Investing in staff seems to be a dying practice for organizations. As an employee’s time at a company becomes shorter and shorter (compared to previous generations) I can understand that companies are reluctant to invest in development. Instead I see a lot of other perks like company pool table, catered lunches, pets at work, etc.  And although these can seem attractive, these perks are no replacement for a conflict-free workplace, skilled leadership, or trustworthy management. What often happens is employees are promoted based on technical skill alone and are left to run their teams and departments as they see fit. This is when we see employees quit because of their manager! Creating a desired workplace culture is more than employee perks – it’s the attitude and behaviour of the employees. And while many companies search for employees with these skills already in place, they can be easily squashed if not supported and promoted.

Yes, technical skills are an obvious choice for employee development (e.g. learning a new software), but soft skill training (e.g. interpersonal skills, conflict management, etc.) benefits your business directly. Soft skills encompass a variety of traits that benefit all working relationships like becoming trustworthy, conscientious, self-aware, etc.  Soft skill development also increases abilities like critical thinking, initiative, conflict resolution, time management, leadership, etc.

Both hard and soft skill development should be built into a learning plan. A clear plan on an employee’s development can encourage employees to stay and develop within the same company.   As few people want to work at the same level for extensive amounts of time, laying a path with learning goals (whether skills, attitude or behaviour) gives them a plan to focus on.

Allowing employees to practice their skill development is also important. They can help build and deliver presentations, resolve conflicts internally, implement a new time management system, etc. At one job, we had ‘innovation Friday’ where we were free to explore new ideas on work time every Friday afternoon. Every other week we would present our ideas and what we learned to the team. This was a great way for more senior team members to gain access to new trends and gave junior team members the opportunity to present and speak to mixed level groups.

And while reading books/articles and attending conferences can be effective learning tools it shouldn’t be the only learning that employees do or are encouraged to do.

  • College or Continuing Education courses
  • Industry Association training courses
  • Industry Association events
  • Independent training courses
  • Online training

Marketing this to current and prospective employees is often overlooked but can result in longer term employees, less turnover, increased productivity, etc. if the employee sees value in your perks. Take a closer look at what you offer and ask yourself if you were looking to commit to a company long-term would your company have what it takes to hire and keep you?


Carolyn Bergshoeff is founder of WIndWater Marketing, a small business marketing firm based in Toronto, Canada. Carolyn helps her clients identify and put their best face forward in their marketing. Sometimes it’s their employee culture! Visit or email