Top 4 Employee Development Plan Examples
There are few things that slow productivity as much as feeling stuck professionally. An employee development plan offers an avenue for the long-term development of professional skills. But these programs don’t just benefit employees, they also benefit the organization itself.
When properly implemented, employee development programs can improve organizational culture, employee performance, employee engagement, organizational successes and more. As employers, it is in your best interest to invest in empowering employees and drive and growth from within the organization.
Gallup found that when companies strategically invest in employee development, they report 11% greater profitability and they are two times more likely to retain their employees. And this makes sense: pursuing “career growth opportunities” is cited as the number one reason people leave their jobs.
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Read on as we delve into the different types of employee development plans, how to create your own employee development program, the ways in which employee development impacts business continuity, and much more.
What is employee development?
Employee development, career development, training and development – these are all commonly used terms in HR, but there are differences between them.
Employee development refers to long-term training, education, and development activities aimed at improving an employee’s capabilities and value within an organization. These programs are implemented and managed by organizations. While employees benefit from these programs, they are aimed at benefiting a company first, and employees second. Of course, since employee development efforts are built around the improvement of professional skills, workers will naturally stand to benefit.
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For that reason, many organizations use employee and career development programs as a method to attract and recruit talented employees. Done right, employee development programs can actually become tools that deliver measurable ROI, improving the workforce, the workplace, and organizational performance.
Career development refers to training and development efforts that center around an employee’s career interests and professional development.
While employee development programs are intended to improve the workforce’s performance, in career development, the employee’s needs take precedence. Since these programs emphasize an employee’s own career goals, they will be more personalized and flexible in terms of their content.
Despite these differences, both approaches can serve as excellent tools for recruiting and retaining talented workers.
Employee training refers specifically to on-the-job training that provides workers with the skills they need to perform their jobs.
Training often begins early on in an employee’s career at a company – many times on the very first day of work. Training forms a core part of the two types of development programs mentioned above, which is one reason why they are used together in the term “training and development.”
Development programs differ from training programs because they focus on long-term professional improvements. They can include other types of education that don’t fall under the “training” umbrella, such as mentorship programs, workshops, seminars, or other educational activities.
Of the three, training is the most critical business activity, since it imparts the fundamental skills that employees need in order to actually do their day-to-day work. However, given the affordability and the advantages of offering long-term development programs, many organizations choose to offer all three.
Why use an employee development plan?
When employees are actively learning and improving in their field, they will be more engaged and productive. An employee development plan is a recruitment and retention tool that offers a structured approach to professional growth.
According to a 2016 study by The Society for Human Resource Management, employees who participate in a development program are more satisfied and feel that their employers are recognizing them for their value. With additional learning opportunities, they are better prepared to take on more challenging projects and roles. This also sets them on a track toward leadership positions within the company.
However, these plans do not simply fall into our laps; they take time and maintenance to create and implement. Typically, the HR department handles the planning while managers and leaders play secondary roles. It is important that everyone is on board to make the plan and employee experience successful.
Here are a few examples of tried and true employee development plans to get you started.
Types of employee development plans
#1 Performance-based plan
This plan uses the logic of a grade school report card.
Students who work hard and are awarded A’s are the ones that make honor roll for the semester. At the very least, students study to get passing grades. Similarly, in a workplace setting, employees are more focused when they are working toward a goal each quarter.
However, success in the workplace is not always quantitative. For salespeople, it is simple to set and work toward a certain numerical target. The outcome is either yes or no. But the numbers are not the whole picture.
If you are using a performance-based professional development plan, consider other aspects of employees’ experience, such as professional growth throughout the quarter and motivation.
This type of thinking leads into something called the feed-forward review, where the review focuses on the employee’s best moments and how they can implement what they’ve learned in future projects.
#2 Management by objectives
This employee development plan is similar to the performance-based one, but relies on shorter-term goals. Rather than following goals dictated down from management, employees set their own individual milestones. Those milestones then work together toward the overall organizational goal.
This plan is more proactive than reactive. Instead of looking back at performance and evaluating backwards, employees can modify goals as time goes on and as they see fit. This plan makes it so employees are constantly self-evaluating and improving their performance.
#3 Succession planning
Many organizations already have a career ladder in place, which is why this employee development plan is called succession planning. With succession planning, employees are placed somewhere on the ladder and work toward a promotion or more senior role as time goes on.
This longer-term type of planning caters well to mentorship programs, whether they are cross-departmental or with someone a few steps up on the same ladder.
Mentorship can be a beneficial development tool for both the mentor and mentee, adding value to this option. Mentors are typically further along in their careers and can give advice on how they’ve gotten to where they are as well as general wisdom of the industry.
#4 Ad-hoc improvement
This plan is highly individualized and works best on sole employees rather than with groups. It is based on a mentorship program, similar to the succession plan, but focusing more on the mentee’s individual needs.
Timing is extremely important for this type of employee development. It is important to be responsive when an employee expresses desire to learn more — they may lose interest if you wait too long.
While this plan is more informal, it is great for employees who want to improve on specific skills that will help their careers advance.
Employee development plans are not plug and play, but it is well worth the time spent implementing and facilitating growth. Employee development plans drive value for the organization, reduce employee churn and improve overall productivity.
Design an employee development plan in 5 steps
Creating an employee development plan is pretty straightforward.
Following these steps will make it easy to create development plans that are suitable for both employees and the company:
1. Assess the organization’s needs and goals
Since employee development puts organizations’ needs first, those needs should be prioritized.
It pays to consider:
- The current needs of the organization
- Impending organizational changes and digital transformation programs
- What the organization will need in the near and long-term future
These needs will be used to establish the limits of the employee development plan and discover how employees can best meet them.
During this phase of planning, foresight is key.
Many companies are undergoing continual organizational change and digital transformation, so development plans should take those changes into account. Those in charge of employee development planning should collaborate with business leaders and others who are aware of those changes, to ensure that employee development plans are properly aligned.
2. Assess the employee’s needs and goals
Every employee is different and each will have a unique set of…
Ideally, employee development plans should simultaneously meet employees’ aims as well as the organization’s.
Credit: McKinsey report on the importance of building capabilities within an organization
3. Create a development plan that fits both
If development programs focus on the organization’s goals over the employee goals, then the content will be less relevant and can cause workers to disengage. However, if those plans prioritize employee development over the organization’s goals, then what’s really being created is a career development plan, not an employee development plan.
As mentioned, the distinction does matter, and if an organization needs to prioritize its own goals, then the plan’s emphasis should be shifted.
Ultimately, in order to maximize engagement and profitability, an employee development plan should strive to satisfy the agendas of each party.
4. Choose the right training methods and tools
Earlier, we looked at four examples of employee development plans and how each can be used to improve employee productivity and engagement.
Each type of plan has its own strengths and weaknesses. Succession planning and mentorship programs, for instance, can be useful for career-driven plans that provide experience-based knowledge to employees. However, these types of programs cannot impart certain types of knowledge.
An organization that is undergoing disruptive change, for instance, may elect to emphasize the need for cutting-edge digital skills. Though succession planning may still be useful in certain respects, it is not an effective way to train workers on new digital tools.
For organizations with aggressive digital transformation agendas, it is better to follow a different plan that emphasizes digital adoption and training.
5. Implement, measure, and optimize
Employee development plans, as with other business processes, should be tested and optimized over time.
Employee surveys, one-on-one discussions, performance metrics, and feedback from managers can all be useful data sources. These can be used to improve the effectiveness and adjust the trajectory of a given employee development plan, and useful for enhancing future employee development efforts.
Another option is to engage in ad-hoc planning, as mentioned above, which tends to be more incremental and flexible in nature. Since they are only delivered on an as-needed basis, they are easy to implement and change at will.
What are the biggest challenges to employee development planning?
Employee development efforts can run into a number of setbacks and obstacles, such as:
- Expectations around results
- Poor performance
- Lack of engagement
- The increasing need for digital skills
Overcoming these challenges is fortunately not difficult, and can be resolved through proper foresight and the appropriate training measures.
Who should lead training?
In most organizations, HR or training departments will handle employee development planning.
Those providing the actual training will differ, depending on the circumstances.
Mentors, as mentioned, can provide career-oriented advice and knowledge, which can be a useful approach for succession planning.
However, there are many other vehicles that can be used to assist with employees’ professional development, such as:
- Workshops and seminars
- Online courses
- Digital adoption platforms (DAPs)
To maximize the outcomes of training and development efforts, it is worth taking the time needed to find the most appropriate training tools and methods.
Choosing the right software for employee development
Software, tools, and technology can be instrumental when it comes to both short- and long-term training.
Today, a great deal of skills training revolves around the digital workplace, which is why digital training solutions are so vital.
Digital adoption platforms (DAPs), for example, can be excellent for the ongoing development of digital skills. These digital adoption tools act as UI and training layers that deliver contextualized, interactive guidance directly inside other applications. DAPs are modern training solutions that can be used for both on-site and remote training.
They provide continuous, virtual training through a number of key features, including:
In-app walkthroughs. In-app walkthroughs take users one step at a time through a workflow. These walkthroughs are automated and user-friendly, showing users exactly what to do at each step. However, since users are performing the tasks themselves, they are more likely to remember the actions than if they are passively receiving the information via text or video.
Product tours. A product tour quickly demonstrates a product’s core features to new users, helping them to quickly understand the gist of the application and its value. Tours can simplify new user onboarding, accelerating time-to-productivity and minimizing potential frustration.
Contextualized, interactive guidance. Given the inherent complexity of enterprise-grade software tools, employees will naturally need to seek out help from time to time. Virtual, interactive assistance gives employees the ability to retrieve contextually relevant information in the moment of need, decreasing reliance on technical support.
Software analytics. Analytics can track users’ interactions with a software application, giving managers insight into training needs. This information can be used to improve walkthroughs, enhance training efforts, or implement other corrective action as needed.
When used in conjunction with other employee development tactics, such as mentorship programs, DAPs can minimize learning timelines, while maximizing performance and results.
Remote training and development
Remote working, the virtual workplace, and digital workflows are all becoming the norm, which is why employee development programs should cater to the needs of the modern digital worker.
Employee productivity in the digital age depends heavily on digital literacy and digital skills. And since the modern workplace is rapidly becoming more virtual and remote, it is more important than ever to offer remote training and development options.
These can include:
- Digital employee training solutions that can operate anywhere, such as digital adoption platforms (DAPs)
- Teaching employees how to work remotely
- Providing mobile-friendly, on-demand training options
Working from home has become far more common in recent years, due in part to the advantages it offers workers and organizations. The COVID-19 crisis also demonstrated the value of remote work as a disaster mitigation plan.
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It can certainly be expected that remote work will become more prevalent in the coming years, so it pays to incorporate this into employee development programs as much as possible.
How an employee development plan enables business continuity
Today, digital innovation, natural disasters, and crises can all disrupt business models, making business continuity a top priority for most organizations. Maintaining continuous, stable operations is no easy task, however – ensuring business continuity requires organizational agility, strategic digital transformation, and adaptability.
Continual organizational change means that employees become perpetual learners. Digitally skilled workers are in high demand and, as mentioned above, a lack of digitally skilled workers can impede innovation.
One of the best ways to maintain a skilled workforce is through employee development programs.
To this end, it is useful to set specific targets that revolve around:
Reskilling and upskilling. Each time an organization adopts new software, workflows must be redesigned and employees must be retrained. Though new technologies offer a great deal of potential value, effective employee onboarding and training is a must. Employee development programs, in other words, can be leveraged as a vehicle to maintain employee skill levels, while simultaneously improving their levels of engagement and motivation.
Skills and abilities that will be needed both today and in the future. Since many organizations are undertaking digital transformation efforts, it is necessary to prepare employees for the workplace of tomorrow. In fact, many of today’s most in-demand jobs didn’t even exist five or ten years ago, according to the World Economic Forum. And since the pace of change is only set to increase, it is important to provide employees with training and development plans that prepare them for tomorrow’s work world – not today’s.
Both the organization’s needs and employees’ needs. As mentioned, employee development plans should be designed to meet an organization’s needs, first and foremost. However, if these plans are to enhance the employee experience and serve as an effective recruitment tool, then they must also meet employees’ needs. For best results, managers should design programs that meet the needs of both parties. With the right approach, training and development can fuel business continuity as well as employee success, which is why employee development plans are so valuable.