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Learning & Development

Creating an employee development plan, our roadmap to success

Leapsome Team
Creating an employee development plan, our roadmap to success
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Employee development is key to retaining your best talent and driving business success in an unpredictable economic landscape. If you’re skeptical, ask your employees: The latest research shows that 66% of professionals say they need to secure new skills to excel in their roles (1). 

Despite this reality, many organizations aren’t making full use of a development plan to train their workforce and keep pace with technological advances. 88% of people say they don’t trust their employers to support them with AI training, despite 58% agreeing they’re open to opportunities for using it at work (2). What’s more, our own study found that 23% of team members rated their company’s learning and development processes as bad, and 21% even qualified them as reasons to leave (3). 

There are many benefits to upskilling your existing employees instead of searching for new staff elsewhere. An effective employee development plan allows you to hold on to the people making a real impact within your organization while guiding team members into the right roles for them and your company. 

Our expert guide walks you through seven essential steps for building a successful plan for employee development. We’ve also included key considerations for the drafting phase and for tailoring your plan to remote workers.

  1. TalentLMS and Vyond, 2023
  2. Jobs for the Future, 2023
  3. Leapsome State of People Enablement, 2023
🤝 Build loyalty with career development plans

Create a roadmap showing your employees how to advance their careers with Leapsome’s Competency Framework.

Learn more

What is an employee development plan?

An employee development plan is a roadmap companies design 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 professional development plans for employees 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. That means it’s important to tailor your staff development plans to each individual employee’s unique 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. Beyond their direct advantages for individual employees and teams, these plans can have widespread effects on your organization. With a great plan, your company can expect to:

  • Retain your best people and give employees the chance to develop into effective managers — Creating employee growth plans is vital for companies that want to prepare their high-performers to become impactful team leads. “2023 started to address the skill gaps that companies were seeing as a result of three years of remote/hybrid/disrupted working,” says MasterClass’s Chief People Officer Melanie Steinbach in a piece for SHRM. “In 2024, companies will need to improve this investment to build the manager pipelines of the future.”

  • 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 — Development plans for employees allow you to identify your most talented team members, so you’ll 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 employee growth plans to individuals 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 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 — Staff 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 often use their work development plan to map their route to a specific role within your company. This means you’ll have a ready-made list of contenders for a position when you’re looking to promote internally.
💪 Empower your people with the right learning opportunities

Leapsome’s Competency Framework connects to our Goals and Learning platforms, allowing you to build a framework for continuous learning that you can customize for your company and employees.

Learn more 

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 skills needed to handle a new position but may not feel ready, perhaps because they’d prefer extra training or they’re going through a major life upheaval. Always factor this into any employee development planning 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, construct developmental plans 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 platforms like Leapsome Learning that support onboarding and training.

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.

An infographic illustrating the seven stages of employee development planning.

1. Perform a skills gap analysis

Start by identifying the difference between the skills your employees offer and those currently lacking within your organization. To do so, conduct a skills gap analysis as a company-wide initiative, following these steps:

  1. Have team leaders evaluate the skill level of their direct reports.
  2. Collect the results of their evaluation.
  3. Identify and measure the skills required for each area of your business.
  4. Compare the data from your employees and your business.
  5. 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 achieved less than 8, you know you need to factor this into your staff development plan.

2. Create learning pathways

Once you have a clearer picture of the competencies your current workforce needs to develop, you can build relevant learning pathways. Within the context of a development plan, the right training paths serve to guide your employees from their current level to where your organization needs them to be. 

As you design these courses, 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 Learning to create learning pathways and track individual training progress.

A screenshot of Leapsome's Effective Meetings learning path within the Learning Module.
Empower team members with targeted training courses when you use Leapsome Learning

3. Assess employee growth potential

Having conducted your 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 managers have been using performance reviews to assess direct reports, you’ll already have some idea of 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 development plan for work. This is a crucial conversation because even the perfect candidate for a role or new responsibility may not want to take it on.

A screenshot of the heatmap dashboard within Leapsome's Reviews module.
Using Leapsome Reviews makes it easier to aggregate company-wide performance data, spot trends over time, and build the right development plans for your employees

4. Align employee and company goals 

Next, assess 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, professional development plans for employees 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. 

Suppose you’re struggling to find learning and development opportunities for a specific team member. In that case, it might be a sign you haven’t communicated your business mission to them clearly enough or are underutilizing their skills. That’s a good reminder to take the time to have an open conversation with them. Ask them what they think their biggest growth opportunities are. Make sure they’re clear on your wider company vision and work together to identify ways they feel they can contribute to it.

⚙️ Make company-wide alignment easier with the right goal-setting tools

With Leapsome’s AI-supported Goals, managers and reports can create development targets with a simple prompt and two clicks — then adjust them to align with organizational objectives.

Learn more

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, ensuring whatever training initiatives you implement fit your company and each employee. 

Let’s say an employee hopes to take on a management role. They would likely benefit from online and short in-person management courses covering core concepts like performance management, conflict resolution, and team leadership . You can also make mentorship programs or shadowing part of their employee growth plan so they can get more first-hand experience.

Don’t forget that your existing managers can also benefit from ongoing training and leadership development opportunities. If a team lead struggles with delegation, an executive coaching course on empowerment could be useful. Or they may need extra training in business intelligence, leadership analytics, and data visualization.

If you’re looking for relevant training courses for employees, we suggest checking out Leapsome Learning, which enables you to create dedicated leadership and soft-skill-specific courses for team members. What’s more, thanks to our partnership with compliance content providers like Ethena and lawpilots, you can access engaging, high-quality courses like Management Essentials and Harassment Prevention within our Learning Marketplace.

7. Track and measure progress 

Once you’ve put your staff development plans into action, you need the tools to measure your team’s development. You can use people enablement software like Leapsome Learning to observe course enrollment numbers and monitor their progress along learning paths.

To check the effectiveness of your career development programs on company culture, consider conducting employee engagement surveys, too. These can give you insights into how your staff responds 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.

Additionally, you should regularly analyze employee performance data for company-wide trends. This big-picture view will help you monitor how your growth plans for employees are impacting team member work on a larger scale, so you can refine your strategy as needed.

A screenshot of Leapsome's Competency Profile.
Leapsome’s Competency Framework syncs with our Reviews module to create powerful Competency Profiles, allowing you to assess employee development at a glance

Employee development plan examples

There’s no definitive method for creating a development plan for employees. The best approach is to design your plan based on your company’s unique mission and objectives, then improve  and iterate on it as you go. 

You can use the following professional development plan examples as a starting point for your own.

Basic development plan

Employee name: [Name]

Date: [Date]

Current title: [Job title]

Current strengths: 

  • Problem-solving
  • Adaptability
  • Teamwork and collaboration

Current areas of growth: 

  • Time management
  • Presentation skills
  • Communication skills

Development needs:

  • Enhance time management — Aim to reduce time spent on non-essential activities by 20% in the next two weeks
  • Improve presentation skills — Deliver a presentation at a team meeting or departmental gathering within the next month
  • Strengthen communication skills — Ask for feedback from a coworker aiming to improve communication effectiveness within the next month

Long-term professional goals:

  • Lead three business-critical cross-departmental projects within the next three years
  • Become a team lead within the next two years

Action steps:

  • [Step 1] [Timeline]
  • [Step 2] [Timeline]
  • [Step 3] [Timeline]

Action items:

  • [Item 1]  [Timeline]
  • [Item 2]  [Timeline]
  • [Item 3]  [Timeline]

Technical skills development plan

Employee name: [Name]

Current title: [Job title]

Development area | Software proficiency

🎯 Goal | Improve proficiency in Excel

👉 Actions:

  • Complete online Excel course [Completed]
  • Practice using advanced functions [Ongoing]
  • Create and analyze complex spreadsheets [Q1]
  • Seek feedback from supervisor [Q1]

Development area | Data analysis

🎯 Goal | Enhance skills in data visualization

👉 Actions:

  • Attend data visualization workshop [Q2]
  • Work on real data visualization projects [Q2]
  • Review best practices and examples [Q2]

Development area | Programming languages

🎯 Goal | Learn Python programming


  • Enroll in Python programming course [Q1]
  • Complete coding exercises and projects [Q2]
  • Participate in coding challenges [Q2]

Leadership development plan

Employee name: [Name]

Current title: [Job title]

Development area | Communication skills 

🎯 Goal | Improve ability to articulate long-term vision

👉 Actions:

  • Attend public speaking workshop [Ongoing]
  • Practice delivering presentations [Q1]
  • Seek feedback from colleagues [Q1]

Development area | Decision-making skills

🎯 Goal | Enhance strategic decision-making 

👉 Actions:

  • Attend decision-making seminar [Q2]
  • Participate in case study discussions [Q2]
  • Shadow senior leaders in meetings [Q3]

Development area | Team leadership

🎯 Goal | Develop skills in team motivation and empowerment

👉 Actions:

  • Read books/articles on team dynamics [Ongoing]
  • Implement team-building activities [Q1]
  • Provide regular feedback to team [Q3]

Development area | Emotional intelligence and active listening

🎯 Goal | Enhance ability to manage emotions and lead with empathy

👉 Actions:

  • Attend emotional intelligence workshop [Q2]
  • Practice active listening [Ongoing]
  • Seek mentorship for emotional support [Q1]

Our downloadable development plan template

We recommend our free downloadable template for teams just getting started with creating an employee growth plan. It’s a perfect option to help managers and direct reports collaborate on creating outcome-driven development goals. This customizable framework encourages team leads to offer actionable guidance and clear deadlines when overseeing employee development.

A screenshot of Leapsome’s development plan template.
Make your development plans more time-bound and action-oriented by downloading our free development plan template
⚙️ Give employees the tools they need to stay on track with their growth

Our free development plan template allows employees to take ownership of their skills progression and advance at their own pace with action steps and timelines.

Download the template

How to manage your employee development plans remotely

Remote and hybrid workers need development plans as much as any employee — maybe even more so. According to recent Gallup data, remote/hybrid employees report that they feel less connected to their company’s mission.

Here are a few tips to help you adjust your employee growth plan strategy for team members who 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 less likely to update you on their progress or seek guidance due to a lack of communication standards. Set a schedule with guidelines on what you’d like your employees to report on. You can also use Leapsome Meetings to integrate catch-ups 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

It’s easier to create growth plans for employees when you use Leapsome’s Competency Frameworks to define role-specific skills for every level of your organization

Well-implemented development plans help you upskill your existing staff and plug current skill gaps. This means you can spend less time and resources searching for talent — and more nurturing talented professionals within your organization.

To streamline the process, it helps to have the right tech to support you as you scale your development planning. 

Thankfully, Leapsome’s all-in-one people enablement solution is there for you, making it simpler to introduce and run employee development plans for your business. With Leapsome, you can create clear competency frameworks to structure employee training and use our Learning module to build learning pathways with automated timelines and data analytics. Moreover, Leapsome Goals and Reviews allow you to set development objectives and track employee performance over time, so you know when your career growth plans have been a success and when they need improvement.

As a holistic platform, Leapsome empowers teams with the tools they need to help high-performers develop and retain them for the long haul.

📈 Nurture growth in your organization

With integrated tools for creating competency frameworks, setting development goals, and checking in on progress, Leapsome lets you run effective development plans without the effort.

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Written By

Leapsome Team

Written by the team at Leapsome — the all-in-one people enablement platform for driving employee engagement, performance, and learning.
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