Workplace training

9 minute read

How to Create a Winning Employee Development Plan (Free Template Included)

Sara Meij

Sara Meij

You’ve read up about the best ways to train and develop your employees. You’ve also observed the way your organization goes about learning and development currently, and you’ve come to the realization that there’s no one size fits all approach. Cue the employee development plan. 

An employee development plan is a process for helping staff at your organization improve their skills and knowledge for their role (and future growth) within your business.

Is employee development important to your organization? Nearly everyone would reply “yes” to that question. Because employee development is recognized across the board as a strategic tool for an organization’s continuing growth, productivity, and to retain employees.

Without a plan, it’s almost as if you’re sailing blind, so to say. Having one in place for each employee is a great way to keep the development process streamlined. There are different employee development plans, and which one you implement depends on the needs of your organization and your employees. 

They are also a great way for your organization to show chief executives what employee development does to your business. Employee development plans help to report staff productivity, and they can also shed light on how happy and engaged your employees are.

In this resource, we provide you with steps to creating your own, along with a customizable employee development plan template ready for you to use.

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Who needs an employee development plan and what are the benefits?

An employee development plan helps to improve employee retention and satisfaction. It also helps improve employee performance, increases motivation, and helps attract and promote talented staff. It increases your organization’s efficiency, profitability, and helps your business plan for the future.

As a manager, you’d frequently meet with your staff to discuss progress and discuss what’s next. Those meetings could be planned performance discussions or quick catch-ups between meetings. 

A study by The Society for Human Resource Management in 2016 showed that employees who participated in a development program at work were more satisfied in their job and felt more valued by their employers. 

“Organizations that dedicate a portion of their budget to professional development send a message that they invest in their employees. Additional benefits of professional development include personal development and greater opportunities for career advancement. Forty percent of employees rated this aspect as very important to job satisfaction.” - The Society for Human Resource Management

When you have a development plan in place for each employee, it’s easier to keep track of improvements, figure out obstacles or difficulties and point out opportunities and needs for both your employee and the organization. A development plan isn’t set in stone and can be adjusted so that you can keep helping your employees thrive. 

Steps to create an employee development plan

That all sounds great, right? But how do you go about putting together an employee development plan? If you follow the next steps you’ll have a proper base plan by the end of the process:

  1. Think about business goals. This is step number one for a reason. How will you align your employees’ development with your business goals if you don’t have a clear view of what those are?
  2. Talk to your staff. Employee development plans are personalized plans based on the individual you’re creating them with. It’s crucial to talk to your staff when creating a plan for each one of them. A starting point would be to find out what their goals and aspirations are, how they could help the organization thrive, and what hurdles they perceive to be in their way to reaching those milestones.
  3. Create a plan with SMART goals. Be specific in your goal setting. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic/Relevant, and Time-Bound. When formulating goals, it’s important to be able to measure results at some point. How would you otherwise know you’ve succeeded, right?
  4. Consider the skills and training needed for each employee and consider all types of training. We know by now that one size does not fit all, so employee development plans should be specific to the person you’re putting it together for. It’s easy to forget training when you think about your employee’s growth within an organization. But if you really want to encourage a mutually beneficial relationship with your staff, giving them the learning and development opportunities they need is an important part of the process. If you’re looking for the best online learning tools available for teams, check out the GoSkills LMS
  5. Assess employees’ potential for advancement. There’s a difference in staff’s potential for advancement within the organization versus their readiness to take on more responsibilities or new roles. Knowing how and when to time people’s progress in your business makes for a smooth ride. This is where an employee development plan can help organize and structure that growth.
  6. Identify where new skills can be used within the organization. Perhaps it has been decided that your organization is going to focus on becoming digital-ready. This means all of a sudden you need more digital-savvy people and there’s a skill-gap for in-depth knowledge of document management systems. Pinpointing these changes and skill-gaps within your organization can help with locating staff who have those skills, or have indicated a desire to learn them, and where in the organization they could be put to best use.
  7. Measure results. Remember those SMART goals you set at the beginning of this process? Now that your staff all have an individualized employee development plan, it’s important to sit down with each one of them regularly to track progress. Regular catch-ups also allow your employees to amend their plan or discuss any pain points they’re experiencing.

Employee development plan image

Employee development plan examples

There are different kinds of development plans you can create for your staff, depending on the objectives the organization has and the needs of your employees. It’s not uncommon for an employee to touch on different types of plans throughout their career.

Performance-based plan

Remember being a student at school and receiving a school report card each trimester? This performance plan works in the same way. If employees work hard, they get rewarded. Having a goal to work towards allows employees to be more focused. When individuals set clear goals, they create a sense of purpose and direction that fuels their drive to succeed. Goals help break down larger aspirations into smaller, manageable tasks, making progress feel more attainable and rewarding. Moreover, the act of setting goals cultivates a growth mindset, where setbacks and failures are viewed as learning opportunities rather than roadblocks.

But it’s important to also include your staff’s professional growth and motivation as points to measure performance against, not just which targets and goals they’ve hit in that timeframe. This is where you can use the plan as a tool to measure employee satisfaction within your organization.

Management by objectives plan

Similar to the performance-based plan, this plan relies heavily on employees self-evaluating and improving their performance regularly. Instead of management setting goals for staff, they set their own goals which feed into the overall organizational goal. It’s all about short-term goals and being proactive rather than reactive. 

Succession planning program

This plan focuses on longer-term planning and goals. Employees are placed somewhere on the career ladder (or hierarchy) within the organization and are working towards a promotion or more senior/management role. You could weave a mentorship program into this option quite easily, either cross-departmental or with someone in a more senior role in the same department. 

Ad-hoc improvement

Similar to the succession plan, ad-hoc improvement works with a mentorship program but the focus is more on the mentee’s individual needs instead of the needs of both the mentee and the mentor. 

Ad-hoc improvement works when employees are assertive about their desires to learn more skills or take on more responsibility. The employer can act on it quickly instead of waiting around for the next performance review opportunity.

Download your free template

Convinced of the importance of employee development plans and ready to get your staff sorted with their own? Take the first step towards more streamlined employee development and download your customizable employee development plan template.

Wrapping it up

There are plenty of reasons to get organized and develop personalized development plans for your staff. It can help you to retain staff and improve staff satisfaction. It can help to improve employee performance and to increase motivation. It can help you win new hires and promote the talented staff you already have. There is this and so much more.

You can download your own customizable professional development plan template above or follow the steps given above to make your own. 

Keeping track of improvements, pinpointing obstacles and difficulties, and pointing out opportunities is easier with a development plan in place for each employee. Be sure to revisit the plan often as it isn’t set in stone, and to catch up with your staff frequently to discuss progress and development needs.

Get ahead of the game and offer engaging training courses to support your employee development. Check out the GoSkills LMS for free today.

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Sara Meij

Sara Meij

Sara is a digital communications expert and former journalist with a passion for writing. In her spare time she loves Latin dancing and getting outdoors to run, hike or mountain bike.