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Over the last two years, the economy has seen several ups and downs. First, businesses had to let go of their employees at the outset of the pandemic. Then, just as companies started settling into “the new normal”, there was a not-so-surprise twist. Employees voluntarily began quitting their jobs in unprecedented numbers, in a phenomenon we now know as The Great Resignation.
While the name may seem dramatic, The Great Resignation did cause a dent in normal turnover patterns. Employees sought new opportunities for many reasons, some of which include burnout because of a work-life imbalance, worsened mental and physical health, and because of limited career development.
To stem this tide, companies have started building healthier work cultures and investing in upskilling as tools to keep their workforce engaged. Employees today are looking for jobs with better, stronger career trajectories. They expect both recognition and development opportunities. The data backs it, too. 94 per cent of employees say that they would stay at a company longer if it simply invested in helping them learn.
Intuitively, we know that investing in employees is absolutely worth it. It keeps them on top of their game and it also helps achieve business goals. So, it makes sense to provide continuous access to learning opportunities - it’s just good business sense. It is also good for employee engagement. A Gallup survey found that companies with a highly engaged workforce are 21% more profitable.
What Is an Employee Development Plan?
An employee development plan is a road map that defines the steps an employee will take to meet their professional goals. The plan outlines the skills, knowledge, and experience an employee will need to acquire to reach their desired level of proficiency
The employee development plan should be created with the input of the employee and their supervisor. Together, they should identify the skills, knowledge, and experience required to reach the employee's goals. Once these have been identified, the employee and supervisor can work together to create a plan of action that will help the employee attain these objectives.
Benefits of an Employee Development Plan
An employee development plan is important because it:
- Provides employees with a clear path for career growth: Without a plan, employees may become frustrated with a lack of opportunities for advancement.
- Helps reduce employee turnover: A well-designed employee development plan can help reduce turnover by giving employees a reason to stay with your company.
- Increases employee productivity: By setting specific goals and providing employees with the resources they need to reach those goals, you can increase employee productivity.
- Improves employee engagement: Employee development plans can improve employee engagement by giving employees a sense of ownership over their professional development.
- Helps managers identify training and development needs: By regularly reviewing employee development plans, managers can identify training and development needs that can be addressed through company-sponsored programs.
- Facilitates communication between employees and managers about career goals and expectations: By having a regular discussion about the employee development plan, managers and employees can ensure that everyone is on the same page regarding career goals and expectations.
Types of Employee Development Plans?
There are a few different types of employee development plans, which include:
- Individual employee development plans: These plans are created for individual employees and outline the specific steps they need to take to meet their goals.
- Group employee development plans: These plans are created for groups of employees who share similar goals. The plan outlines the steps that need to be taken by the group as a whole to meet their goals.
- Organizational employee development plans: These plans are created for all employees in an organization and outline the steps that need to be taken by the organization as a whole to meet its goals.
Steps to create an Employee Development Plan
Employee development is a long-term initiative but is also effective in the short term. Here are seven steps to creating an employee development plan:
1. Start with a skill gap analysis
The best way to set up your employee development program is to conduct a skill gap analysis. Determine what training gaps exist and which employees need it first. By taking this step, you’re putting your organization’s goals first, while also helping your workforce upskill. It’s a win-win! Another bonus? Employees who are on the fence about staying with your company may consider it worthwhile to stick around when they realize that you are committed to helping them advance in their personal career goals.
2. Offer professional training from the very beginning
The goal, after all, is to set your employees up for success in their role by offering them all the tools and resources they need to perform their job well. Research has shown that for a majority of millennials, the opportunity to learn and grow is the number one driver of engagement. The best way to target this is by offering professional development or training. Create a knowledge base of critical information and best practices as you hire more team members. Practice sharing these with new employees from their first day on the job. Design these practices for remote workers, too. Since they can’t ask one-off questions at your desk, it’s best to keep a training plan in place in order to get them fired up for their first day at work.
3. Fit the learning opportunities to the training
Think about how the type of training might fit the task. For example, a leadership training plan might include coaching, mentorship, and cross-training. Whereas an upskilling training plan, used to enhance an individual’s technical or soft skills, might include aspects like microlearning and on-the-job training. Once you have an idea about where your company is headed and which employees you need to train, use the right training tool to get the best results.
4. Transform managers into coaches
One of the main reasons for employees to quit is the fact that they do not receive enough relevant feedback or coaching from their manager. A contributing factor for this disconnect is that many managers aren’t equipped with the styles, skills, and techniques needed for coaching. A manager has to understand their direct report’s unique strengths, what drains them, and what motivates them so that you can guide them on their path to success. One way to do this is by setting up a regular cadence of 1:1s and asking insightful questions like:
- What’s going well for you at work? Have there been any recent wins?
- Are there any roadblocks that you need help with?
- How are you feeling this week? What’s the team morale like?
- How fulfilled are you at work? Why?
- Is there any way we can improve the employee experience or development initiatives?
Having intentional and meaningful two-way conversations can help you form deeper bonds with your people in the long run.
5. Boost cross-departmental collaboration
Cross-departmental training can help employees learn about different parts of the business and connect with more people across teams. This is a great way for your company to stay agile while also helping teams get new perspectives. You might discover unexpected leaders in the process and enhance your recruitment and retention efforts. More importantly, you’ll be fostering a culture of collaboration and innovation.
6. Regularly communicate learning and development opportunities
To make sure that your employees are aware of your offerings, you have to repeatedly communicate about the opportunities at your company. This means not just dangling a carrot during hiring or promotion conversations. Once an employee becomes eligible after a certain amount of tenure, remind them about their L&D opportunities during their milestone check-ins. If a huge part of the employee joining your team was because of the learning curve, make sure to bake these mentions within the 1:1 meetings.
7. Invest in your employees’ personal development
People are more than just their jobs. They are whole human beings with the capacity for varied physical, emotional, and intellectual experiences. For them to grow, it is important for the development plan to be holistic. This means investing in:
- Emotional health: People want to be seen, heard, and validated. Scale your wellness programs, remove the stigma from these conversations, and innovate on mental health benefits.
- Intellectual growth: Consider offering books and seminars about personal finance, problem-solving, soft skills, and career development.
- Physical wellness: Encourage employees to practice self-care and take a step away from their desks or laptops when the workday is complete. Promote fitter lifestyles, create fun incentives and challenges, and lead by example.
When people are given the tools and resources to grow in their careers, they feel inspired to do their best work. Focusing on holistic development in your employee engagement efforts will also drive the best talents to join your team.