Many companies struggle to find and retain the right talent to help their businesses grow. The average person will change jobs eleven times in their career. Yet, few companies have focused on employee development as a way to drive engagement and mitigate the prospects of turnover. As an employer, you need to ensure you are creating a culture of learning and enhancing the collective capability and productivity of your workforce. In the current economic climate, this is even truer. Losing valuable talent to the competition is one of the biggest challenges businesses face today which undermines business continuity and increases recruitment costs.

Looking at employees, many of whom began their career in the recession and it is, arguably, easy to see why many workers feel undervalued and vulnerable in their positions. Look at the best young workers in your team. They likely studied hard, perhaps led a sports team or were involved in socials, and maybe played an instrument. In addition, they were surrounded by mentors in their teachers, coaches and parents, all of whom were invested in their success and encouraged them to be achieve (and maintain) their full potential. After graduation, maybe there was an internship or an entry-level job they outgrew. Then they joined a company that promised challenges and a chance to reach their full potential—the hallmark of a strong employer brand.

But for many, despite the time and money spent recruiting them, a significant portion of such high-potential employees are languishing in their cubicles. Their path to promotion—let alone toward the C-suite—is fuzzy at best. It’s common for them to feel unappreciated and under-valued.

It’s not that today’s employees require special attention, or that 21st-century corporations are especially cold. The problem is that the management of talent in most companies has changed dramatically in the last decade. Research by the Aberdeen Group, release in 2011, showed the only 19% of companies were investing in formal career development for their employees. Perhaps this is understandable given the economic climate. However, Futurestep Korn/Ferry’s recent Innovation Imperative survey (June 2013), showed that 72% of job candidates expect employ­ers to help develop their career skills by using inventive approaches, such as mobile or digital tools. Even more disconcerting for employers is the fact that 41% of employees would consider leaving their company if they didn’t receive first-class development.

High-potential talent expects mentorship from management, formal development offerings and a clear outline for success. The sad reality is that many managers lack the time, skill and interest to develop employees. Only 30% of employees think that their current company is innovative in how they develop people – and most employees lack the resources needed to guide their career path. Talent development has been consistently pushed aside for more urgent matters over the last decade. But as research indicates and as many busi­nesses have experienced, if companies don’t make it a priority, they will lose their high-potential talent.

Yet, by taking some simple steps, and making a conscious effort and visible effort to ensure that their workforces’ needs are being fulfilled, companies can curb employee turnover and give power back to their employees.

The majority of employees do not have an actionable development plan – they may know where they are going career-wise but they are not at all clear on the steps and learning opportunities that will accelerate their progress. Career development and internal mobility strategies play an increasingly important role in a growing number of today’s global workforce, organisations need to innovate their talent management practices to drive increased productivity, retain staff and ultimately, ensure successful execution of organisation’s business strategy.

One way of achieving this is by shifting the power balance and giving employees actionable ownership of their career development plan. Employees need to feel that they are in charge of their development and not at the mercy of their manager’s time, interest or skill.  A well-designed and executed career development programme is they key in retaining the best talent – but employers need to equip their employees with tools that enable such level of engagement.

Alongside transferring power to the employee in the development relationship, employee engagement needs to move beyond engagement studies which are rarely acted upon. It is no longer enough to simply schedule yearly reviews which are rarely acted upon, or ask employees about their ideal career development plan without implementing it. Businesses need to engage with the newest, most user friendly forms of HR technology available to deliver talent insights and analytics.

Leveraging mobile platforms and concepts such as “Bring Your Own Device” (aka BYOD) will help improve employee engagement and professional development. Focusing on solutions that facilitate the creation of “actionable” development plans, which provides a complete career roadmap available anytime from any device, will help executive-level successors and targeted high-potentials close professional development gaps and increase their overall readiness.  It would still be the responsibility of the company to nurture its growth but such power shift will put the power in the hands of the employee and allow them to have a degree of control of their own progression, thus making them feel a part of an organisation that cares about and listens to their needs.

In today’s challenging business environment steps needs to be taken to maintain a competitive advantage. By implementing an agile and innovative approach to employee development and replacing antiquated employee career development methods by making it a two-way process, organisations and their staff will reap the benefits of an engaged workforce and business results.

Dave Marzo, Vice President and General Manager, Talent Solutions at Korn/Ferry International Futurestep