Keeping your organization running means making sure your internal operations work, your employees perform the tasks that are expected of them, and your reach stays consistent.

Organizational growth is an entirely different matter.

If your goal is to keep getting better and to make progress every day, you’ll want to aim for a model of continuous growth. You need a robust employee development plan to make that happen.

After we define the topic and explain what makes these plans so useful, we’ll show you a step-by-step breakdown of how to start crafting your own development plans.

What is an employee development plan?

Sometimes also referred to as employee development programs or professional development plans, employee development plans (EDPs) are about maximizing an individual’s potential.

They involve determining the employee’s workplace goals and closely examining how to achieve them. They may also involve suggesting career development plans that the employee wouldn’t have thought of on their own, but that suit their strengths and preferences.

Since each employee’s needs and goals are unique, it follows that there are multiple different types of employee development to suit every type of employee. Some are focused on providing targeted training. Others offer more diverse development opportunities, such as short-term projects or temporary roles.

The key is that each plan should be tailored to the employee it’s created for.

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Why do you need employee development plans?

Next, we’ll explore the close link between EDPs and organizational performance.

Each of the following results of using employee development plans helps create a company that’s better equipped for growth and internal improvement.

Upskilling your workforce

Many EDPs involve curating an employee training plan to help employees gain new, useful skills that will help them boost their work performance, from technical skills like using project management tools to softer leadership or communication skills. However, these training programs come with another added bonus: they let you upskill your workforce in specific, targeted ways.

For example, let’s say you want to take your newest IT talent from asking ‘what is PySpark’ to ‘how can I code my own interfacing programs in Python’. You would then include formal training modules related to coding, Python, and PySpark in their EDPs so they have the skills they need to boost their performance significantly.

The same principle applies when you’re looking to prepare your workforce for excellent leadership. By including leadership training and/or management training in many employee development plans, you’ll foster strong leaders who can take your company to new heights.

Optimizing efficiency

When you continually create plans to analyze your employees’ current performance and find ways to improve it, you’ll end up with better productivity and more streamlined operations with each new plan.

This is what employee development plans can help you do.

Employee performance is crucial to organizations’ growth as well. That’s because a company’s overall performance relies on the combined job performance of every team, and each member within those teams. EDPs for those team members will therefore help you create a more efficient organization on the whole.

This is particularly significant for industries like the restaurant business, where optimizing efficiency directly impacts customer satisfaction and consequently can increase restaurant sales.

You can think of an EDP as a kind of advanced performance review that comes with bespoke suggestions for improvement, like the kind that performance management software might help you create.

Securing individual career growth

There’s a lot more to professional growth than adopting a growth mindset and trying your best.

In order for employees to achieve their career goals, they each need an employee growth plan, together with career growth opportunities and the right support.

By including these growth opportunities in every EDP, you can ensure you’re shaping an effective employee growth plan while at the same time securing matching growth for your business. That’s because motivated employees who have what they need to succeed are a major asset to your business, as they’ll work hard for you.

Future-proofing your business

As we mentioned, upskilling is vital. Your employees must know how to use your newest contact center CRM integration, or you can’t reap the benefits of having it.

Employee development plans let you go beyond upskilling and into future-proofing, though.

Anytime a new tool appears on the market, you can add ‘learn to use this tool’ to relevant employees’ EDPs. This helps you stay ahead of new trends and adopt useful tools and approaches as soon as they become available, which acts as future-proofing.

Additionally, incorporating employee rewards into these plans, such as recognition programs or promotions, further incentivizes skill acquisition and fosters a culture of continuous improvement.

Boosting employee retention

Companies that want to grow need to keep their high-value talent on board. Thankfully, by helping employees reach management positions and other desirable future roles, EDPs help boost employee retention.

An employee development plan should always include details on an employee’s current position, whether they’re aiming to move to a different role or not. The plan needs to explore how they can better perform their current role, as well as practical steps to help them reach their ideal future position.

For example, let’s say an employee has been stuck in a team member position for some time. Each time new managerial positions open up, they’re passed over, but without experience in leadership roles, they’ll never be able to move to the executive position they eventually want.

Their EDP would then contain actionable advice to help them secure a managerial role in the new future, which encourages them to stay with the company and do their best work.

Steps for crafting the perfect development plan

Lastly, we’ll walk you through some actionable steps to help you get started with the process of creating an amazing employee development plan for each employee.

1. Choose your main metrics

Before we can get into the exciting action steps, we’ve got to do some groundwork.

You need to know which objectives your development plans will aim for. This includes both specific and broader objectives, and should balance personal development goals with organizational objectives.

Your chosen metrics need to measure employees’ progress towards accomplishing both their own goals and your company objectives.

2. Gather current data

Now that you’ve established your business objectives and how you’re going to assess whether they’ve been met, it’s time to start collecting information.

In other words, you’ve got to take stock of how close employees already are to their goals.

For example, let’s say someone has set the goal to learn all about data warehouse software. They already know how to use Apache Hive architecture, but they’re unfamiliar with the exact mechanics behind it. Your data should reflect their progress accordingly.

Consider leveraging technology such as executive search software to assist in identifying potential career paths and development opportunities for your employees, ensuring alignment with both individual aspirations and organizational needs.

3. Create first drafts

The next step is to start drafting plans using the data you’ve collected. Each plan should help employees move tangibly closer to their goals, as measured by your chosen metrics.

Remember that first drafts are supposed to be rough. Leave room for changes and improvements, and don’t get too attached to specific ideas or phrases—they could be replaced later on.

It’s also important to review your first draft before proceeding to the next step. This should verify whether you’ve addressed all relevant goals, so you don’t have to scribble in extra notes at the last minute or leave someone’s important plans on the sidelines.

4. Review plans with employees

This is one of the key steps of the process of creating an employee development plan and will help you determine whether individuals will be best suited to microlearning modules they can complete in their own time or more immersive on-the-job training and mentorships.

EDPs need to be tailored to employees, which is why you’ve got to bring them directly to those employees for a discussion. This can help illuminate gaps in your planning, or weak points you may not have noticed.

Employees might also add new information they forgot to bring up earlier. For example, an employee may have mentioned that they’re interested in HR. This led you to include training on using a human resource information system in their EDP. When they see this, they become very excited, because what they didn’t mention is that HR is their dream department, and you’ve just helped them take the first step towards working there.

5. Implement plans and track progress

Next, it’s time to put things in motion. You’ll want to note down exactly when each plan will start  so that you can accurately track and monitor how employee performance compares to your predictions.

It’s helpful to use workforce optimization software to help you stay on top of each employee’s progress. These kinds of tools make it easier to manage larger workforces, meaning you can deploy EDPs on a larger scale.

Using a progress report template to communicate the project status and make information transparent and visible can also be very effective and helpful.

6. Analyze the results

Finally, when your predetermined time period elapses, it’s time to compare observed progress with predicted progress. This will show you the extent to which employees succeeded at accomplishing each individual goal.

It’s also helpful to note down which goals were exceeded, or which were barely accomplished. This lets you recalibrate your goal-setting for the next round. It also helps you see how much progress has been made towards your company-wide goals.

If you’re managing training plans for multiple employees, it can be helpful to use training and HR software. These will help you track performance and progress for individual employees, and can be integrated with other tools like automated transcription software and Google Meets or Teams so you can monitor 1:1 sessions and outcomes.

7. Make improvements

This crucial step is technically not part of the main process of creating an EDP, but it’s no less essential, especially if you want to create a culture of learning at your company.

You’ve got to do more than just note down what the results were in order to guarantee continuous learning. That’s because your results should form the basis of your next set of plans, so you’re always learning and building on the back of what you’ve already accomplished.

You can see this principle at work in tools like machine-learning-based AIs, which rely on formal learning protocols to get smarter as they run. To learn more, consider reading about rule-based AI examples.

Final thoughts

Employee development plans let you shape and direct all employee growth to perfectly suit the needs of the organization, while helping each employee become the best version of themselves they can be.

This makes them absolutely vital to sustainable business growth.

By following the concrete steps we’ve set out above, you can start unlocking the full potential of each of your valuable employees. This shows them you care about them, which in turn boosts loyalty and creates a more welcoming work environment that embraces each individual.

It’s a win-win for both you and your staff.