How to Create a Comprehensive Employee Development Plan

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HR Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for HR pros

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

If your company isn’t prioritizing employee development plans, it should be. Here’s why they are important, and how you can create them.

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How to Create a Comprehensive Employee Development Plan
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One of the biggest challenges that organizations are facing right now is the ability to attract the top talent and retain existing employees. Throw in the ongoing skills gap, and you have a lot to contend with.

Despite this, not enough organizations are prioritizing employee development as a way of attracting and retaining staff. In fact, a recent study found that 59% of employees weren’t being offered any training or development opportunities at work, with most saying that their skills were self-taught.

This is worrying given that over two-thirds (68%) of professionals consider training and development opportunities as an organization’s most important policy. Plus, 70% would be tempted to leave a job that didn’t offer these important opportunities.

It’s clear that organizations need to be doing more if they hope to attract and retain talented professionals. This is where employee development plans come in.

Employee development plans help professionals to progress in their careers, but they also help whole teams can work better together to reach shared goals.

In this article, we’re going to look at what an employee development plan is, why your business should invest time and resources into these processes and how to create these plans for the best results.

What is an employee development plan?

An employee development plan, also known as an employee growth plan, is a roadmap designed to help individual employees improve and expand their skills. They will use this plan to acquire new competencies and knowledge so they can progress in their career and take on new responsibilities.

Every employee development plan must be tailored to the individual employee; this is not a one-size-fits-all process. It must be created with their specific abilities, interests and needs in mind.

Employee development plans can be used to help employees move up within an organization or to take on a bigger leadership role. However, this doesn’t always have to be the case. These plans can be created simply to help bridge the talent gap, encourage employees and boost efficiency across the workplace.

7 benefits of employee development plans

We’ve already briefly touched on some of the benefits of development plans above, but we’re now going to take a deeper look at why you need to be implementing these within your organization.

Employee development plans are mutually beneficial for both individuals and their employers; these can help employees to progress in their careers while ensuring organizations have the most skilled and efficient teams. Some of the other key benefits of development plans include:

  1. Being able to set clear expectations for each of your employees
  2. Identifying which goals or achievements individuals want to meet and creating a roadmap to help them achieve this
  3. Tracking employee progress to see how they’re getting on
  4. Increasing employee engagement and happiness, which improves retention and satisfaction rates
  5. Attracting talented candidates who want to work for a company that takes an interest in their career and growth
  6. Bridging the skills gap
  7. Expanding and growing your business by upskilling and creating the most efficient, driven and innovative workforce

For all of these reasons, you should implement employee development plans across your organization as soon as possible. Or, if you already have a development process in place, consider how you can strengthen this for better results.

9 steps to create your employee development plan

If you want to get the most from your employees while simultaneously helping them to grow and progress in their careers, you need to get the most effective development plans in place.

To help you do this, we’ve pulled together a step-by-step guide for creating and implementing comprehensive employee development plans across your organization.

1. Run a skills gap analysis

If you run a larger business, you won’t be able to create and introduce a development plan for everyone overnight. Therefore, the first thing you need to do is choose a starting point.

To do this, it’s a good idea to conduct a skills gap analysis across the business to determine what skills are missing and who needs to be trained first. You can then focus on these areas, getting plans for training and development in place right away.

2. Identify individuals ready for career and leadership growth

Another important thing you need to do is to identify employees who are eager to grow and take on more responsibility. By focusing your efforts on them in the early stages, they’ll be able to take on additional roles, possibly even their own direct reports, and strengthen your teams right away.

3. Set out employee and company goals

Once you’ve identified the employees you intend to start with, you can begin the process of creating an employee development plan. This process can be repeated each time you create a plan for a new or existing employee.

Start by determining your employee’s needs and the areas in which they want to grow. You can do this by speaking with them directly. After all, a development plan can only go so far without actively involving the employee and tailoring it to their needs.

You must then align their own personal goals with the larger business goals to ensure you’re on the same page.

4. Start getting a plan in place

Once you understand your employee’s goals and how these relate to the organization as a whole, you need to decide how you’re going to help them achieve their targets. For example, you need to think about the types of skills they might need and, therefore, the types of training they must undergo.

You can begin breaking these down into smaller objectives or tasks to make their goals more manageable and attainable.

And don’t just think short term either. Think about where your company is heading over the next five years and how you can train/mentor your employee to be ready for the future.

5. Make use of templates

This might all sound a little daunting, and it will require lots of careful thought and discussion. But there is some good news; employee development plan templates exist to help make and implement your plans much easier.

There are lots of different plans and templates out there, but start with an individual development plan in the first instance, and you can consider succession planning at a later date.

6. Choose the most effective training initiatives 

Next, you need to make sure that you are choosing the most effective forms of training and that these are specifically related to the task or goal set out for your employee. There are lots of different ways you might approach this, and it doesn’t always have to be online courses or long training days.

Of course, those methods are both valid in many cases, but it’s also a good idea to consider techniques like:

  • Coaching
  • Mentorships
  • Job shadowing
  • On-the-job training
  • Augmented reality or simulated training

At this stage, you must decide not only what will be most effective but also what your employee is going to be most comfortable with. Remember, everyone learns and grows differently, so their input is important for choosing the right training techniques for their personal learning style.

7. Track progress and results

So far, you’ve put lots of time and effort into getting your development plans right, so don’t fall at the final hurdle. In order to know if your plans are working, you need to track the results.

In some cases, you might be able to use actual data to do this, but it’s also important to regularly meet with your employees to get their feedback and to give your own. Together, you‘ll be able to determine if they’ve reached their goal, if there are any obstacles or if they need more training.

8. Always be monitoring development plans

It’s also important to make time to follow up on these plans and to adjust them accordingly when needed. There might be multiple people involved in this process, but where possible, you need a dedicated professional to monitor the success of these plans.

This might be a full-time employee development person, or, for smaller companies, this might be left to HR or management teams. However, it’s important that someone is always taking responsibility for monitoring the success of these plans and discussing this with individual employees on a regular basis.

9. Keep rolling it out and reviewing the process

Finally, make your way through your teams until everyone has a tailored employee development plan in place. Any new hires should also be introduced to the process and given a plan early on to engage them right away.

As you begin to gather feedback from new and existing employees, you can review your process for creating and implementing these plans and tweak it if needed.

Final thoughts

If you haven’t already got employee development plans in place, you should prioritize doing so this year. Investing in your workforce in this way not only show employees that you care about their progress and helping them to move forward in their careers, but it’s also great for business.

Well-trained, engaged and skilled workers are required for innovation and growth. Having training and development firmly embedded in your company culture leads to higher retention rates and helps you to attract the top talent.

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