4 Steps to Create an Employee Development Plan

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Learn how to fuel success, enable employee growth & future proof your organization with employee development plans that map out training & align goals.

Companies must constantly evolve and adapt to be successful. At the heart of this process are your employees. When you give your people opportunities to learn and grow, their future successes become yours too.

Deloitte research backs this up, suggesting that high-performing organizations are 37 times more likely to help employees achieve their long-term goals. They’re also nearly seven times as likely to support workers to develop missing capabilities and skills.

Investing in employee development is a must to enable long-term success.

What Is Employee Development Planning?

Employee development planning is about helping your people build their skills, knowledge, and competencies to foster growth and improve performance. But this growth takes more than just software or training courses. 

You need to create and reinforce a culture of learning that puts people at the heart of their development journey. Providing personalized learning opportunities and an environment where employees can learn, practice, and apply new skills in the flow of work inspires productivity and strengthens both team and organizational outcomes.

The Benefits of Employee Development Planning

Employee development planning has the potential to impact every aspect of your organization. Here’s why a solid development program matters:

1) You Attract, Retain, and Grow Your Talent Pool

A 2022 PwC survey found that 77% of execs and leaders consider hiring and retaining talent the most important factor for achieving growth. Not only that, respondents listed increasing career advancement and upskilling opportunities as one of their top employee incentives. Investing in employee development shows your people you care about their success.

2) Development Makes Employees Happier

Employees want their work to be fulfilling—your role is to help them understand what drives them and give them the tools they need to get there. McKinsey data shows that companies observe a 73% improvement in employee job satisfaction and a 55% improvement in brand perception when they actively invest in skills development.

3) Investing in L&D Futureproofs Your Organization

In response to an unpredictable and fast-changing environment, companies are arming their workforce with the skills and capabilities needed to give them a competitive edge. One Gartner report found that building skills and competencies is a priority for nearly 60% of HR leaders. However, 40% struggle to build development solutions fast enough to meet evolving skill needs. Ongoing training and development gives your company the power to innovate and respond to these rapidly growing skills gaps.

SUPPORT YOUR EMPLOYEES’ LEARNING AND DEVELOPMENT | ‘The Definitive Guide to Employee Development

The Difference Between Employee Development and Career Development

The difference between employee and career development lies in whose needs are being met by the training. Employee development focuses on meeting both the immediate needs of the employee and the organization by closing skills gaps, enriching the talent pool, and futureproofing against change. Organizational goals inform employee training and knowledge requirements.

Career development is about meeting the employee’s future needs with a clearly-defined training path that lays out their goals—within the company or beyond. This might involve desired skills, advancement opportunities, or a future job title. The employee communicates where they want their career to go, and their plan gives them the steps they’ll take to get there. 

Done well, a development program connects the two goals to strengthen engagement and deliver results.

How to Build an Employee Development Plan

Your people need a plan to address their ongoing needs with a list of clear, actionable steps.

1) What Are Your Organization’s Goals?

Development strategies should always be informed by wider business objectives. Connecting personal and professional objectives increases transparency and encourages growth at all levels. 

Gather as much information as possible about current goals, priorities, and opportunities. Look at your current structure to map out how the workforce operates and what strategic changes can be made.

You also need to forecast for the future, including any challenges, changes you anticipate in the industry, or emerging skills gaps. Ask leaders and execs for input wherever possible to ensure accuracy.

Use some of the following questions to gather information:

  • What are your organization’s current goals and priorities?
  • What is your organization’s long-term strategy?
  • Do you anticipate any future challenges?
  • Are you keeping up with industry changes?
  • What skills need to be developed or acquired to meet these goals?
  • Where do you see opportunities for growth or improvement?

2) What Are Your Employees' Goals?

The key to effective employee development is to ask questions at all levels of your organization. During career conversations, managers should ask employees what drives them, what they want to accomplish, and the skills they want to develop. This helps employees define their goals and understand how they tie into company objectives.

Whether employees want to learn new skills to progress in their current role or reskill for a different one, training and development activities should always be relevant to their goals. Managers must check in regularly to see how learners are progressing and if they need support.

Encourage managers to ask employees some of the following questions:

  • What drives you in your career?
  • What do you enjoy most about your role?
  • Do you need any additional support?
  • What skills do you need to do your job?
  • Where do you want your career to take you?
  • Do you understand how your goals align with team and organizational priorities?

3) What Training and Skills Do Employees Need?

With a list of clear and achievable development goals, you can easily connect employees with relevant training and development opportunities. The tools and resources employees use should vary based on their goals. For example, an employee on track to move into a management position will likely benefit from more hands-on coaching opportunities than one who wants to improve their information security skills.

Always mix up your formats to keep learners engaged. A learning management system LMS  is a simple way to host, deliver, and track online learning. You can also break down complex topics and space out training to avoid information overload.

For a more hands-on experience, look for on-the-job opportunities. Stretch assignments, job rotation, and mentoring give employees hands-on experience and the chance to practice skills and behaviors in a safe space.

Use the following questions to connect employees with development opportunities:

  • What tools and resources will you use?
  • Do you already have the training resources you need?
  • Will you create content in-house or outsource?
  • How will you track learner progress?
  • How often will employees check in with managers?
  • Do you have subject matter experts who can share their knowledge?

HOW LEARNERS PREFER TO CONSUME CONTENT | ‘Does Your L&D Approach Meet the Needs of Today’s Learner?

4) How Will You Measure the Success of Employee Development?

Creating individual development plans is only the beginning—results need to be measured and reviewed to make an impact and add long-term value.

Keep employees on track with goals by setting a series of milestones for them to meet, such as completing a course or demonstrating a skill on the job. This way, they’ll always know where they’re up to, and managers can schedule one-on-ones for the key moments. 

Tracking real-time metrics allows employees and managers to assess progress and measure outcomes continuously. It also means they can change goals to align with new priorities or adjust training courses to meet employee needs. Look for success criteria beyond targets being met. For example, employee engagement scores show that your workforce is happy and invested in their training.

Use some of the following questions to measure success:

  • Have individual and team goals been met?
  • Have development activities increased employee performance?
  • Can employees apply the skills they have learned in the workplace?
  • Did you face any unexpected challenges, and how did you overcome them?
  • Are employees satisfied with their training?

LEARN MORE ABOUT EMPLOYEE TRAINING | ‘How to Launch a Training Program at Your Organization

The Must-Haves for Effective Employee Development Planning

For your employees to get the most out of training and development opportunities, you also need to nurture their talents, support their growth, and make learning an integral part of your culture. 

Here are some employee development essentials:

1) People-First Managers

Someone is a people-first manager when they play an active role in employee development. They recognize where their people’s strengths lie, what engages them, and the skills they’re missing. Using this information, managers should suggest relevant training opportunities and discuss employee career drivers regularly to check their needs are being met.

Regular communication is crucial to support employees and increase productivity. Conversations should always be positive, supportive, and based on actionable feedback to help employees apply what they’ve learned. Weekly one-on-ones are best practice to discuss goals and performance, but employees must always feel they can reach out if they need additional support.

2) Data-Driven Insights

Successful development programs are those that are constantly measured, reviewed, and adjusted. RedThread data suggests that organizations with strong learning cultures are far more likely to determine the success of their training via measuring how well it meets business needs. 73% of these high performers use this measurement method, while just 31% of mid and lower performers do the same.

An intelligent reporting tool is essential. Data and analytics should show you the impact of employee development, and you can determine success through metrics such as course completion, success rates, and progress.

The best tools combine your learning, performance, and employee engagement data. Armed with this information, you can improve the training you offer and better target your current resources.

3) A Well-Stocked Course Library

For employee development programs to be effective, learners need immediate access to training that meets their individual needs. Employees should have a central place to find content, search for courses, and connect with other learners based on skills. 

Tap into the knowledge of existing talent within your organization and explore which resources can be used to complement live training activities. Sharing materials from content champions means employees don’t have to wait to meet with a busy SME. Instead, they can use videos, presentations, and how-to guides at a time best suited to them—ideally, these materials should be delivered both offline and on-the-go.

Offer your content in different formats to meet the needs of different learning styles and preferences. Formats such as videos, quizzes, and discussion boards can engage learners, make complex topics easier to understand, and create connection.

Transform Your Learning and Development Culture With Bridge

Enhance your company culture, engage your people, and deliver results with Bridge. Bridge’s tools give you the power to build personalized employee development plans, create and assign relevant training, and control when learning happens.

Seamlessly integrate performance conversations and skills feedback into development plans to put L&D at the center of the employee experience. Keep your organization connected through continuous check-ins and peer feedback, and align your people, strategy, and goals to achieve growth.

Peter Brussard

Peter Brussard

​​Peter Brussard is a software executive with a long, demonstrable track record of more than 20 years of experience building software, leading teams and scaling revenue, he is currently the President and Managing Director of Bridge. His prior experience includes SVP Technology & Product Management at Instructure, SVP Product & Engineering at Rosetta Stone, and leadership roles at Microsoft and a variety of startups.

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