Employee Development Plan (With Template and 2 Examples)

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An employee development plan is a guide used to align employee and company goals, while defining actionable steps toward the achievement of each goal.
 

An employee development plan is a beneficial tool that is used to help employees grow both personally and professionally. Career development plans help teams accomplish company goals and keeps them motivated, productive and successful. Plans with concrete steps help employees perfect skills, be more productive, learn new things and expand their knowledge and networks.
 

Not only that, but offering professional development opportunities can lead to better employee retention (or attract job seekers looking for a new role). In fact, according to an Indeed survey, 19% of job seekers started looking for a new job because they wanted a promotion or more career growth opportunities.*
 

Use this guide to learn the important elements that make up an employee development plan, and see a template and example that you can use when drafting your own employee development plans.
 

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What is an employee development plan?

An employee development plan is a collaborative, actionable list of steps that an employee completes to meet their desired career goals. Employee development plans often include both short- and long-term goals that the employee will work toward. Goals could include developing new skills, earning a certification or getting a promotion.
 

As an employee progresses in their career, they can update their professional development plan to suit their current situation with your input. A development plan is ideally something your employee modifies over time as their experience and goals change, with your role being to offer guidance along the way.
 

The specific steps of an employee development plan will vary depending on the goals of your company and your employees. Creating a personal development plan for employees requires that you consider both the goals and readiness of the employee for development. Breaking down professional goals and the individual progress toward them allows management to understand progress while also identifying any barriers standing in the way of an employee’s development.
 

A new graduate wishing to become a sales manager may have the following steps in their professional development plan:
 

  1. Land an internship in a sales department
  2. Work on verbal and written communication skills
  3. Receive various sales certifications
  4. Become a junior salesperson
  5. Increase sales numbers each year
  6. Receive management certifications
  7. Apply for sales manager positions

Benefits of professional development plans

Employee development planning benefits both the employee and your organization because they set clear expectations for each employee. It also allows employees to identify certain professional achievements or goals they want to meet, while also tracking their progress toward the completion of those goals. Beyond that, employee development plans are also a useful tool for expanding and growing your business. For example, by evaluating the future needs of the company, you can begin to develop and prepare your current employees now.
 

Additionally, employees like to work for organizations that show an interest in their growth. When employees know you have their best interests in mind, they enjoy working for your organization more. This will help you keep your employees longer and develop stronger teams and working relationships.
 

How to create an employee development plan

The components of an effective development plan are:
 

  • Challenge: A good plan pushes employees to improve their skills, refine their knowledge and gain confidence in their roles.
  • Support: The plan should include sources of support that will help employees achieve goals. This can include financial assistance for classes, mentoring agreements, training plans and other resources.
  • Evaluation: Establish clear, measurable indicators of progress and success. Set deadlines, checkpoints and deliverables. You can draft your own employee development plan using the following steps:

1. Consider your business goals

First, consider what individual skills are desired from each employee to help you meet your business goals, while also taking into account a realistic timeline for developing these goals. It can be useful to list the current strengths of each individual so you have an idea of which skills you can build upon. Consider both short- and long-term goals when creating an employee development plan.
 

2. Consider your employee’s personal and professional goals

The best employee development plans are collaborative. Consider each employee’s personal and professional goals when creating an employee development plan. This allows employees to work on the skills and goals that will also assist them with their personal and professional goals.
 

Meet with employees individually to discuss their career development. Ask to review their plan in advance so you can create a list of questions and helpful advice. A scheduled meeting also allows your employees to prepare. During the meeting, ask employees questions about their career goals, their anticipated future with the company or skills they feel would be useful in their current and future roles. Be sure to listen to the employee’s answers and look for ways to align your employee’s goals with your company’s current needs or growth.
 

3. Create a list of important resources

After you’ve determined both the company and employee’s goals, it can be useful to come up with a list of resources that will move the employee toward their professional and personal goals.
 

For example, you might implement a new training program if you have multiple employees who want to learn a new skill. Coaching and mentorship programs can also be useful in cross-training and introducing employees to new departments within the business, allowing them to develop new skills or to find new professional interests. Even compiling a database of educational videos, podcasts, webinars and classes can offer employees the resources they need to meet their goals.
 

Some organizations will also cover the cost of college courses with tuition reimbursement programs or cover travel expenses to professional conferences (or pay for a ticket to the conference itself) where employees can continue to develop important business and networking skills.
 

Other ways to encourage professional development might involve giving employees special projects related to their desired skills and responsibilities or encouraging them to volunteer in their community. You can even offer paid days off for employees to participate in community service projects.
 

4. Develop an action plan that is clear and descriptive

Now that you have determined the goals of the organization and the employee, as well as the resources that you’ll use for employee development, it’s time to organize them into an actionable plan that is clear and descriptive. Include a timeline for each expectation and discuss it with each individual employee so that everyone is clear about action items and deadlines.
 

Submit the plan to HR, the employee’s manager and other stakeholders for review and approval.
 

Employee development plan template

Each employee development plan will look different. However, you can use the following template to draft your own employee development plan:



 

Career development plan examples

These career development plan examples can help you and your employees draft one together.
 

Example #1

Short-term goals: Develop leadership abilities, gain experience and build relationships
 

Long-term goal: Become finance manager

 

Actions Objectives Measurements
  • Take online leadership course
  • Learn how to lead employees
  • Complete course by December 1
  • Present quarterly numbers
  • Refine research, coordination, presentation writing and public speaking skills
  • Perform all necessary research, compilation and presentation skills for the quarterly summary. Present at quarterly finance meeting. 

 

Example #2

Short-term goal: Increase knowledge of real estate, gain experience in the current real estate assistant position and build relationships
 

Long-term goal: Become a licensed real estate agent
 

Actions Objectives Measurements
  • Get real estate license
  • Get licensed before 2021
  • Passing score
  • Grow a network
  • Build relationships within the real estate industry
  • Attend two networking events this year. Reach 500 professional connections on social media by end of year.

 

*Indeed survey, n=1,000

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Career development FAQs

How can you ensure career development plans are effective?

Here are some tips to help you create effective career development plans:
 

  • Be realistic: Understand what your company can and cannot provide in terms of budgets and resources. Use what you have and be creative. Look to other departments and employees for resources. Cross-training and mentoring programs can be a great way to supplement training and keep budgets reasonable.
  • Keep employees accountable: Make sure employees own responsibility for their plan. This can help increase motivation, engagement and a sense of accomplishment when goals are met.
  • Inform yourself of the best HR practices: Stay current on HR trends and effective employee development programs.

How far ahead should employees plan for?

The timeline for an employee’s professional development plan depends on their goals. For example, a new lawyer who wants to become a Supreme Court judge may have a more extensive professional development plan than someone who wants to be a sales manager.
 

Their plan can aim as far into the future as they would like. However, if their plan aims very far into the future, they should have small goals along the way to help them stay on track. While it’s good to think about where they want to be in 20 years, they should also plan steps for the next several years.

How often should I meet with my employees about professional development?

Professional development plans are designed to change over time, so you should aim to meet with your employees about their goals at least once a year. Meet with your employees whenever they request a meeting with you or if it seems like they have stalled in their progress. As a manager, you should not only help them craft their professional development plan but also help them reach the goals they set for themselves, which often means regularly monitoring their progress.

How can I help employees pursuing a career I’m unfamiliar with?

In some cases, your experiences may be very different than the career track your employee wants to pursue. In situations like this, offer advice where you can but also connect the employee to different resources. Your employees may not have the same extensive list of connections as you do and may appreciate you putting them in contact with someone who can help guide their career.

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*Indeed provides this information as a courtesy to users of this site. Please note that we are not your recruiting or legal advisor, we are not responsible for the content of your job descriptions, and none of the information provided herein guarantees performance.

Last updated: Nov 10, 2020