Author: Jemini Team

4 April 2022

Employee training and development plans are practical action plans used by leaders to ensure their employees are growing personally and developing their ability to perform and achieve in the workplace. The same plans also ensure that employee growth aligns with the goals and objectives of the employer, allowing any gaps to be filled along the way. It’s worth pointing out right away that employee development plans are different to the “PDP” or personal development plan. How? In simple terms, personal development plans tend to be owned by the individual employee and often focus on personal and life goals rather than work achievement.

There’s a significant payoff to be had once you can identify an employee development system that works for you. People are motivated by more than financial reward. Today’s workplaces see employees with high expectations around self-development; after all, people want to ensure they are fulfilling their personal potential and have skills that make them attractive and competitive within the job market.

Not only does employee development increase motivation, it helps address crucial issues around the future needs of the business and succession planning. This leads to lower HR costs in terms of recruitment, onboarding and the need to train external candidates.

There are many reasons why the deployment of employee development plans doesn’t work. According to the SHRM (society for human resource management), common reasons for failure include a lack of accountability (where managers start programs, but they fall by the wayside), a lack of meaningful analytics or data to actually make sense of progress and improvement as well as a lack of alignment between the development plans and the direction that the company or organisation actually needs to head in. 

However, worry-not — as you can work your way closer to a meaningful professional development plan that works in six steps:

1. Understand your people’s personal career based goals

cartoon man looks at target

This is a crucial part of developing your plan. After all, you’re taking care of something very close to people’s heart– their career progression and growth aspirations. Investors in People is a global organisation, originally founded in the UK. Since it was founded in 1991, they have accredited over 50,000 organisations worldwide against a ‘best in class’ framework for employee development. One of the first things they recommend is ensuring that employee goals are growth-oriented (e.g. public speaking), skills-oriented (e.g. intermediate Photoshop knowledge) and relationship oriented (assertiveness). 

From their experience, the best plans include a mix of these different goal areas. People will have very different personal goals even within a single department. It’s important to capture these as part of the performance management process — either during informal coaching sessions or even through your online performance management system where people can be promoted to update this information from time to time.

2. Define the organisation’s needs and top-level objectives

cartoon reach for the stars

Here you’ll look at the top-level organisational goals and detail how different roles deliver on this, either directly or indirectly. When you think about individual roles, think about the business needs today and also in the future. In the next three years — factoring in extra skills and competencies that might be required — how will each job role need to evolve? As your business grows–with succession planning in mind–what additional roles will be created in the future and what skills will your existing team need to gain to take on some of those roles? As part of this step, map your employees’ career goals against the organisation’s needs. Aim for as much alignment as possible, but don’t expect perfect alignment. It would be wondrous if what employees want and what your company needs were perfectly lined up. It’s perfectly fine to have some areas of personal growth aspiration and role-based growth that sit parallel to each other.

3. Develop your action plan

cartoon man watering head with plant growing

So, you’ve identified the areas that need to be developed, focusing especially where there’s an alignment between the needs of your people and that of the organisation. Now you need to think about how to get from where you are, to where you need to be in the future. What’s the actual ‘strategy’ or game-plan? These are the learning and development experiences that you’re going to expose people to in order to build the knowledge and skills that they need going forward.

A super-handy rule comes into play here — the 70-20-10 rule that is. This means that 70% of learning should come from on-the-job experience, 20% should come from observing and working with other people and the final 10% from training, coursework and e-learning. As you can see, the bulk of the emphasis is about learning by doing and through relationships with other people. This is to avoid people being burdened with too much ‘classroom style’ learning or content that can quickly become stale. It also avoids people losing productivity by spending extensive periods away from their work.

4. Make changes on the fly

cartoon man and woman talking with laptop

Your employee development plan is not ‘set and forget’. It’s important for the plan to be documented in full for each person and achievement against agreed milestones to be discussed during ‘chats’ and ‘catch ups’. These can happen as part of the regular performance management program. It’s important to give employees sufficient management support with the different areas of their development plan. It may involve them learning new skills, being seconded to other departments or even shadowing other people. They’re bound to need help with organising these activities and dealing with any minor setbacks or ‘office politics’ that arise along the way. Your action plan won’t be perfect first time. So give employees and yourself the permission to tweak and enhance the plan as you go, taking note of any specific learnings.

5. Beware of the things that can derail employee development plans

cartoon man runs towards lightbulb

The whole idea of EDPs is that they provide career development opportunities through the daily work that your people are doing. It shouldn’t be seen as external learning or coursework that needs to be completed in their own free time. As mentioned earlier, a lack of data or analytics can make senior management doubt the efficacy of your employee development efforts. Therefore, think about systems that you can put in place that validate the additional skills that are being gained. For example, test knowledge with on-demand quizzes. In addition, by using on-demand and interactive learning modules for some of the content, you’ll quickly gain real visibility of skills gaps amongst the team and know with confidence who needs additional help and support.

6. Let technology help with the heavy lifting

cartoon online learning

More and more companies are using performance management and integrated learning management systems which are particularly valuable for running employee development plans at scale. Instead of tracking individual action plans in a spreadsheet, these systems provide a holistic online learning platform for delivering e-learning modules, testing knowledge and then intelligently identifying skills gaps that need addressing. These systems automate the admin and heavy lifting, allowing line-managers to dedicate more of their time to coaching and feedback. It gives them oversight of their teams learning and development, helps build objectives and even assists with identifying potential skills gaps. With this kind of workplace technology, it makes it easier to deliver development plans that are personalised yet aligned with the needs of the business.

  1. Jemini
  2. Insights
  3. Latest Insights
  4. Six steps to building an employee development plan that works