In response to the tight labor market, 43% of US organizations* say they’re investing in learning and development to fill positions. Maybe you’re considering going the same route.
There are many benefits to upskilling your existing employees instead of searching for new staff elsewhere. An effective employee development plan helps guide your people into the right roles for them and your company. Otherwise, you might hamper your organization by giving employees promotions when it’s not the best fit or timing for them.
Our expert guide shows you the seven essential steps to a successful employee development plan. We’ve also included key considerations for the drafting phase and for tailoring your plan to remote workers.
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What is an employee development plan?
An employee development plan is a course you set for employees to improve their professional skills and expand their knowledge. It helps your people perform their best in their current roles and prepares them for new opportunities within your organization.
Not all employee development plans lead to internal promotions. Some employees want to advance professionally by expanding their current role or making a lateral move into another department. Plus, management isn’t for everyone — some employees excel at their jobs but lack the soft skills to lead others, and some are just not interested in a leadership position. So you should tailor each employee development plan to the individual employee’s skills, wants, and needs.
The benefits of creating a career development plan for your employees
It’s hard to understate the value of an effective development plan. As well as having many direct advantages to the employee, their team, and their department, these plans can have widespread effects on your organization. Your company can expect to:
- Attract and retain more talent — According to Hays, 24% of employees would leave their job for career advancement opportunities. Organizations with a clear development plan appeal to candidates and have a higher employee retention rate.
- Boost employee engagement and motivation — Employees want to grow professionally, and allowing them to do so will make them happier and more productive. Motivated employees contribute toward a healthy work culture, and you’ll quickly see the ROI of employee engagement.
- Improve your company’s overall productivity — When you help your staff perform their best and guide them into the most suitable roles for their skill set, you can optimize your entire organization’s performance.
- Help yourself recognize and acknowledge top performers — Employee development plans highlight your most talented employees, so you’re more likely to notice who deserves a shoutout for excellent work. That’s great news considering people who feel recognized at their jobs are four times more engaged than those who don’t.
- Level the playing field — Your people have different responsibilities and levels of support in their lives outside work. Tailoring career plans to individual employees helps create more equitable opportunities. Parents, guardians, and caretakers, for example, must consider their families when planning their professional development, so you should set up employee growth plans that support both their personal and professional lives.
- Help your company reach its long-term goals — You can align your staff’s professional goals to your organizational ones, meaning more people will work with an increased effort toward achieving company OKRs.
- Build a more transparent salary structure — Development plans can help you show employees why they’re on their current salary and what they can do to achieve a pay raise.
- Complement your promotion processes — Employees might use their professional development plan to shoot for a specific role. When deciding who to promote internally, this would give you a pre-made list of contenders for the position.
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Key components of employee development planning
Before you kick off any career development planning, here are some crucial points to remember.
- Potential versus readiness: Your employee might have all the ingredients to handle a new position but may not feel ready. That might be because they’d prefer extra training or they’re going through a major life upheaval. Always factor this into any career development plans, so you’re not leading your staff towards growth opportunities that don’t align with their current priorities.
- Commitment: Linked to readiness, consider how much time and energy employees can put into their development. It’s no use signing employees up for hours of weekly training programs if their workload is too high to allow them to commit that amount of time. And if the training enables them to fill a gap in your organization, support them in delegating tasks.
- Expectations: There are no guarantees in business. New openings can disappear due to budget cuts, technological advances can render whole departments obsolete, and wildcards like COVID-19 can completely restructure your company. So frame professional development goals carefully to avoid promising opportunities you might not be able to realize.
- Responsibilities: Empowering employees to schedule and complete training courses independently will ease their managers’ workload. Although leaders can and should offer guidance, employees benefit from following learning paths at their own pace — ideally with the support of onboarding and development module.
7 steps to creating an employee development plan
Here’s our guide to development planning in seven steps. It’s intended as a high-level overview so you can tailor it to your unique business context.
1. Perform a skills gap analysis
Start by analyzing the difference between the skills your organization lacks and the skills your employees offer. A skills gap analysis is a company-wide initiative you can do in the following steps:
- Have team leaders evaluate the skill level of their direct reports.
- Collect the results of their evaluation.
- Identify and measure the skills required for each area of your business.
- Compare the data from your employees and your business.
- Identify areas where your staff’s current skill levels don’t meet requirements.
For example, you work for a software company and need to keep client churn levels below 10%. That means your sales retention team needs to have excellent negotiation skills. You ask your team leads to listen to a phone call recording between each sales rep and a client and score them out of ten based on different criteria. Then you decide each employee needs at least 8.
You collect the scores, and if employees have scored under 8, you know you need to factor this into your employee development planning.
2. Create learning pathways
Once you have a clearer picture of what your company needs, build learning pathways. These can guide your employees from their current level to where your organization needs them to be.
Define exactly how much knowledge or training people need to move from one level of competency to the next for a specific skill. For example, you might decide that new hires need 10 hours of sales-rated mentoring to reach a basic skill level, but the senior staff has to complete 20 hours, and management needs to invest 50 hours.
You can use a people enablement platform like Leapsome to plan your learning pathways and track individual training progress.
3. Assess employee growth potential
From the analysis, you know what skills employees already have. Now you need to explore their potential to grow in the future.
You can use a variety of methods to evaluate your employees. If you’ve been using performance reviews, these will indicate their strengths and weaknesses.
Most importantly, discuss the employee’s career goals with them. You can hold a one-on-one meeting to ask questions about their professional development plans. This is crucial because it doesn’t matter if someone’s an excellent candidate for a role or new responsibility if they have no desire to take it on.
4. Align employee and company goals
Next, check how well your people’s individual goals line up with the skills your company needs to complete its objectives. One way to do this is by consulting your employee assessments from the previous step and considering how they fit in with your current learning pathways.
Ideally, employee development programs should align as closely as possible with your organization’s business goals. It’s important to consider each employee’s wants and needs, but ultimately, employee growth needs to move the company in the right direction. If you’re struggling to find learning and development opportunities for an employee, it might be a sign you haven’t communicated your business mission to them clearly enough or are underutilizing their skills.
5. Create an employee development plan
Now you should have everything you need to start writing an actionable plan that’s tailored to your employees while fitting into your business goals.
Start by defining short- and long-term career goals with each employee. Then, assign skills to goals, so they have concrete steps for reaching their objectives. If you’ve been using modules like Leapsome to create learning pathways, now is the time to enroll your employees.
6. Choose the right training
After assigning skills to each goal, you need to decide what training and development programs employees need. There are many training opportunities, so make sure whatever you choose fits your company and each employee.
Suppose an employee hopes to take a management role. They would benefit from management training in the form of online and short in-person courses. You can also ask them to participate in a mentorship program or shadow a current manager. But they may not need to learn any hard skills to fulfill these development goals.
7. Track and measure progress
Once your plans have started, you need the tools to measure your team’s development. You can use people enablement software like Leapsome’s Learning module to observe course enrolment numbers and each employee’s learning progress.
To check the effect of your career development programs on company culture, consider conducting employee engagement surveys, too. These can give you insights into how your staff is responding to their new development opportunities. Be sure to hold surveys at regular points to see whether engagement levels rise as employees follow their training and development plans.
How to manage your employee development plans remotely
If you’ve got remote or hybrid workers, this can make a difference to their professional development plans. Here are a few tips to help you adjust your strategy for employees that aren’t on-site.
- Conduct regular, longer one-on-one meetings — There are fewer opportunities to get to know remote workers over watercooler chat, so you probably have less detailed insight into their career aspirations. Frequent one-on-one meetings let you discover more about remote employees and their professional development plans. With Leapsome, you can take meeting notes to ensure you remember important matters your reports shared.
- Clarify when to communicate and report — Remote workers are also more likely to miss opportunities to update you on their progress or seek guidance. Set a schedule with guidelines on what you’d like your employees to report on. You can also use Leapsome’s Meetings module to integrate meetings into your calendars, so nobody forgets.
- Have remote options for every training course — Give your remote workers the same opportunities as their in-office colleagues by ensuring that every training course has a digital equivalent.
- Provide real-time online courses — One of the main benefits of training courses is that participants can ask questions and discuss concerns. With purely digital training, remote workers often don’t get that opportunity. Offer some training sessions in real time so they can profit from professional exchange and receive additional support.
Prioritize employee growth with Leapsome
Well-implemented career development plans help you upskill your existing staff to plug skill gaps. So instead of spending your budget searching for talent, you can nurture it within your organization.
Leapsome’s all-in-one people enablement solution helps you introduce and run employee development plans for your business. You can create a competency framework to structure employee training and build learning pathways with automated timelines and data analytics, so you can easily monitor progress. The platform also enables you to make your own learning content with quizzes or upload third-party content in a variety of multimedia formats. Leapsome allows you to empower your people with ease.
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