If performance reviews are the bane of every employee’s existence, employee development plans are their bliss: an opportunity for them to actively achieve their career goals and aspirations. Employee development plans are forward-looking action plans for employees to acquire new skills and competencies. They’re driven by a set of goals employees wish to achieve to move up in their career and your company.

Taking stock of your employees’ long-term development and aspirations is critical, as most of your workforce cares deeply about it. What’s more, investing in employee development helps you drive profitability and stay competitive. Despite their many benefits, most employee development plans collect dust in a tucked-away spreadsheet—usually, because they’re generic and offer no real value to employees.

The rare breed of employee development plans that work is personalized, goal-oriented, relevant, and resourceful. Here’s a four-step guide that explains how you can tick each of these boxes:

Step 1: Personalize Each Employee’s Development Plan

A development plan is not a one-size-fits-all document you can create from a generic employee development template. To meet each employee’s unique development needs and aspirations, a development plan should be personalized according to their past experiences, present skills, and future goals. This is the first step in creating an employee development plan that works.

Russ Laraway, the co-founder of Candor Inc., recommends three conversations managers should have with their team members to create a plan that’s tailor-made for them:

  • Get to know their past: Go as far back as kindergarten, suggests Laraway, to truly understand what drives an employee. What were their strengths in school, which subjects did they excel in, did they make any unexpected pivots along the way, and did they ever hold leadership positions?
  • Ask about their future goals: Ideally, you want to “spot their lighthouse”—a distant dream like starting a business or running a company—“and bring it into focus.”
  • Make an action plan: In this final conversation about development, bridge the gap between an employee’s past experiences and future goals with an actionable roadmap. This includes giving them immediate goals for their next career move, as well as educational resources and mentorship opportunities to grow.

This approach to creating an employee development plan is definitely more time-consuming than assigning the same set of goals to each team member, but it’s also more likely to help employees grow at an optimum pace and meet their development goals.

Step 2: Define Clear Progression Paths

The next step in creating a worthwhile employee development plan is to outline progression paths for employees to move into senior and advanced roles in your organization. Well-defined progression paths give your employees goals to strive toward and keep them invested in their development plan.

Traditional progression paths generally focus on grooming employees to take up managerial roles. As employees develop advanced and strategic skills, they move on to manage larger and more complex teams.

Many companies, especially tech, offer alternate development paths for those who may not see themselves as people managers but want to progress nonetheless. This is known as the individual contributor (IC) track. Individual contributors progress by taking up new initiatives and meaty projects while regularly sharing insights with the rest of the team.

Apart from providing linear progression opportunities, encourage employees to move laterally across teams so they know they’re not tied to a specific role or department. For example, you can allow marketers to move into product management, or business development reps to take up customer service roles.

Step 3: Focus on Relevant Skills

As per one report, even though millennials care greatly about developing new skills, only one-third agree their most recent learning opportunity at work was well worth their time. This is likely to happen if your development plans focus on irrelevant skills that provide no immediate value to employees. On the other hand, relevant skills help employees get to the next stage in their career and prepare them for future changes to their job description.

For instance, marketers may not find immediate value in developing their ability to negotiate, but they’ll definitely find value in understanding consumer psychology or using advanced analytics. They might also benefit from learning new frameworks for SEO and upcoming tools such as artificial intelligence-powered writing platforms.

To keep development plans focused on competencies that matter, take a look at the next stage in an employee’s progression path and list key skills they’ll need to get there to keep their development plan focused on relevancy.

To identify skills that make employees and your business future-ready, think about the changes your industry is undergoing. Which technologies are becoming commonplace? Are there changes to fundamental processes and systems your employees should know about? Devote a good chunk of development planning to help employees learn emerging tools and understanding new strategic frameworks.

Step 4: Make it Actionable

In this last step for creating an effective employee development plan, you want to make sure it’s actionable enough for employees to use. If not, it’s simply a wish list with a set of skills.

An actionable development plan consists of resources that help employees acquire key skills and achieve their progression goals.

It’s best to provide a mix of theoretical and practical resources, so employees can learn the fundamentals of a skill and how to apply it in their work.

For instance, this training plan for a product area lead lists several theoretical resources you can provide, like online courses, coaching sessions, and books:

Product area lead training plan

To help employees better understand the practical aspects of a skill, consider offering in-person or virtual practice sessions. If they need to use certain tools to apply their skills, walk them through those tools, if possible.

A digital adoption platform (DAP) is a good resource to help employees learn new tools while they’re actually using them. It provides real-time guidance in the form of step-by-step walk-throughs, pop-ups, and tooltips. DAPs help employees master different types of software such as sales tools, HR platforms, marketing tools, and more. They can be integrated right into a specific tool and gradually introduce employees to different features of an app without overwhelming them.

The Future of Employee Development is Upskilling—a DAP Helps You Achieve This At Scale

Technologies such as artificial intelligence, cloud technology, and big analytics will be major drivers of business growth by 2022, per one report. Thanks to technological advances, the same report also highlights how more than half of all employees will require significant re- and upskilling.

To remain competitive, you’ll need to focus your employee development plans on digital upskilling, too. This means training employees to use new technologies and platforms in your industry. But as you’ve probably experienced, training hundreds of employees to use software like Salesforce, Workday, and Microsoft Dynamics 365 is no easy feat.

A digital adoption platform like Whatfix helps you provide personalized, step-by-step guidance to employees as they learn how to navigate software for sales, marketing, HR, customer service, and more. It’s the best resource to make your employee development plans future-ready and valuable.

Want to see how Whatfix can transform your employee development plans into powerful drivers of growth? Sign up for a personalized demo today.

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