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In celebration of National Career Development Association’s National Career Development Day, we wanted to mark the occasion with a blog post dedicated to the importance of career development and remind organizations to invest in more structured career development platforms for their employees.

According to a study conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2012), individuals hold an average of 11.3 jobs between the ages of 18 and 46 years old. While this may be surprising to older generations where it was common for someone to begin and end a career at the same company, many employees see job-hopping as the best opportunity for growth and material gain. Particularly in an environment where the economy has been blamed for a number of pay freezes and lack of budget for career development, employees may feel like the only way to move up is to move on.

Although this job-hopping mentality has become more common, smart organizations recognize this trend and take counteractions to foster an atmosphere of growth where employees are able to recognize the opportunities for gain and advancement that exist within the organization. They help employees chart a path that may carry them through the entirety of their working life, knowing that when they hire an employee, it’s benefitting both the employee and employer if this new position is seen as a career and not simply a job.

The Importance of Seeing a Career as Stages of Development This idea of looking at an employee’s career as a whole and designing different sets of formal training, developmental activities, and relationships at each stage is known as career development (Noe, 2010). This is the evolution of thinking about improving employee performance. Traditional training programs focus on improving specific competencies related to the employee’s current job, employee development programs target skills, knowledge, and behaviors that better prepare the employee for future positions; career development encompasses both training and development.

The combination of specific job training, employee development, and a more complete career development plan requires a high level of strategic thinking and planning; such an overarching plan cannot be expected to come from the employee. It takes strong direction and broad perspective to be able to recognize what training and developmental experiences are necessary for employees to grow in their positions so that they fit in the organizational hierarchy and support the organizational vision. While this might require some level of investment on the part of the organization, understanding and supporting career development, impacts the organization’s ability to attract and retain high performance employees, a combination that can lead to an organization-wide competitive advantage.

Why is Career Development So Important for Organizations?

Why is Career Development So Important for Organizations?

  • Attracting top talent: Although the recently the US has been faced with a tight job market, in competitive fields employers must focus their efforts on attracting the top talent. Competitive employment packages that go beyond traditional compensation and benefits can be key to their success. Research shows that career prospects and learning opportunities are influencing factors when potential employees are choosing between job offers (Barbeite & Maurer, 2002). In addition employees who perceive their employer to provide career growth opportunities show a greater commitment to their organizations (Mikkelsen, Saksvik, Eriksen, & Ursin, 1999).
  • Job satisfaction: Employees who participate in required training courses and worked-based development activity during work time reported higher job satisfaction and organizational commitment (Birdi, Allan, & Warr 1997). These findings can be explained by social-exchange theory, which posits that employees will remain with and work harder for an organization if the organization shows it values the employees by taking on the responsibility of shaping their career (Aguinis & Kraiger, 2009).
  • Retaining employees/reducing turnover: Through organizational commitment, career development opportunities help to retain employees and thus prevents turnover. When estimates of the costs involved in replacing a skilled employee have been reported to be as high as 150% of that employee’s salary retention of quality employees is a strong business decision.
  • Productivity and Financial Returns: Employers can also increase productivity and financial returns by investing in their employees via career development. Perceived growth opportunities offered by an employer have been linked to higher job performance and lower turnover (Kraimer, Seibert, Wayne, Liden, & Bravo, 2011), which, as discussed above, contributes to higher quality products and prevents monetary loss due to turnover. Moreover, evidence suggests a positive relationship between financial performance and organizations that encourage and support continuous knowledge acquisition and dissemination (Ellinger, Ellinger, Yang, & Howton (2002).

 Because organizations have to stay current in technology, business practices, and in advances in their industry, an organization that embraces career development processes can keep employees informed of advancements and maintain their competitive edge in the market.

  1. Aguinis, H., & Kraiger, K. (2009). Benefits of training and development for individuals and teams, organizations, and society. Annual Review of Psychology,60, 451–474. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.60.110707.16350
  2. Barbeite, F., & Maurer, T. (2002, April). Importance of learning and development opportunity to job choice decisions. Presented at the annual conference of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
  3. Birdi, K., Allan, C., & Warr, P. (1997). Correlates and outcomes of four types of employee development activity. Journal of Applied Psychology, 82 (6), 845-857.
  4. Bureau of Labor Statistics News Release. (2012). Number of jobs held, labor market activity, and earnings growth among the youngest baby boomers: Results from a longitudinal survey. Retrieved from :
  5. Ellinger, A.D., Ellinger, A.E., Yang, B., & Howton, S. (2002). The relationshiop between the learning organization concept and firm’ financial performance: An empirical assessment. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 13 (1), 5-21.
  6. Kraimer, M., Seibert, S., Wayne, S., Liden, R., & Bravo, J. (2011). Antecedents and outcomes of organizational support for development: The critical role of career opportunities. Journal of Applied Psychology, 96(3), 485-500.
  7. Mikkelsen, A., Saksvik, P., Eriksen, H., & Ursin, H. (1999). The impact of learning opportunities and decision authority on occupational health. Work & Stress, 13 (1), 20-31.
  8. Noe, R. (2010). Employee Training and Development Fifth Edition. New York, New York: McGraw-Hill Irwin.
  9. West, M., & Nicholson, N. (1989). The Outcomes of Job Change. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 34,335 349.

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