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Moving forward: How to create an employee development plan

March 22, 2024
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Your business relies on your employees. Even if you had the best idea, product, and tools, without the right people, you’re going to have a hard time making your organisation successful. However, hiring and retaining the best talent can prove difficult for companies — there are many opportunities out there and if you don’t ensure your people are happy, they’re going to leave.

One of the most pressing issues for employees today is development. No one wants to feel stuck in place, and organisations that offer a well-thought out, robust development plan for their workforce find they get better results. In fact, 41% of employees who have quit their job did so because of lack of career development and advancement opportunities, while 94% of workers were more likely to stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development.

So, how can you create an employee development plan that would set you apart from the competition and allow you to secure and keep your best employees?

What is an employee development plan (EDP)?

An employee development plan, sometimes also referred to as an EDP, is an operational and tangible outline for supporting, reviewing, and measuring employee progression. This is often agreed between the employee and manager. An EDP should consider the employee’s individual goals — both professional and personal — as well as company objectives.

Why do you need an employee development plan?

Supporting employee development has many benefits, including:

  • Enhanced engagement
  • Lower employee turnover
  • More dynamic teams
  • Increased agility
  • Better leadership
  • Higher performance
  • Improved wellbeing

A methodical approach to development is necessary to ensure your employees are progressing appropriately. That’s where an EPD comes into play — you can use this to understand, promote, and monitor your employees’ development in a structured and simple way.

Further reading: Why is employee development important?

How to write a development plan for an employee?

Writing an employee development plan has to be structured and organised, allowing for consistent review and adjustment. Here are five steps to create an effective EPD.

1. Assess needs and goals for an employee development plan

The first step to any successful development strategy is to first outline what you’d like to achieve. This should include both the needs of the business and the personal career objectives of the employee.

You can start by identifying the needs of the business. Running a skill gap analysis can be useful at this stage, as well as utilising personality, competency, and skill assessments to understand your current workforce better and identify areas for improvement. These assessments will help you to also recognise the personal weaknesses of individuals, which can inform the second part of this exercise. Performance reviews can also give you important insight into your employees’ individual needs.

While it’s important to align development goals with your organisational needs, you should still encourage personal development even outside of what is traditionally necessary. You have a vested interest in making your team feel supported even for things that don’t directly help your business — their happiness and fulfilment is in your best interest.

2. Set clear objectives within your employee development plan

Based on the information you have gathered, it is now time to discuss with your individual employees and decide the goals for their development plans. These objectives must be clear and concise — we recommend that you use SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

Some examples of SMART development goals are:

  • Improve a certain competency by taking a course by the end of the quarter
  • Attend at least one industry event relating to a certain skill or company requirement per quarter until the end of the year
  • Mentor an employee for the next year to develop management skills
  • Dedicate 30 minutes per week to reading a self-improvement book regarding one of your weaker traits
  • Set up at least one coffee catch up with a colleague every month

As you can see, all of these goals have a particular purpose, they can be easily quantifiable, they can be completed by the employee, they are connected to the issues the employee and the business would want to improve, and have a set timeline.

3. Choose the right tools and resources

Giving your employee a list of objectives is not enough, even if they’re set in a dialogue process together — you need to provide your workforce with the tools, resources, and support they need to achieve their goals. These can include:

  • Training programmes
  • Workshops
  • Industry events
  • Online or in-person courses
  • Mentorship

Of course, offering all of these for each employee is probably unattainable and costly. Every individual plan should consider what the best resources would be for the particular goals set. However, incorporating technology into this process can make a real difference in cutting costs and providing high value.

For example, the Thrive behavioural assessment provides a personalised employee summary that allows individuals to view their results and also tailored tips for improvement, so that they can work through their weaknesses with actionable steps.

4. Create a supportive learning environment

In order to ensure your employees are progressing quickly, it’s vital to look into your office culture. Are employees encouraged to share interesting articles they find? Are they expected to support others with their unique skills and strengths? Do you host Lunch and Learns, give an allowance for improvement, and motivate your team to take time to reflect? These are all significant questions that will help your workforce get in the mindset for progress.

Another important aspect of such a culture is feedback and recognition. How can your employees improve if you don’t give them constructive feedback? Ensure you have regular catch ups to discuss any difficulties your team might experience, as well as reviewing their work and giving them actionable points for improvement. However, giving constructive feedback can’t stand on its own. It’s crucial that you also recognise and celebrate your workers’ successes and highlight the progress they’ve made.

Further reading: How to support your employees’ development

5. Monitor progress and adjust your employee development plans

A key element of a successful employee development plan is to constantly come back to it, review progress, and adjust actions and goals accordingly. Regular check-ins are necessary to accomplish this: make sure you’re following a structured approach and going through the development plan in those meetings to methodically assess progress. Self-reports and surveys are a couple of other ideas to allow you to track development.

This process also has to take into account that some things change, and that’s fine. Maybe one of the goals you set is no longer relevant, or the method or approach isn’t working. Flexibility is the name of the game — without adapting and amending the plan as necessary, it’s going to be very difficult to support your employees’ progress.

Investing in employee development is a long-term strategy for achieving sustainable business success. By fostering a culture of continuous learning and growth, organisations can empower their employees to reach their full potential, leading to increased productivity, innovation, and a competitive edge.

Empower your workforce development initiatives with personalised insights and assessments. Book a demo to explore Thrive's solutions to help you create effective employee development plans and unlock the full potential of your team.

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