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How To Create an Impactful Employee Development Plan [Free Template]

What is an employee development plan?

An employee development plan helps individuals improve their knowledge and skills for their present and future roles in the organization.
Creating an employee development plan requires consideration of both the needs and goals of the employee and the organization. Documenting a professional development plan ensures accountability and transparency for the employee, HR team, and management.

Types of employee development plans

  • Performance-based plan: The goal of this plan is to improve an employee’s performance. It identifies areas that the person needs to improve, sets new targets, measures progress, and creates strategies to achieve those employee development goals.
  • Succession plan: The HR team determines critical roles within the company and develops training plans to prepare younger and newer employees to assume these roles.
  • Management-by-objectives: This plan focuses on short-term objectives as the person sets individual goals and milestones contributing to the company’s overall goal. Employees are always self-evaluating to improve their performance, and then they can modify objectives as they see fit.
  • Ad-hoc: This informal employee development plan works individually, emphasizing the person’s personal needs. It works for workers interested in improving their specific skill sets to grow their careers.
  • Leadership development plans: A leadership development plan is a detailed and strategic plan to help staff acquire and develop leadership skills in preparation for management roles in the workplace.

How can HR assist managers in creating an employee development plan?

The steps outlined below can help HR and management to prepare employee development initiatives:

Step 1: Gain executive buy-in

Work closely with managers to understand what their employees need. For example, global green energy company Orsted launched a training program called ‘Power Your Career,’ aimed at improving employee retention and career mobility.
The company’s HR team conducted in-depth interviews with managers across organizational levels, followed by focus group discussions. The discussions addressed employee development issues like giving constructive feedback and effective one-on-one meetings. The initiative resulted in improved quality of leadership and employee interaction with particular emphasis on continuous development.

Step 2: Start with a skills gap analysis

Perform a skills gap analysis with the company’s goal in mind to get a detailed understanding of the skills lacking on individual and team levels. Measure each person’s current abilities and each department’s strengths to streamline your training program for maximum benefit.
Determine all the skills needed and then set goals based on the data collected.

Step 3: Consider company goals and key objectives

Evaluate the company strategy by considering the current goals and challenges of the company, impending organizational changes, and business needs in the future.
Next, identify the knowledge and competencies required to contribute to this strategy. Then define the desired outcome for both the business and the employee.

Step 4: Align to your employee’s development goals

It’s essential for HR to ensure that employee development plans are collaborative and aligned with both the employee’s and the company’s aspirations. To achieve this, encourage managers to discuss the employee’s career development goals.
During the meeting, the manager should actively listen to the employee. They can ask questions to understand their professional goals, their plans within the company, or the competencies they need for future projects and guide the conversation towards aligning these personal goals with the broader objectives of the company.

Step 5: Determine the right type of training

Help managers and employees determine the resources available to provide the employee with the training they require.
Here are some employee development plan examples and resources:
  • Cross training: Training employees to perform duties in different roles. It could also be training them to perform jobs outside their scope of expertise.
  • Job rotation: Employees rotate between different jobs or areas at specific times or intervals
  • Mentoring: Managers and senior staff can give expert advice and industry wisdom to less experienced employees.

Step 6: Create targets and structure for learning

Teams can often be too busy, and employees may de-prioritize their learning. So HR and managers can agree to a designated space and time for education.
Employees are provided targets and structure for learning. For example, managers can assign their direct reports to complete 48 hours of learning every six months. Quantifying targets makes it easier for supervisors to motivate their teams to achieve learning tasks.
Another approach could be to give assignments on a schedule with specific deadlines or milestones. People can advance through the course against a fixed schedule and with their colleagues.
HR can also create employee development plan templates. These documents detail the employee development goals and skills to gain and help come up with a development action plan on how to achieve these goals. By using an employee development plan template, managers and employees can lead structured, focused conversations and track progress.

Step 7: Develop SMART goals

SMART goals help employees focus their efforts to increase their chances of reaching their goals:
  • Specific: Set specific targets that state what an employee is developing, e.g., ‘’improve technical skills in data analysis.’
  • Measurable: Consider how these goals can be measured, e.g., ‘successfully conduct two analyses in R in Q2′.
  • Achievable: Help employees plan how to achieve the goals and determine whether these are attainable. Evaluate what needs to happen to achieve these goals.
  • Relevant: Consider if it is appropriate to the company goals. Evaluate whether each goal is relevant to achieving the company goals.
  • Timely: Determine timeframes and deadlines. Separate each element and determine mini-time-driven goals.

Step 8: Turn training into action

Enable employees to turn what has been learned into action. Encourage managers to assess whether their team members have applied what they’ve learned.
For example, financial services company Aegon implemented an ‘Analytics for Leaders’ program, which encourages team members to create ways to apply analytics to the business. The process was repeated, and managers provided a report on the specific actions that resulted from the training.

Step 9: Track results (with data)

Your employee development is incomplete if you don’t track the results.
Ensure regular meetings and feedback with employees to assess progress, like reaching set targets, showing improved performance, and solving problems. Find ways to make training programs more accessible, enticing, and effective for employees.
You should also measure the impact of the employee development plans on the organizational level, like increased productivity, more streamlined work processes, and enhanced employee engagement.
👉🏻 Download Employee Development Plan Template
Employee development plans are a crucial investment in the growth and future of both the individual and the organization. The key to success lies in creating personalized, well-structured plans that align employee aspirations with the company’s objectives.

As businesses face skills shortages and rapid changes in how work is done, fostering a culture of continuous learning and development is not just beneficial; it is essential for long-term success and sustainability.

If you want to improve your knowledge and experience in developing development plans, the Performance Management course will help you organise the process so that it doesn't take up supervisors' time, nor is it perceived by employees as formalism.