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Employee experience · 

5 minutes

Cormac O'SullivanPiggy

Employee Development Plans: Foster Talent & Boost Business

The quest for competitive advantage is unending. One surefire way to stay ahead is to continually invest in your most valuable asset: your employees. A key tool to achieve this is the Employee Development Plan. This article will explore what employee development entails, its importance, and how you can create and implement a successful employee development plan.

What is Employee Development?

Employee development, often interchanged with professional development, is a systematic approach to expanding the knowledge, skills, and abilities of your team members. It involves identifying skill gaps, setting professional goals, and providing development opportunities such as training programs, mentorships, and career development plans to help employees grow both personally and professionally.

Employee development is not merely about improving employees; it also aligns with the company culture and business goals. By developing employees, businesses foster a culture of continuous learning and development, contributing to overall business success.

Benefits of Employee Development

Employee development offers a multitude of benefits to both employees and the organization. Let's delve into some of these advantages:

Increased Employee Engagement

When employees perceive that their organization invests in their growth, they tend to be more engaged. A Gallup poll found that organizations with high employee development reported 21% greater profitability due to enhanced employee engagement.

Enhanced Employee Retention

Development opportunities often influence employees' decisions to stay with a company. Gallup reports that 87% of millennials rate professional or career growth and development opportunities as important to them in a job.

Improved Performance & Productivity

Regular training and development can lead to improved employee performance. When employees develop their skill set, they can perform their tasks more efficiently, leading to higher productivity levels.

Strengthened Succession Planning

Employee development programs help prepare potential leaders for future roles within the organization. This strengthens the company's succession plan and ensures business continuity.

Increased Employee Satisfaction

Employees tend to be more satisfied when they feel valued and know that they have room to grow. This satisfaction can lead to improved morale and a more positive work environment.

Enhanced Company Reputation

Companies known for their strong employee development programs often enjoy a better reputation, which can attract top talent in the industry.

Aligned Business and Employee Goals

Employee development can align individual professional goals with the strategic goals of the business, creating a win-win situation for both parties.

Attracting Top Talent

A robust employee development program can help attract top talent. A LinkedIn survey found that 94% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development.

Closing Skill Gaps

Employee development can help close skill gaps, ensuring that your workforce is equipped to meet current and future business challenges.

Steps in Developing an Employee Development Plan

Creating an effective employee development plan is not a one-size-fits-all process. It requires understanding each employee's career goals, current skills, and potential. Here are the steps:

Identify Business Goals

The first step is to have a clear understanding of the business's strategic objectives. By knowing where the company is headed, you can align the development plan with these goals, thus ensuring that the workforce's skills are in tune with the business's future needs. This step could involve collaborating with leaders from different business units to gain insights into the upcoming skill requirements.

Assess Employee's Current Skill Set

The next step is to understand the employee's current competencies and identify any skill gaps. Employees can achieve this assessment through methods such as performance reviews, comprehensive feedback, and self-assessment tools. Be thorough and objective in this step, as the accuracy of the skill assessment directly impacts the effectiveness of the development plan.

Set Development Objectives

Once you've identified the skill gaps, the next step is to set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) objectives for development. Each objective should contribute to bridging the identified skill gaps. Encourage employees to participate actively in this stage, as this fosters their ownership and commitment to the development plan.

Identify Development Opportunities

Next, based on the set objectives, identify appropriate development opportunities. This could range from in-house training programs to mentorship, job rotation, or even online courses. Ensure the selected opportunities are diverse and aligned with the employee's learning style and preferences.

Create and Implement the Plan

Document the plan using an employee development plan template. The plan should be detailed yet flexible, outlining clear steps but allowing for adjustments as needed. Once the plan is ready, implement it, ensuring that the necessary resources and support are provided.

Should You Customize an Employee Development Plan?

While it may be tempting to adopt a one-size-fits-all approach to save time, it's critical to customize employee development plans. Individual employees have unique career aspirations, learning styles, and skill levels. Customizing plans to match these individual differences will enhance employee engagement and maximize the effectiveness of development efforts.

How to Implement an Employee Development Plan

Successfully implementing an employee development plan requires commitment from both the organization and the employee. The steps include:


Start by clearly communicating the plan to the employee. Make sure they understand the development objectives, the process, and the potential benefits to their career growth. This can foster buy-in, enhancing the plan's effectiveness.

Resource Allocation

Ensure the necessary resources are available for the plan's implementation. This could include time for the employee to focus on their development activities, budget for training programs, and the necessary tools or technology.

Regular Reviews

Implement a system for regular reviews of the plan. This allows you to assess progress, provide constructive feedback, and make any necessary adjustments. Regular check-ins also demonstrate the organization's commitment to the employee's development, boosting their motivation.

Recognition and Rewards

Lastly, recognize and reward progress made under the plan. This could be through verbal recognition, certificates, promotions, or other forms of reward. Recognition not only motivates the employee but also reinforces the organization's culture of continuous learning.

Strategies and Opportunities to Develop Employees

There are numerous strategies and opportunities to develop employees. Here are a few effective ones:

Mentorship and Coaching

This can provide employees with valuable insights and personalized guidance, boosting their development. Mentors or coaches can share their experience, provide feedback, and help employees navigate their career paths. Encourage mentor-mentee relationships within the organization, or consider bringing in external coaches for specialized guidance.

Training Programs

Both in-house training and external programs can be effective ways to upskill employees. Customize training to match the identified skill gaps and learning preferences of the employees. Also, consider leveraging online training platforms, which can offer flexibility and a broad range of courses.

Job Rotation and Cross-training

These strategies can expose employees to different roles within the organization, helping them to gain a broader understanding of the business and develop a diverse skill set. However, ensure adequate supportis provided during the rotation or cross-training period to help the employee adapt and learn effectively.

Professional Development Plans & Courses

Encourage employees to pursue professional development courses relevant to their roles. These could include workshops, conferences, or seminars. Not only can these courses help improve specific skills, but they also provide networking opportunities, keeping employees up to date with industry trends.

Recognition & Growth Opportunities

Recognize and reward employees' efforts in their development. This could be through promotions, new project opportunities, or other forms of recognition. Providing clear growth paths can be a powerful motivator, encouraging employees to engage actively in their development.


Employee development is an essential strategy for any forward-thinking business. By investing in your employees' growth, you not only enhance their skills and engagement but also bolster your business's success. Creating and implementing an effective employee development plan may require effort, but the benefits — from retaining top talent to achieving business goals — are well worth it.

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