Use an Employee Development Plan to Supercharge Your Workforce

HR pros and managers who create an employee development plan discover that people are happy to gain and apply new skills and talents.

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How to Create an Employee Success Plan

Employees are your most valuable asset. To create an engaged and productive workforce, investing in your team is one of the most important things you’ll do all year. And the key to investing properly lies with a strategic employee development plan.

The benefits may emerge slowly at first, but they expand quite visibly and exponentially in time. For starters, department managers and HR professionals who take time to create a professional development plan for each employee send a message. They demonstrate that they care not only about job performance but personal career goals as well. When leaders create an employee development opportunity, employee satisfaction improves alongside job performance — a win-win situation for the entire organization.

How an employee development plan supports company goals

94% of employees say they are likely to stay at their company longer if it invests in learning and development programs.

The term “employee development plan” defines a process of improving employee engagement and skills related to each person’s current position. A good one also prepares promotable employees for future career aspirations. An internal investment in career development pays off when people happily acquire the expertise needed to advance within the company.

Note that not all employees will strive for leadership positions. So the primary goal when creating an employee development plan is to gain insight into individuals’ interests, abilities, and vulnerabilities.

Using an employee development plan template can be helpful. But those responsible for preparing the document should remember that each person is an individual with unique talents to offer. A few general guidelines can make the overall process of creating career development plans easier:

  • Consider the business goals of each department and the entire organization.
  • Identify employees who need to learn new skills.
  • Direct resources toward training and development  for current employees so they can close skill gaps.

The last step is especially important when it comes to aligning each employee’s professional development with job performance. Employees who can grow thanks to a career development plan typically stay with the company longer and feel greater satisfaction. They can sense when their employer feels invested in their personal success by the training efforts and support they’re offered.

In fact, 94% of employees say they are likely to stay at their company longer if it invests in learning and development programs.

Employee development and People Operations

HR departments typically play a practical role, focusing on such issues such as employee recruitment, onboarding, administrative duties, and compliance efforts. A trend has emerged of separating standard HR functions from the role of monitoring and encouraging employee progress. Most businesses that have taken this path refer to the new function as People Operations.

Whether or not your organization treats career development and succession planning as outside HR, implementing development plans for all is essential. Company leaders new to the practice are often amazed at how this can improve employee satisfaction and employee retention.

How to create an employee success plan

Every development plan should be a cooperative project between managers and employees. Setting goals with actionable outcomes is an ideal first step. The process helps employees understand what skills they should master and what they must do to learn them. They should also understand how their manager will measure their progress toward each goal.

Establishing goals

Before you can measure success, you must first define it. So, the first step in creating an employee success plan is to set goals.

The best workplace goals are realistic, specific, measurable and achievable while also stretching employees beyond their current comfort zone.

Goals should be developed collaboratively. When you come to an agreement, put them in writing. A study at Dominican University in California uncovered some interesting facts about goal setting. For example: When goals are articulated and written down, you are 42% more likely to achieve them. Here are a few employee performance goal examples.

  • Increase year-over-year sales-qualified leads by 5% monthly.
  • Close 5 new deals generating $10,000 in monthly recurring revenue in the next quarter.
  • Contact all new customers within 30 days.
  • Create a strategic diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) plan within 45 days.
  • Take part in one training webinar each quarter.

When goals are articulated and written down, you are 42% more likely to achieve them.

Being clear about expectations

To avoid possible misunderstanding later, managers should put all employee expectations in writing. Employees shouldn’t have to wonder about general expectations, like a company dress code, or specific expectations, such as required levels of productivity. Written communication eliminates alternative interpretations that can lead to resentments, including among co-workers.

Career development plans should also leave room for employees to state what they need from their employer. Common requests include a safe working environment, consistent feedback and relevant training programs. People have more options than ever when it comes to where, how and when they work. Many will not hesitate to leave a company that fails to live up to reasonable expectations.

Duties, responsibilities, and accountability

Employees perform best when they understand their specific duties and where they fall within the larger picture. They also need to know who will ultimately hold them accountable.

For example, will their manager approve their completed projects, or do they need to seek approval from someone else? What criteria should they use when it comes to making independent decisions or seeking input from a higher-up? Employees also need to understand what consequences they may face for failing to fulfill their obligations or reach their goals.

Measurement and monitoring

Writing a career development plan is one thing, determining how well it works in practice is something else entirely. Managers must commit to consistent reviews to gauge employee performance and ensure it is in line with the written plan.

A review could uncover a need for more training or that goals should be changed and made more realistic. When managers set goals with employees and never discuss them again, it implies that improving their performance isn’t really important.

Merge employee and company goals into an action plan

Tie the above-mentioned steps together with an action plan, fleshing out the detailed course for employee development. List goals and priorities for each employee, followed by what they need to do to meet those goals. Managers who create an employee development plan should take care to list resources and opportunities available to each person to help them meet their individual career goals.

Agree on deadlines for achieving mini-goals on the way to meeting major goals for the position. End with a review schedule outlining when employee and manager will meet again, for how long, and what they’ll discuss.

Follow through

Business leaders and managers need to remember that they play an active role in employee success. For employees to grow, they need the resources, training, and opportunities to learn. Following through on your commitments is often the difference between success and failure. If you commit to it, do it.

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