seek out the tools and partnerships to make it possible.


Don’t just focus on the skills employees need today, job training should handle that. Look at the skills they’ll need in the coming months and years as your business evolves. Consider career pathways and identify the development of educational opportunities necessary for the employee to earn a promotion.


Follow these steps to create a workforce development plan that works:

  • Set your goals. Get clear on what you want to accomplish. What do employees need to know? These goals should be tied to your strategic goals for the organization as a whole.
  • Assess employee level of knowledge. Avoid training for training’s sake by first assessing what employees already know and where there’s room for improvement. You can do this through testing, observation or interviewing of employees and management.
  • Find a training partner. Look for a partner who can customize their training and development tools to the needs of your employees and your business. They should provide skills assessments, flexible access to online tools and open communication so you can track employee progress through the program.
  • Assess and modify. Like any plan you make for your business your workforce development plan may require adjustments along the way. Monitor employees and business performance to identify ways to make things even better.


Read more: How to Design an Effective Workforce Development Program with Penn Foster


Choosing the right learning partner

Both small and large organizations – and everywhere in between – can benefit from outsourcing their workforce development to a trusted partner. By working with an education partner to offer training, education, and pathways toward certification, you can build a robust and effective program that not only meets the needs of your organization, but also meets the expectations of valued employees. When choosing the right learning partner, consider things like

  • Experience. There are new digital training and education apps and startups popping up every day – but when you’re offering a program through your organization, you want to make sure that the company you’re partnering with has experience and knows what they’re doing.
  • Their reputation and results. Does the parnter you’re considering have demonstrated results and a strong industry reputation? Workforce development can be a large investment and you want to make sure you’re getting a good return on that investment.
  • Their offerings. Not every learning partner has a broad portfolio of training and education programs. When choosing the right partner for your organization, make sure that that partner offers the courses and programs that align with your goals.
  • Flexibility. You want to create a program that works for your specific needs. With that in mind, it’s important to work with a partner that offers flexibility and customization with its training programs so you – and your employees – can get the most out of a workforce development initiative.


Read more: How to Improve Workforce Training Through Microlearning


Build a workforce development program with Penn Foster

Penn Foster works with thousands of partners, from high schools and colleges to staffing agencies, nonprofits, and employers across a variety of industries to offer self-paced, online training. Through partnership with Penn Foster, your organization can build an effective workforce development program that allows your employees to confidently work towards a new career path, career advancement, or industry-recognized credentials. With configurable solutions for any business need and a proven record of success, Penn Foster can help you increase your retention rates, grow your business, and attract talented workers in today’s labor market! To learn more about creating a workforce development program, reach out to our training experts today.