employee development plan

Employee Development Plans: Importance and Examples

The landscape of today’s workplace isn’t what it was twenty years ago. It’s not even what it was twenty minutes ago – today’s environment is both fast-paced and competitive. Ninety-one percent of millennials (born between 1977 and 1997) expect to stay in a job for fewer than three years. That makes it all the more imperative that employers find a way to keep employees energized, often with an employee development plan.

Unfortunately, employee loyalty just isn’t a given anymore. The modern-day workforce has experienced various changes in the economic climate. Employees have come to expect that if they invest in their employer, their employer should invest in them.

Christina Merhar of Zane Benefits wrote, “Companies can’t remain passive about their employee development programs because the cost of losing talent is high. On average, every lost employee costs about six to nine months of that employees’ salary to replace. And that doesn’t count the indirect costs of lost productivity.”

This article outlines the advantages of a professional development plan (commonly referred to as an employee development plan), various types of employee development plans, and the mutual benefits they offer to both employees and employers.

Professional Development Plans Explained

Professional development plans outline the goals, skills, competencies and milestones that an employee needs to meet to develop (and in most cases move up) through the organization. In most cases, the manager and the employee work on it together to make it specific and tailored to the employee’s individual goals. Together, they identify how the employee can work towards those goals in their day-to-day work, and what support they might need to do so.

employee development plan

Types of Employee Development Plans

Employee development can come in many forms. Some companies might have a general professional development plan that doesn’t have a specific goal and path and contains a guideline of the skills and goals an employee in that role typically strives towards, or what the company expects in terms of progression.

Other plans might focus on leadership development. In these instances, a company often identifies high-potential employees who may be prospective leaders, and they participate in a plan that helps them cultivate the necessary skills (and experience) to be leaders. One of the biggest benefits of a leadership development program is that it provides a low-stakes environment for an employee to learn (and potentially experience) what it can be like to be a leader in a company. This can help with employee engagement, and ensure that if the employee advances through the company and becomes a leader, they’re ready to hit the ground running on day one.

A professional development plan might also focus on long-term career development—ideally tailored to the employee’s career goals including:

  • Leadership Development—Elements of leadership development if they aspire to be a manager.
  • Specialized Knowledge Development—Becoming the go-to expert in their fields might involve a deeper level of specialization.
  • Changing Career Paths—For those looking to move into a different field, a career development plan can help them carve a path that doesn’t require leaving the organization.

Benefits of Employee Development Plans

Employee development plans are mutually beneficial for employers and employees. According to a survey by research firm Gallup, companies who invest in learning and development are more likely to cultivate a high-performance culture, are twice as likely to retain their employees, and have reported 11% greater profitability.

How Employee Development Plans Help Employees

1. Enables engagement and belonging

Employees at every level want to feel engaged. Along with staying engaged in the workplace, employees want to see a clear development path in front of them. The more motivated an employee feels, the more useful they are to the company and the longer they’ll stay with the company. We’re not referring to an overworked staff. We’re referring to a well-motivated staff. That’s where a defined employee development plan comes in.

2. Provides opportunities for growth and advancement

According to a McKinsey study, one of the top reasons people leave a company is lack of career development. An employee development plan signals to employees that opportunity for advancement exists, and also provides a clear path on how to get there if the employee desires.

The existence of a standardized employee development plan reassures interested job seekers that a company is invested in their long-term success and advancement in the organization. As Bersin stated, “Companies with career management programs are better able to attract and retain top talent, leading to higher employee engagement and, in turn, a positive impact on the bottom line.”

3. Builds confidence

Sometimes, an employee needs a little confidence boost to take on challenging projects or advocate for themselves regarding promotion. An employee development plan can help build confidence by arming them with additional skills and knowledge, and experience to try new things (and make some mistakes in the process) without having negative career repercussions.

employee development plan

How Employee Development Plans Help Employers

As an employer, it’s only natural to wonder if investing in an enterprise approach to employee development is really worth the resources it requires. The answer is yes. Here are three ways that an employee development plan can help employers.

1. Improves employee engagement and retention

Gallup estimated that actively disengaged employees cost U.S. businesses between $450 and $550 billion annually in lost productivity. Disengaged employees are also more likely to leave the organization. Another research estimated that voluntary turnovers cost the company one-half or two times the employee’s salary.

A strong employee development plan can prevent organizations from becoming part of those statistics. When employees have the opportunity to learn and develop continuously, they’re more likely to be engaged in their work and see how their work impacts the company’s bigger vision. In turn, they’re more likely to stay with the organization.

2. Provides pipeline of potential leaders

Hiring senior employees and leaders is an expensive and time-consuming endeavor for most businesses. An employee development plan can mitigate this by developing potential future leaders who know a lot about the company and have specific leadership training that is suited to the company’s reality and culture.

3. Improves skill shortage and upskilling

We’re living in a constantly changing labor market, where today’s most sought-after skills might not be relevant in five years. And when companies don’t plan for that change, they can find themselves with a massive gap in workers. Employee development programs can prevent that by ensuring that they’re continuously upskilling their workers according to market demands.

Examples of Employee Development Plans

There is no one-size-fits-all development plan, and what works for one employee in an organization may not be suitable for another employee in the same organization, or an employee in a similar role employed by a competitor. Job listing site Indeed has provided the following template that can provide a great starting point:

Employee Name:
Job Title:
Professional Goals:
Step 1: [Timeline & actionable steps required to achieve goal]
Step 2: [Timeline & actionable steps required to achieve goal]
Step 3: [Timeline & actionable steps required to achieve goal]

Here are examples of potential goals that could fit into a development plan

Employee Name: Jane Doe
Job Title: Marketing Specialist
Professional Goals
  1. Lead a successful campaign
  2. Progress to a leadership role
  3. Become an industry leader with a strong professional network

How To Create A Successful Employee Development Program

To reap the benefits of employee development programs, companies must be intentional about creating programs that are suitable for their company reality. While that will look different for every organization, below are some best practices that are worth following:

1. Focus on holistic development

While it’s important for companies to focus on teaching their employees the appropriate skills to do their jobs well, the program should empower employees to develop a mindset of resilience. This is necessary to adapt to a dynamic, ever-changing workplace, according to an article by Harvard Business Review.

2. Design for personalization

Every employee will have different professional aspirations, as well as different strengths and weaknesses. That’s why companies need to allow for personalization. That means providing different types of training and acknowledging that every employee has a unique path at the company.

employee development plan

3. Enable different styles of learning

It’s also important to acknowledge that every person learns and retains information differently. For some, a classroom-style environment is how they learn best. Others prefer to sit through a recorded webinar, so they can pause and start as they wish. Then some learn best through watching and doing, in which case a job-shadowing approach might be best.

4. Provide opportunities for microlearning

In addition to having different learning styles, employees will have different schedules and time commitments. Microlearning breaks down lengthy training materials into shorter sessions and bite-sized content. This allows employees to learn at their own pace and modify their commitments depending on workload.

5. Incorporate mentorship

Lastly, employee development programs only work with the right accountability structure and support systems. That might be through traditional one-on-one arrangements, group mentoring, or mentoring circles where employees learn together and provide support and feedback to each other.

How Chronus Can Help

A strong employee development program requires a solid foundation and system. Chronus can help you with that by taking care of the administrative tasks that running an employee development program requires. The software’s AI technology can also help with the following activities:

  • Matching mentor/mentees
  • Provide personalized learning pathways and training modules
  • Generate reports that measure the ROI of your employment development program

Research from Bersin found: “Career development programs were the fourth highest best practice identified, with a strong correlation to business outcomes, generating almost 30 percent greater business impact.”

Employee development plans and programs help employees feel invested in their jobs and their company’s mission. A well-established program ensures that employees continue to feel driven to advance their own careers within the company and advance the mission of the company.

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