Professional Development in the Human-Centric Workplace

by Sheila Mulholland
February 22, 2023

Learning and development initiatives have more impact than ‘simply’ upskilling the existing workforce. The consequences for employee retention are clear: Employees who do not feel that they are being supported in growing their skills and career at their current company are more likely to depart.

In designing a workplace environment that puts human needs at its core, leaders need to consider more than daily staff responsibilities. Although benefits like PTO and health insurance remain key levers in attracting new talent, it’s often worth the investment to offer candidates professional perks that don’t involve compensation.

As Kellogg of South Asia discovered in the course of revising their employee value proposition (EVP), the organization needed to connect with candidates who closely aligned with Kellogg’s own values, which Kellogg wisely highlighted in their revamped EVP. Those candidates who are a fit arrive on the job already receptive to further connection efforts within Kellogg via learning and development initiatives.

Revamp Your Employee Value Proposition

An organization’s EVP is a term used to refer to the holistic set of tangible and intangible perks that a business offers to employees. 

An EVP is more than just a quick statement, and modern businesses can and do add their spins for more appeal to prospective applicants. There are as many ways to craft an EVP as there are organizations, so locate many examples of different tones, moods, or benefits. Look at organizations in your industry, as well as others outside of your space, for inspiration.

Nike, for example, uses their EVP — “We lead. We invent. We deliver. We use the power of sport to move the world.” — to showcase their position as a market leader in the athletic equipment space, and to match the go-getting energy of their incoming hires. 

Meanwhile, AirBnB highlights values of inclusivity and diversity, stating their services (and employees) “create a world where anyone can belong anywhere,” a moving and inspiring appeal.

Mind the (Skill) Gaps of the Digital Imperative 

After clarifying your EVP, it’s worth addressing skill gaps within the current workforce. The human-focused workplace views these gaps as opportunities to be wisely navigated, not liabilities to be discharged. 

Plainly put, in 2023 technological literacy is vital to success. The organization must implement technologies that work well with its processes, and the employees who execute those processes must be comfortable working with any modern solution that satisfies business requirements. This requires a median level of digital skill — if your team is lagging, it is critical to provide training on basic technologies, as well as training for specific tasks. 


Make A Realistic Assessment of Skill Gaps 

It is tempting (albeit erroneous) to divide the workforce into skill groups based on age, presuming that the ‘digital natives’ now graduating and entering the workforce are completely comfortable with technology, and older employees will always be behind. The smarter solution is to assess each group’s needs realistically; while older workers may need assistance with technology, they’re often better in terms of soft skills that recent grads haven’t yet had time to develop.  

Good training initiatives have content geared toward all levels and learning styles, without assumptions. Encourage positive work environments to let learners flourish free of judgment, as well as to improve team morale and help to reduce turnover. When everyone knows that they’re supported in learning the skills they need to succeed, more people will elect to begin upskilling.  


Custom Tailor Training Program

Another way you might want to tweak your employee training and development programs is to allow for a higher degree of customization and employee-led learning. When training initiatives are tailored to the needs of the individual employee (in terms of content, as above, but also in terms of format, presentation, accessibility, etc), it helps the organization to address issues of inequity, incentivize engagement, and boost workers’ confidence, not to mention feelings of agency.  


Riot Games Defeats Social Engineering With Training 

Some organizations have seen that tailor-made training programs are dramatically more effective for addressing rising issues. The video game developer Riot leveraged their custom training programs to forestall a pressing security concern: an increased social engineering threat landscape, with human risk and human interaction as the crucial factor.  

Realizing that existing training methods didn’t go far enough, Riot devised educational materials that smartly detect and deploy the courses most helpful for particular employees — e.g., an employee who does not use multi-factor authentication will receive training content that demonstrates why authentication matters.

Riot’s program has yielded fantastic results, with the video game maker now boasting one of the highest security training completion rates in their industry. With plentiful, easily accessible, easy-to-tailor text-based course offerings, every Riot employee who completes the training represents a potential cybersecurity loophole closed. 

Leadership Training As A Retention Tactic 

Without a steady supply of rising leadership, even strong organizations falter. Management is tasked with facilitating this supply through various means, among them the creation of a workplace environment and culture where nascent leadership talents are fostered (ideally to the point of stepping up and providing the organization with one’s expertise in turn). 

It is much easier to develop existing employees’ leadership talents than to pay the often premium prices of recruiting and onboarding from other sources. However, current employees must not only feel supported in this endeavor, but they must also see a clear pathway to success. 

Create Pools of Talent From Within   

Consider bundling leadership training into your regular employee development offerings, either as a stand-alone course or a voluntary add-on. This allows you to identify candidates with the drive needed to lead, and then steep those candidates in the tailored training programs that impart your organization’s style of leadership and institutional knowledge. The end result is a strong pool of talent for future promotions from within. 



An entirely human-focused workplace doesn’t exist just yet, but the strategies above lay out how such a work environment might look and feel in terms of professional development and training. Organizations and leaders who put forth the effort to authentically attempt even one suggestion will find their work becomes easier, their projects smoother, and their incoming talent that much more inspired.


– Sheila Mullholand

Staff Writer

26+ Years in IT Placements & Staffing Solutions


1030 W Higgins Rd, Suite 230
Park Ridge, IL 60068


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