Human Resources

Creating an Employee Development Plan

Are your employees happy? Do you have a high turnover? What can you do to keep your most important assets satisfied? Since you know it costs more time and money to hire new talent than to keep your current workforce, it’s important to focus on employee development for each member of your team. Here are some statistics that make a strong case for employee development plans according to Medium:

  • ⅓ of a person’s time is spent at work
  • By the age of 30, most people will have had seven or eight jobs
  • 80 percent of people hate their jobs

So with these statistics in mind, it’s imperative to create an employee development plan for each of your employees. This plan is simply an action plan or working document for both employees and managers. It maps out employee growth strategies, and areas for improvement, and shows how personal development will help meet overall company goals. These plans should not be confused with personal development plans. Unlike personal development, employee development is a joint plan put together by both employees and managers.

Creating an employee development plan will make sure you retain your most valuable employees. And for employees, it will define training and a plan for career advancement within your organization. With an increased skill set, your employees will perform their jobs better, the business will grow, and everyone will reap the benefits.

Key components to a people development plan

If you’ve never developed an employee development plan or need help with the process, there are a few key components to consider.

1. What are your business goals?

Before you can begin defining an employee development plan, you’ll need to examine your business goals. What are the objectives of your business? What are the objectives for each internal team and how do these relate to the overall company goals? Then figure out what skills are needed to obtain each of these objectives.

Also, take note of any major company changes. For example, will you be rolling out a new product line? And if so, does your current staff have the skills to do this? And if not, what will they need to know to be successful and how much time will this development take?

The more concrete your goals are, the better you’ll be able to tailor each employee development plan.

2. What are your employees' goals?

Remember a people development plan is a two-way communication plan between employees and managers. So make sure your next step it to talk to each employee on your team. What do your employees feel their strengths are? And what skills do they feel they need further development in, in order to be successful?

This is also a good opportunity to find out what your employees’ goals are. Do they see themselves in management or maybe switching to a different department? Workplace communication is paramount and the more empowered your employees feel to talk freely, the happier they will be to do the tasks asked of them.

3. What skills are needed?

Once you compare your company and department goals with those of your employees, you’ll need to decide what objectives are needed to achieve these goals. Make sure to write down S.M.A.R.T. objectives (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.) that way you can see when objectives are being met or missed. Then decide what type of training you’ll be giving your employees to achieve their outlined objectives. For example, will it be a classroom, online, or more of a blended learning program?

It’s also important to take into account your employees’ attitudes toward learning new skills. What is their readiness versus potential? In other words, readiness is their ability to learn the new skills outlined. And potential involves external factors in their lives such as desire, experience, and personal situations. Taking readiness and potential into account will help paint a clearer picture of when and if these new skills will be learned. And if objectives are missed, it’s easier to see what factors were involved.

Common pitfalls to avoid

Before you decide which employee development plan template to use, make sure you avoid these common mistakes. It will make your plans stronger, easier to achieve, and will avoid confusion as to what is expected of employees and managers.

  • Plan is too rigid

When you discuss the goals for your employee development plan, explain to each employee that plans and goals can shift. For example, if you are training an employee to take the place of a manager retiring, maybe the manager stays longer than anticipated in their current position. Or a new skill is needed that was not written in the plan due to a new company-wide product launch.

  • Plan is too aggressive

Although you want to achieve several learning objectives with each of your employees, there are only so many hours in the day. If an employee development plan is too complex, you’ll lose your employees’ attention to achieve it. Likewise, managers have other responsibilities and can’t adequately oversee multiple objectives and multiple team members.

  • Plan achievement put on managers

Managers are meant to oversee their teams. However, whether or not training is taken and objectives achieved is ultimately up to the employees. Employee development plans need to lay out what training is needed and what skills will be learned, but employees need to understand they are responsible for executing the plan, not their team leaders.

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Different types of employee development plans

Once you have the key components of your plan written down, it’s time to decide what’s the best people development plan template. Since each of your employees are different with different skill sets, one plan may not fit all employees. Here are four different employee development plan templates to consider.

1. Performance-based plan

A performance-based plan is black and white. Think of it as a multiple choice test. You either get the right answer or you don’t. This is a great plan for employees like sales team members who need to reach a set number of sales. With this plan, it’s easy to see if objectives were met or not.

Some of the drawbacks of this plan are it may not paint the entire picture. For example, your sales team member does not meet his or her goals. Why? Maybe it was something out of their control such as needing more training on a new CRM tool. The other issue is you’ll most likely get a negative reaction from an employee who is told he or she failed their employee development plan. So if you are using this type of plan make sure you add a section under each failed objective as to why those objectives were not met. That way, it will give you a more complete picture and how you can help this employee achieve those objectives in the future.

2. Management by objectives plan

This plan starts out the same as a performance-based plan by listing out the objectives for the employee. And then each objective is either given a passing or failing grade. However, the plan then lists the strengths and weaknesses under each objective. That way, employees can see what they did well or what they could have improved on to meet each objective.

For example, a developer did not meet a date for a new website launch. However, this employee found several bugs that were not anticipated that held up the process. And this person needed help to solve these problems due to not having the skill set to solve them on their own. So the strengths were finding these bugs to make the website more user-friendly. And the weaknesses were not having the proper training to solve these bugs. So the employee development plan could include more training to solve these bugs in the future without needing assistance from another team member.

3. Succession planning program

For those employees whose goals are to move into management, a succession planning program template is ideal. This type of people development plan provides the needed skills for an employee to step into a more senior role when this position becomes vacant from circumstances like retiring.

So the plan will list out the employee objectives and what is needed to move up within the company. This should include strengths for this new position as well as areas of improvement. For the areas of improvement, training should be provided and a timeline established. Basically, when do you expect this position to be open? One year? Then map out a course of executive training that includes job shadowing and skill development so that this person is ready as soon as this position opens up.

4. Individual improvement plan

This plan is a lot like the succession planning program where attention is given to key skills needed for company advancement and mentorship is part of the learning curve. However, with this plan, the new skills learned are driven by the employee. He or she comes up with the skills they think they need to further improve on the job. Individual improvement plans can be more informal than the other plans mentioned.

Measuring employee success

After you create your plan, you’ll want to ensure the success of your employee development plan. Instead of creating a plan and forgetting about its components, you should plan to evaluate its success at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end.

The beginning

Once your plan is drafted, have another one-on-one meeting with each of your employees so that they understand what is expected of them. This is also an opportunity for employees to give feedback on the plan. For example, do they feel the timelines are reasonable? Are there certain skills left out of the plan that they feel should be included? If changes need to be made to the plan, add in notes together.

The middle

Once the process begins, check in often with your employees to see how the training is going. For example, maybe an employee gets engaged and will be taking time off for the wedding and honeymoon so you need to change timelines. Or, maybe the company is shifting overall goals which will affect department objectives that need a different skill set from your employees. Checking in will ensure a more successful people development plan and will hold everyone accountable for tasks carried out.

The end

Once the timeline has expired for an employee development plan, it’s time to see which objectives have been met and which ones have been missed. Make sure you talk to each of your employees to get their feedback. What was the reason for the missed objectives? This feedback will help you determine the next steps and if additional skill training is needed.

Putting new skills into action

Once timelines and objectives have been met in an employee development plan it should not stop there. Make sure there are opportunities to build upon skills learned and real-life scenarios employees can test their skills. That way new skills become habits. And once habits are formed, the less likely employees will fall back on outdated methods or forget what was learned.

An employee development plan provides a roadmap for each employee to gain the training and development needed. But it also empowers employees to learn new skills, become more marketable, and move up within the company.

According to the Jumpstart HR survey, employees chose opportunities for growth and development over compensation and benefits. And according to another recent study by The Muse, 58 percent of its mostly millennial user base said they plan to change jobs this year. What they are searching for is learning and growth opportunities, as well as work-life balance, Muse co-founder and CEO Kathryn Minshew told CNBC.

So by giving your employees the new skills they want, they’ll be more engaged, perform at a higher rate, and will be less likely to leave. And your company will move toward achieving goals, driving more business, and keeping your workforce strong and loyal. Now is a great time to implement an employee development plan for each of your employees.

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