As the CEO of a company that delivers technology focused on hiring success, I know far too well the importance of recruiting (and retaining) the best employees. A few months ago, I wrote about hiring for the long haul and 6 tips to find candidates who will stay. Once you've closed and successfully on-boarded your new employee, it's time to focus on their contributions, growth and development.

Each year companies focus time and resources internally to deliver performance reviews, set goals and finalize development plans. For most this is an annual exercise, but the best keep the conversation going throughout the year and emphasize the importance of development by providing real opportunities to grow their teams.

By focusing on effective development activities, managers and leaders can tap into their employees' talents and strengths. While this sounds easy, think about this quote from Marcus Buckingham: "Most people do not use their talent, at work, at all." Pause and think about that statement for 10 seconds.

Many companies provide access to e-learning on topics including project management, software training and technical skills. Some will also provide reimbursement for their employees to attend professional conferences or certifications externally. While these are important and can be effective in some aspects of development, I often remind leaders that on-the-job development accounts for up to 75% of effective learning.

Whether you are in any type of leadership role and have responsibility for a team or are looking to take charge of your career growth, here are 7 approaches to development that will deliver the best growth and impact:

  1. Stretch assignments and projects. Think about what special assignments might exist in the coming months and who on your team would benefit from serving on a cross-functional team while developing additional skills.
  2. Job Enrichment. These opportunities typically exist internally that will benefit an employee's current role, while creating additional ways to develop. Examples could include presentations at team meetings, joining a diversity committee or volunteering.
  3. Mentoring or Coaching. Whether or not your company has a formal mentoring program, start small. Mentoring and coaching provides demonstrated benefits around quality of work, problem solving and communication skills.
  4. Job Shadowing. Job shadowing can be a great way for your employees to learn critical elements of other jobs, while further developing in their own. It is also a great way for employees to more formally explore potential career opportunities internally, yet outside of their current job.
  5. Job Rotation. Providing an opportunity for your team to move and rotate through one or more positions is another great strategy in employee development. Rotations can last for days, months, or even a year or two.
  6. Lateral move. Typically with a lateral move an employee takes on a different position with the same salary grade and similar level of responsibilities. In addition to retaining employees longer, the real benefit of a lateral move provides new challenges and skill development.
  7. Promotions. When executed with the right plan, promoting your employees into a new position is another way to reward great performance, develop skills and increase motivations.

In 2014, the 100 Best Companies to Work For by Great Place to Work put employee development as a top priority, more than any other area. I expect this will remain a top priority and a key focus for many organizations over the coming years as we continue to see the landscape for recruiting great talent become even more competitive.

Not providing growth and developmental opportunities to direct reports and teams can have a lot of consequences. Probably the most damaging is that they decide to find development elsewhere and leave for another opportunity externally.