Employee development plans are crucial for cultivating highly skilled and engaged teams. We break down the process into 5 steps: from employee goals to reality.
We can all benefit from being stretched – by development plans that encourage us to make our aspirations actionable. Many employees go to work, complete the same tasks every day and head home without feeling challenged. According to Gallup, only 35% of the workforce are engaged – this is unsurprising when we consider how many of us lack learning or training opportunities.
Development plans provide a possible cure. HR leaders and managers can draft plans that bring stretch and challenge into employee’s work lives. However, when you’re working with someone who’s really struggling, or with unengaged employees, it can be difficult to know where to start.
Below, we provide 5 steps to break down the process. You can adapt these to your company’s goals and the specific needs of your people – so that you can start improving employee experience and developing the skill sets necessary for growth.
Before we get down to the nitty gritty, it’s important to what remember the benefits of creating a development plan are. This way, if the process overwhelms, you can look back and remind yourself of why this is necessary!
Development plans help employees move towards their goals in a way that aligns with company-wide targets.
Improves employee engagement and performance
Strengthens employee relations – as managers clarify employee’s expectations / plans
Reduces employee turnover
Identifies future leaders for succession planning
Motivates your employees to develop their skills
Tackles skill gaps
Managers and leaders must clarify company-wide goals before they start this process. Starting from a zoomed-out perspective means that employee development plans will be more relevant to the needs of the company.
What are the short-term priorities for your company? If it is, say, increasing sales by a certain percentage on the last quarter, do your employees have the adequate skills to meet this aim? Could you provide sales training or mentoring that could help them achieve or exceed this goal?
What are the company’s longer-term goals? Perhaps you hope to take on more complex projects in the future. How can you stretch employees to move towards this goal?
Make sure you consider both soft skills and technical or professional skills. Since the pandemic, teamwork has really shown its worth. Incorporate teambuilding into your development plan.
Next, meet with your employees one-on-one to discuss their personal development goals. It’s important to develop an individual perspective. A tailored approach is more likely to improve engagement, as employees feel listened to and their views are incorporated.
One-on-one meetings are an opportunity for leaders to check in with their people more broadly.
Not every employee will have a ready-made set of goals, as they may not have had the opportunity to reflect on their career path. Managers can help develop goals with employees by reminding them of their achievements - this can build confidence needed to set stretch goals.
Managers might point out areas for improvement – based on evidenced examples. Link this to a particular training opportunity – so that feedback is constructive.
Employees may be interested in training that does not fully align with company goals. Try to be open-minded where possible – are there more peripheral skills that the employee could develop from this course / learning? We are often most engaged at work when we are able to self-actualize. Development may come from unexpected places.
Now that you know your employees’ goals, you can start creating a development strategy. How do you want to carry out the development program? Through online courses or a mentoring program? Will you carry out the training yourself, or delegate this to another manager or external provider?
If the training is for a technical skill, you could ask an expert for a training program. A mentoring program may work well if managers feel confident they can address the issue at hand. External mentoring programs are also known to be effective, and can help employees improve motivation and confidence.
Now that you’ve gathered information on your team’s goals and possible training opportunities, you’ll need to arrive at a clear action plan.
It’s important to review what resources are needed – so that you can set aside a budget for training programs. Employees may need paid time off to attend conferences or university courses, and you may reimburse their fees. This information needs to be compiled for HR to review.
Create a timeline for each employee’s development plan. You do not want the process to last forever – is there a deadline after which this goal should be achieved? Also schedule check-ins to follow up on their movement towards these goals.
LinkedIn provides a great employee development plan template.
Ensure you follow up with your employees regularly. Once they have completed the training program, check-in to review the program. Invite their feedback on the learning and development process.
Have a discussion with your employees about how they can incorporate the skills learnt into the workplace. HR leaders could hold a lunch and learn in which you ask employees to talk about their experiences. This inspires others to sign up!
Managers can set tasks immediately that allow employees to showcase their new-found skills and knowledge. Employees will immediately see their learning in action – and your L&D initiative will add value from day one.
Employee development plans help the individual and the company as a whole. They empower us to move towards our goals, so that our work stretches us to the best of our ability.
Make sure you tailor any development program to skill gaps. If you’d like to learn more about how to create a development plan, why not read our How-To Guide on Employee Development Plans?