As the unemployment rate has dropped, attracting talent has become increasingly difficult. To set themselves apart from competitors in this climate, businesses must craft and maintain strong employer brands that catch candidates’ attention.

Determining your employer branding strategy takes careful thought, planning, and consistency. For your employer brand to attract the right talent, it needs to speak to what workers want from their jobs.

So, what do workers want? Some employer brands emphasize fun office spaces, work/life balance, and killer company cultures. These are certainly standout attributes associated with engaging and positive work environments, but top employees want more.

According to a Gallup poll, 87 percent of millennials and 69 percent of non-millennials strongly value employee development opportunities. It follows, then, that a company with a reputation for employee development would be a company for which many candidates would want to work.

Start With Your Current Employees

If you want to be known as an employer that invests in employee development, start with your current employees. Remember that employees, like customers, talk. If your current staff members feel supported in their professional journeys, they’ll spread the word to their networks.

As a bonus, employees with access to professional development opportunities are less likely to stagnate in their jobs. This helps keep engagement and excitement high. So, not only do professional development programs attract new hires, but they also help retain existing employees!

Here are just a few ways to bring development opportunities to your organization:

In-House Training

Training is not only essential for new employees to learn the ropes of their jobs, but it can also be a useful development tool throughout the employee life cycle. According to one survey, 51 percent of employees feel training improves their self-confidence.

If you want to become an employee development powerhouse, go beyond the initial training sessions you give while onboarding new hires. Establish mentorship programs, offer free online training classes, and host workshops. In addition to company- and job- specific training, consider providing more generalized trainings to help employees build skills they can leverage in a variety of contexts. This will certainly give your company an edge over other organizations, which often only provide employees with training on an as-needed basis.

Increased Responsibilities

Once an employee has a firm handle on their duties, it can be easy for them to tune out. They start going through the motions, slowly losing engagement until, one day, they decide to jump ship for a more challenging and exciting role somewhere else.

To further brand yourself as an employer that prioritizes employee development, be open to giving employees who have demonstrated mastery of their roles more responsibility. Not only will this keep existing employees engaged, but it will also show prospective candidates that your company actively assists its workers as they strive to climb the corporate ladder.

You can also consider setting up a job rotation program. This can help employees develop skills outside of their specialized roles, and it is particularly useful for employees who have mastered their jobs but aren’t quite ready for a promotion just yet.

Education Assistance

Offering education assistance by paying for a portion of your employees’ education-related expenses is an attractive benefit. Not only does it allow employees to pursue their own interests and further their educations, but it also helps you build a more knowledgeable, qualified, and skilled workforce with minimal effort. Employees get the training and education they need outside the office — you just help them foot the bill.

How to Promote Your Development Opportunities

Your employer brand can be promoted through a variety of channels, and you should be ready to take advantage of all of them to tell candidates about the professional development opportunities you offer.

Start by encouraging employees to spread the word to their friends and acquaintances. Incentivize them to share reviews on sites like Glassdoor and posts on social media highlighting professional development at your company. That way, your employer brand will be on people’s radars even if they’ve never directly interacted with your business.

Job descriptions and advertisements are also great ways to promote your company’s commitment to professional development. Draft engaging and easy-to-read ads that showcase the development programs you offer, and share them on your website and your company’s social media pages.

During interviews, make professional development a key topic of conversation. Discuss how employee development has benefited your current workforce, and be sure to give clear examples. Ask candidates what kind of development they’re looking for, and then explain all the ways your company can meet their needs.

Rachel Blakely-Gray is a content writer at Patriot Software, LLC.

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