A good employee development plan can help you keep your talent pipeline full while providing your company with a valuable retention strategy. Your employees will find opportunities and clear direction on how to increase their skills and advance their careers. And with a more expanded skill set, they have more tools to help your business forge ahead. It's a win-win for everyone involved.

But an employee development plan or program shouldn't be created off the cuff. Follow these steps to help make sure your employees' development plans are on point.


Step 1: Consider your business goals

Before you set objectives for employees, align the development plan with your company's needs. Start by considering what your long and short-term business objectives are. Then identify the necessary skills, knowledge and competencies that support those objectives.

For example, if your business will be going through a growth spurt, you may need additional leaders. What skills do these leaders need to have? Do any of your current employees have the skills-;or the capability to learn the skills-;needed to fulfill these roles?

If not, developing a plan to bridge the gap between current employee skill sets and needed skill sets would be of great value.

Developing internal candidates can save you time and money on recruiting, onboarding and training outsiders. Plus, creating a career path that demonstrates advancement and promotion opportunities through development can help retain top talent.


Step 2: Talk to your employees

Don't just assume you know your employees' skill level and career aspirations. If possible, have a face-to-face discussion with each of your team members to get a better understanding of what their career goals are and how they think they can accomplish them.

You should also talk about any challenges they're having in their current positions. Have your employees do self-assessments of their work. In what areas do they struggle the most? Would they benefit from additional training or mentoring?

Some of your employees may already have a career path in mind. But many times, they don't know how to get started. By talking to them, you can work together to figure out what role your business plays in this plan as well as what opportunities you can offer them.


Step 3: Decide what skills your employees need

Once you've looked at each of your employees' abilities and experience, as well as your company's needs, it's time to decide exactly what skills each person needs to acquire.

Be sure that your employees' goals are specific and timely. It's much more difficult to measure an employee's progress when their objectives are vague or broad.


Step 4: Create an action plan

Now that you know what the objectives are, it's time to figure out how your employee will go about achieving them.

Development programs can include a combination of activities such as formal training, reading, working directly with subject matter experts, one-on-one coaching and mentoring, and visits to institutions that offer specific development opportunities.

Consider what it's going to take to put your employee's plan into action. Is there any prep work that needs to be done? Is anyone else involved? Will employees need to take time away from work? Will someone else need cover for them while they're training?

After you have all the details sorted out, it can be helpful to create a schedule or timetable so that employees keep moving forward and continue to pursue their goals. This will also help you measure the success of your plan.


Step 5: Apply the new skills in the workplace

You're spending a considerable amount of time and possibly money on helping your employees improve their skills. To get your greatest possible return on investment, your employees need to be able to put those new skills to work in your company.

Set up some opportunities where your employees can quickly apply the new skills to the job and get feedback. This will help them reinforce and refine their new skills. If they don't use the new knowledge when it's fresh, they're likely to lose it.


When your employees are happy, they're less likely to go looking for work elsewhere. Discover more ways to build a winning workforce. Get your free e-book, How to Develop a Top-notch Workforce That Will Accelerate Your Business