How to make employee development plans work

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An employee development plan will help you support your employees’ personal and professional growth, retain top talent, and meet your organisational goals–if you know how to use it.

While a personal development plan is, well, personal–usually focused on life goals and owned by the individual–an employee development plan is focused more on both personal and work goals, and shared between the employee and their line manager.

Why create an employee development plan?

Self-development is motivating–people naturally want to grow and improve. Line that up with your organisational goals, and you’ve got a win-win situation. This helps to solve the principal-agent problem (simply put: if you want someone to do something, you have to make it worth their while).

Because an employee development plan, or EDP, helps you address succession planning and your future business needs, it also saves you money on hiring, onboarding and training new people. Here’s what you need to know.

What should an employee development plan include?

Step 1: Set personal and professional goals

Getting employees to think holistically about their goals helps them buy into the idea. Include goals focused on growth (for example, giving their first presentation), skills (for example, learning Photoshop), and relationships (for example, developing assertiveness). Don’t let them see their EDP as separate from their everyday working life.

Step 2: Understand business needs

Take a look at the demands of the role both now and in the future, and at positions you could promote the employee into (for succession planning). This list represents what the business needs from the employee. Map it against the employee’s own list of goals and aim to align the two.

Step 3: Develop an action plan

Map the employee’s path to development using the 70/20/10 rule – that 70% of learning comes from hands-on experience, 20% from other people and 10% from training. Don’t feel you have to ignore formal training, but make sure most steps are built into the job or based on working relationships.

You might build formal training into the development plan but most steps should be crafted into the job itself or based on working relationships.

Step 4: Start implementing the plan

Once you have a plan, the employee’s job is to implement it, and the manager’s job is to support them and clear obstacles from the path. Remember making these changes may be challenging both for them and for their colleagues.

Step 5: Reflect and adjust as you go

EDPs tend not to be perfect from day one, so build in time for reflection and adjustment in the final stages of the plan, so both manager and employee can review what went well and what didn’t, and edit the plan accordingly. Don’t let it get stuck in the past or become something they make time for when they’ve done their job. A good employee development plan is a working document that codifies their job and their ambitions, and makes them want to refer to it.

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