Over the past two decades, there has been a major paradigm shift in the conceptualisation of workforce development for the alcohol and other drugs (AOD) sector. Foremost, in this regard, is the shift towards a systems approach. Unlike more traditional approaches, which predominantly address the immediate education and training needs of individual workers, a systems approach is broad and comprehensive and targets individual, organisational and structural factors. It also incorporates issues such as innovation dissemination and systems redesign. This paradigm shift and its implications for workers, services and sectors are outlined. Then, an overview of the background, historical and contextual factors impacting current approaches to workforce development is provided. This is followed by a description of changes in the theoretical understandings of effective workforce development which prompted the paradigm shift. A range of factors impacting at the global and individual worker level are then described, such as the impacts of changes to AOD prevention and intervention approaches. Then, a number of aspects of contemporary approaches to workforce development are described, specifically: worker well-being; workforce planning; leadership and management; worker recruitment and retention; effective learning environments; and training. Finally, an example of the application of a systems approach to workforce development is provided in the form of Australia’s National Alcohol and other Drug Workforce Development Strategy 2015–2018.