How to Construct an Employee Development Plan

A corporate trainer taking a workshop

As an entrepreneur, you are always striving to build a company that provides high-quality goods and services to as many people as you can. The goal is simple: to make a difference in others' lives, and build a successful company while doing so. 

However, you can often get so focused on the world outside of your business that you might forget to look inward; for instance, you can also improve the lives of those who work for your company. Entrepreneurs and their organisations have the chance to launch careers, and be a point of change for employees that could potentially plot the course of their entire lives.

One of the best ways to enable this kind of growth is to construct an employee development plan for everyone who works for you. By formalising such a strategy and implementing it, you will help your employees develop the skills they want and need – making them valuable assets for your business in the process.

Therefore, to help you along the way, this is how to create an employee development plan for your team members.

What is an Employee Development Plan, and Why is it Important?

Before you get started, however, it's first necessary to understand what precisely an employee development plan is and what its benefits are.

At its core, a development plan – or an employee growth plan, as it is also known – is an outline of what you and your employee can do together to help them improve their skill set. This could be a pathway to a leadership position, for instance, or it could be a road map of how to transition into a particular role. 

It can take whatever form works best for your business, including a calendar of goals or events; a written plan that you both agree to contribute to; or merely a verbal discussion on how they can acquire new skills that will benefit both them and the company.

The Benefits of an Employee Development Plan

There are many benefits to having individual growth plans in place for employees. They can range from improvements at the individual level, to an overall change in your corporate culture; they can even change the public's perception of your brand.

Indeed, key benefits include:

  • Better employee retention
  • An improved ability to attract high-quality talent
  • A more motivated and engaged workforce
  • Increased efficiency (leading to higher productivity)
  • A measurable plan forward for your company

In addition to these companywide improvements, you will also have the chance to mould your staff. For example, entrepreneurs often rely on the enthusiasm of young and eager employees to drive their creative vision, and employee progression plans are crucial to keeping these younger staff members engaged. Indeed, a 2018 study by HR software firm Bridge found that 86% of millennials view training and career development opportunities as a genuine retention tool. 

So, if you are ready to start utilising the potential of your workers, follow these steps:

1. Evaluate Your Company's Goals

Before you set out to create a personalised plan for each of your employees' improvement, make sure you fully understand what you require from your workforce. To do this, you need to look ahead and try to identify how the company will grow and what roles will need to be filled. Where will you need individuals with specific skills, for instance? What functionalities is your business lacking?

By identifying these needs, you can start to map out development paths for individual employees that will align with your company growth. Doing this not only benefits the company by saving on recruitment and onboarding resources; it also helps further the employee's career, which is vital for retention purposes. If they can step up to a new position when the need arrives, they can be promoted and continue their personal journey while you execute your vision for the company.

2. Communicate on an Individual Level

When you start to create a development plan, you cannot just assume what a particular employee's aspirations are for their career. Doing this creates not only an ineffective growth plan for that team member, but it also misses the point of why you are doing it in the first place. It is a waste of time and resources to set improvement goals that may not matter to them, especially if they are of no real benefit to the company.

Therefore, when you start putting together an employee development plan, you need to interact with your staff face-to-face. If your company is too large to do this yourself, make sure that managers have a chance to reach out to every individual.

During these encounters, find out what steps each person has taken to get their career where it is today. Learn about what actions can help move them forward, and discuss the opportunities that your company has – or will have – to help them reach their goals. Plan together on what you can do to support them, and identify what rewards, such as promotions or raises, will await them on the completion of their career development plan.

3. Consider the Skills Employees Need to Improve

With a better understanding of what the company needs to grow and what your employees require to enhance their own careers, you can identify the specific skills that should be emphasised. Once you have found these, you can pursue any number of strategies to deliver the knowledge your team needs to reach that next level.

You can either arrange for your staff to undergo recognised external training courses (this is recommended if their role requires specific industry qualifications), or you can conduct in-office training sessions, such as:

  • Group classes
  • Seminars
  • Mentoring and coaching,
  • Cross-training
  • Job shadowing

It can also include or incorporate online components from third-party providers, such as:

  • Webinars
  • Videos
  • Podcasts
  • eBooks
  • Articles
  • White papers

You can also encourage enrolment in industry networking organisations or regulatory bodies, and facilitate attendance at events such as symposia or conferences.

4. Set a Timeline for Employees

When you and your staff have figured out the best way for them to improve their skills, it is essential to set timelines for the pace at which these goals will be achieved.

Try to create goals that play out in a specific and time-sensitive manner. Employees will be satisfied knowing that they are making progress, and you can be content in the knowledge that your team is improving and adapting to the challenges that your business faces.

5. Utilise These Skills and Measure the Effect

Once your employees have begun pursuing their new skills, make sure that they are finding a productive use for them in the workplace. After all, both your employee and your company have invested time and money into their improvement, and applying this knowledge to real-world challenges will help them to consolidate and enable your business to run more effectively.

Ensure, too, that you keep communication flowing throughout all stages of the process. Once your employees have met their improvement goals, sit down with them again to see how things went, how much progress they made – and what they can do next. Employee development isn't a one-time event, after all; it is a continuous process that proceeds to create value for both the business and the employee long-term.

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Is there a particular process you use to create employee development plans for your staff? Have they been successful for your business? Then why not tell us about it in the comment section below!