Today’s employees are more empowered than ever. Gone are the days of staying 25 years at the same enterprise out of loyalty.
So is trading time for money – in exchange for their energy and time, people expect personal growth as the icing on their paycheck cake.
An employee development plan is your armor against employees swiping left on you by handing in their notice. If successful, it will also boost your company’s reputation and attract more talent. Plus, it’s something recruiters can flex during interviews to make your company stand out.
So what is an employee development plan?
It is an action plan for your team members to reach their goals. And it’s a win-win: it helps your employees stay motivated and see clear growth paths within the company while helping you have a clear plan for how to scale.
An employee development plan should list the employee’s goals (short-term and long-term), the development needs to facilitate attaining those goals, and the steps required to reach them. It may also include a list of the employee’s current competencies. Some employers also incorporate how to help employees grow within their current roles.
Usually, the employee development plan takes both long-term and short-term perspectives into account.
An important factor is to be as detailed as possible when creating employee development plans. Write out each step to avoid room for interpretation. Assessing deadlines for each step makes the intent clear and sets your employees and your company up for success.
On a high level, an employee development plan should include elements of
Besides, it should strike the right balance between challenge and support to invite your employees to step out of their comfort zones while still feeling held. We will cover all these aspects more in-depth in the following sections.
The employee development plan helps both you and your employees. In some enterprises, it can seem like senior roles are the ones that contribute the most to reaching business goals. No one likes to feel useless at work, so the lack of recognition may entice more junior talent to look elsewhere.
An employee development plan can act as a remedy. It can spark the joy of learning, boost morale, and have your team members visualize a future at your company. Employee retention is usually better when employees clearly can see the growth possibilities – something that may even turn them into enthusiastic promoters of your workplace!
By implementing employee development plans, your company benefits by
Increasing retention – employees who feel seen and see clear growth paths are more likely to stay.
Having a clear plan for the future and being prepared for sudden and unexpected staff changes.
Making more money by having more motivated, productive employees and assuring the right person is in the right position.
Saving money by being able to recruit internally for senior positions.
Having happier and more satisfied employees who will spread the word about your workplace.
Your employees benefit by
Feeling more motivated to do a great job and evolve.
Seeing what’s expected of them and thus staying focused.
Feeling like their job matters and makes a difference.
An important reminder before we dive into the nitty-gritty of the plan: as a manager, it is sometimes easy to assume everyone wants to climb the corporate ladder and, at some point, take on a management role. After all, that’s what you did!
However, not everyone wants to be in a leadership position. Some people prefer to take on a specialist role with more responsibility and expertise (and financial compensation to match!). Make sure to get clear on the desires of each employee through a private meeting.
There are different approaches to writing a development plan for employee appraisal and growth.
Here are some steps – we’ll cover each of them in detail:
Assess the company’s needs.
Assign each employee a custom plan.
Ask what kind of support they prefer to reach their goals.
Analyze results and adjust as necessary.
A successful employee development plan benefits both you and your employees. Start by looking at the company’s needs. Where are you heading? What are the business goals? What roles need to be filled within the coming quarters? Consider planned staff changes such as retirements or resignations. If needed, consult upper management.
On the more exciting end, dare to dream big and look at what your needs will be in case you expand and exceed your goals.
It may be tempting to bulk create development plans for employees in similar positions or with similar experience. However, the magic of an employee development plan lies in its individualization. Receiving an individual plan makes each person in your team feel recognized and valued – which is key for workplace satisfaction and manpower retention.
Plus, no two people are the same even if they have similar backgrounds – so avoid making assumptions about where they want to go based on their previous experience.
This leads us to the next point:
An excellent employee development plan should answer not only the what but the how: how will your employee reach their goals? Be prepared with a list of available resources before having a one-on-one meeting with each employee to review the plan.
One of the fastest ways to acquire a specific competency or skill – for example, fundamental project management or Photoshop – is to look at existing online courses on platforms like Udemy or LinkedIn. This option may require a budget, but less work is needed on your end.
Here are some ideas of how to help your employees grow:
Internal training with a senior colleague
Group training classes
Shadowing a more experienced employee
A corporate university
Online courses and programs
Membership in relevant organizations
Reimbursement for external tuition
Remember that everyone has a different learning style – that’s why discussing the options with each employee is essential.
Last but not least – analyzing the training results is key to improving employee development plans. Are your employees evolving and getting increasingly ready to take on new roles? Or are there elements of frustration and stagnation? Could you deliver the training in another format?
Maybe you’ve squeezed in too much in a short amount of time. Or sent employees a long pdf to read through when an interactive workshop would have led to better engagement and information retention. Look at what worked well and how you can sprinkle in more of that.
At this stage, it’s also beneficial to evaluate your leadership and ask yourself if you have a clear and compelling vision for your team to follow. What areas can you improve?
Good news: we have done the hard work for you so that you can focus on customizing the employee development plans. Use the following template to create a successful employee development plan in no time! Feel free to tweak it to your needs and company specifics.
The employee’s current job title
List the competencies, skills, and strengths that your employee possesses – this can be hard skills and soft skills
Is there a specific position your employee aspires to get? By when?
List of areas where your employee needs development to reach their professional goals. This could be hard and soft skills – see competencies above
Step 1: (List the first step including deadline)
Who will monitor the employee development plan?
Depending on the employee's goal, there are different key competencies to focus on. Here, we’ll look at the examples of
An employee who’s happy to stay in their current role but wants to deepen their skills in certain areas.
A junior employee aspiring to take on a leadership role.
An employee in a specialist position aspiring to become a subject matter expert.
Let’s say we have an employee, Mark, who shifted from a CRM marketing role into copywriting. He has foundational skills in copywriting but desires to learn more about technicalities like SEO copywriting, conversion copywriting, and how to use Hubspot for keyword research. Besides, he’d like to learn more about analytics to assess the success of a copywriting campaign based on KPIs.
An employee development plan for Mark would focus on assessing a realistic timeline for learning the new skills and competencies. Together with his manager, Mark decides to take a free training in Google Analytics, sign up for a paid online course in SEO copywriting and attend a Hubspot conference with a senior colleague.
Emma is a typical type-A person who always over-delivers and is hungry to learn more. She has no leadership experience but sees herself as a manager in the foreseeable future. This corresponds with her employer’s needs, as they will soon have a vacancy for a manager role.
In contrast to Mark, Emma needs to focus more on soft skills that come with being a good leader. How can she communicate with different kinds of people? Take tough decisions and discussions? How will she deal with the pressure of being between upper management and the rest of the team?
Those are competencies and qualities that Emma can contemplate and cultivate within a leadership training to best prepare for her new role. Her manager signs her up for a week-long leadership training with an industry organization.
Nellie is currently a front-end web developer with a few years of experience. She’s now ready to become a full-stack developer and deepen her skills within her favorite frontend framework React. Unlike Emma, she has no interest in leading people or taking on a management position.
In Nellie’s employee development plan, she and her manager agree upon a few action steps, including shadowing Paul, who’s a senior full-stack developer. She’s also attending a virtual conference on the topic and will take a course learning the back-end framework PHP.
There are a few key elements that will make for a successful employee development plan. First, assess the needs of the company – now and in the foreseeable future – and the employees’ wants. Then put together the puzzle pieces and check what person would suit which role. It’s important to clarify with every employee whether they’re interested in a specialist or a generalist/leadership path.
After that, identify which holes need to be filled in the employees’ competencies and skills to reach their goals. Decide what trainings – and in what format – will provide the vehicle to promote your employees.
Successful implementation of employee development plans increases retention, boosts performance, and lays the foundation for a thriving company. And most important of all – it makes your employees happy!
Ranee has worked in the SaaS industry for nearly ten years. She loves working with, learning from, and helping develop effective leaders and is willing to share her thoughts through words. Outside of work, you can find her dancing, hiking in the mountains, or reading in a cafe.