Professional development opportunities are a great benefit for modern companies seeking to retain A players. When employees have room to grow, they’re also likely to stay. This could significantly reduce turnover and improve how employees engage with their daily work.

This leads to the ultimate question: What’s the measurable impact of having these opportunities?

Better Buys conducted exclusive research, surveying more than 2,000 employees, to discover how professional development impacts engagement and retention. With the rise of people analytics, understanding an organization’s employees has risen to new levels. Offering professional development opportunities especially affects managers, who were our primary demographic when conducting our survey.

Key Findings:

  • 78% of employees have access to professional development.
  • 92% of employees think having access to professional development was important or very important.
  • Tuition reimbursement is the second most desired professional development opportunity by employees but ranked fourth for what employers offer.
  • Employees with professional development opportunities are 15% more engaged.
  • Employees with professional development opportunities have 34% higher retention.

State of Professional Development

Better Buys asked employees about what kinds of professional development opportunities their employers currently offer them, and which ones they highly valued. Here’s what we found:

The “other” category included shadowing, mentorships, certifications and specialized conferences.

Key Takeaway: Employers who haven’t offered tuition reimbursement may want to consider it. As third on the list for what employers are offering, it ranks second on the list for how employees value it and shows the biggest gap between what’s offered vs. what’s valued.

Importance of Professional Development

In our survey, we found that 78% of respondents have access to professional development opportunities.

Even among employees who aren’t offered professional development opportunities, an extraordinary amount believe they’re a big deal. In fact, we found 92% of employees think having opportunities is either important or very important.

Key Takeaway: Employers who don’t offer professional development opportunities are missing what’s important to the vast majority of employees. Offer these benefits to align with what top talent is searching for and stand out with recruitment.

Impact on Engagement

A significant finding from our survey is the relationship between engagement and having professional development opportunities. Other surveys have found that 87% of companies struggle with employee engagement.

Employees without opportunities ranked themselves 3.7/5 on average for engagement while those with opportunities ranked themselves 4.3/5 on average. That’s a 15% difference in engagement.

Key Takeaway: To increase engagement, offer professional development opportunities. Engagement is also linked to higher productivity and can improve a company’s culture.

Impact on Retention

Our survey also investigated the effect of professional development opportunities on retention. The goal for today’s employers is to keep lasting talent. Providing access to professional development opportunities is a great way to both attract applicants and support the growth of employees in a new workplace.

We found there’s a 34% higher retention rate comparing those with opportunities compared to those without. 75% of employees with opportunities are likely to stay for another five years, while 56% of employees without opportunities are likely to stay for another five years.

We also found those with opportunities have an 87% higher rate of retention when low engagement is also a factor. When employees are unengaged but do have access to opportunities, 28% claim they will stay five years. When employees are unengaged and also don’t have access to opportunities, only 15% claim they will stay five years.

So especially when engagement is lacking, professional development opportunities make a significant impact on retention.

Key Takeaway: This is a big difference that employers should not overlook. If there is an issue with low engagement, offering professional development opportunities adds a significant boost to retention. This can save on the cost of turnover, and may outweigh the cost of offering the benefits.


Today’s organizations are faced with many options for investing back into their people, and it’s becoming a more common expectation.

We found that employers who offer their employees professional development opportunities experience higher retention and engagement. Especially when engagement is low, retention is positively affected by having these opportunities to reduce turnover. Reasonably, the cost of offering new perks and benefits must be viewed with a return on the investment, and the return on these opportunities is through engagement and retention.

With modern analytics, the outcome of an assortment of decisions can be accurately tracked through data. Measuring the impact of talent has shifted many HR departments into tech-centered roles for this reason so that recruiting and training yields results.

Offering professional development opportunities gives employees a chance to grow with the company and value their job more than they might otherwise. The expectation of having access to these opportunities is likely to stick around as businesses realize the results.



Better Buys surveyed a variety of industry-based managers through an internal email database. Survey results reflect this audience and their self assessments on having access to professional development opportunities, their engagement levels ranked on a scale of one to five, and a yes or no response indicating whether they envisioned themselves at their current company for another five years. The survey was sent to over a million professionals and garnered just over 2,000 responses.