The Criticality of Employee Development Planning


recent Gallup survey showed that lack of career advancement opportunities was the most common reason for employee leaving organizations, being cited by 32% of respondents. So if you want to motivate engage and develop your top performers you must engage in good quality career development, the basis of which is a properly executed employee development plan.

A nimble organization needs an approach to talent management that can be fluid and responsive. This level of organizational agility requires that employees be able to better themselves. Offering a sophisticated individual improvement process is one of the most effective ways to accomplish that.

Most individual improvement plans, however tend to have a  “fix-it” development approach which is rarely the most effective or efficient route to improvement. Discovering and curtailing weaknesses can work, but focusing exclusively on one’s shortcomings can be challenging and discouraging. It is important to also concentrate on the individual’s strengths and help him leverage those to his benefit in achieving organization goals and career success.

What is an employee development plan?

In general an Employee Development Plan can be a paper or electronic record which sets out the following:

  • an employee’s development needs,
  • the actions to be taken to address these needs (e.g. training)
  • when this action will occur,
  • and what support the employer must give,
  • And what action the employee must take.

There will be two elements to an employee development plan; these are ‘Personal’ and ‘Career’ development. The difference between the two is important to note. The Personal Development Plan: This looks at the employee’s weaknesses as identified in the review process in relation to their current job and seeks to address these weaknesses with training. The Career Development Plan: In larger companies this may be linked to the succession planning process. Typically, this plan looks to the future and looks to develop skills within employees which they will need to progress into a future leader or to simply advance and reach their career goals.

How to create these development plans?

Having communicated the areas for development to the employee in the review discussions, you can begin to address those weaknesses, item by item. You can do this by completing the development plan and the structure of the document should guide you through the development planning process. There are many variations of development plans available, but a good development plan must have the following 5 components.

  1. Area for developments
  2. Interventions, e.g. training
  3. Date when it will happen
  4. Manager’s actions
  5. Employee’s action.

Employees are bound to have a range of developmental needs and fortunately there are a range of developmental initiatives available to managers that can be applied to employees to help them develop skills. Some of the development initiatives which can be taken are as below :

  • Stretch Assignments; this is where employees are given projects, roles or assignments for a temporary period which push them out of their comfort zone, hopefully forcing them to acquire new skills.
  • They are very popular within the Fortune 500.
  • Job Rotation
  • Structured Training Courses
  • Self-Guided learning
  • Mentorship programs
  • Attending Conferences

Each development plan is likely to include more than one of these development activities.

Development plans are a core part of the management process as they can improve staff engagement and retention levels through the provision of opportunities for personal and career development and staff growth.