How to Create Employee Development Plans that Inspire Success

By Emily Roner | Updated: 28 May, 2019

A Deloitte report found that 47% of companies have outdated and ineffective employee development programs. The reason so many businesses are behind is that the traditional method of just giving employees promotions as they achieve milestones is no longer practical or desirable for most organizations.

More than ever, employees measure their success in terms of learning and tangible results as opposed to climbing the corporate ladder. To support and motivate today’s workforce, you need to create development plans that are tailored to their interests.

The ROI of effective employee development plans is immense and includes:

Here’s how to create plans that inspire your team’s success.

1) Evaluate Your Talent Needs

To generate an ROI from your professional development programs, you need to start by evaluating your talent needs. Here’s why:

  1. It ensures that every dollar you invest in employee development contributes to business objectives
  2. It reveals what growth opportunities are realistically available to include in your employee development plans

To evaluate your talent needs, work with other leaders at your organization and map out what your team’s goals are for the next six months, a year, three years, and five years.

Then take each of those goals and list out what talent you need to achieve them. Include both the number and type of employees needed plus the skills and knowledge those employees need to be successful.

Here’s an example:

Let’s say you’re trying to grow sales by 10-15% every year for the next five years. Your current team of five salespeople grew revenue by 6% last year and they’re tracking to do the same this year.

To achieve your goals, here’s an example of what your talent needs might be:

  • Two more sales reps
  • A virtual sales assistant so your team stops wasting time admin work
  • A Senior Account Executive who specializes closing enterprise deals
  • A team lead who can take on some management responsibilities so your Sales Manager can focus on strategy

Spend time to ensure your talent needs are accurate since they’re the foundation of your employee development plans.

 Read More: 4 Goals Every Growth-Driven Manager Should Have

2) Discover What Your Employees’ Goals Truly Are

Once you’re equipped with your talent needs, begin identifying which of your team members are interested in gaining the skills and responsibilities needed to reach your goals. Choosing the right people to meet each need can have a significant impact on your team’s happiness and success.

Studies show that happy employees are up to 20% more productive than those who don’t like their jobs. Part of the reason why is that they’re able to enter flow states where their minds are entirely focused on their work.

Creating personalized employee development plans are an easy way to boost your team’s happiness while meeting your goals. The key is to make sure you know what their interests and goals truly are.

If you ask them what their goals are directly, what they say may not align with your talent needs. However, that doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t be interested in your options - it’s just not the first thing they think of.

Here are some questions you can ask employees to learn what their goals are:

  • What projects do you enjoy working on most?
  • What types of projects are you interested in working on in the future?
  • What skills do you want to learn?

Once you have their answers, determine what talent needs their interests are most closely aligned with and use that information to create your employee development plans.

 Read More: 5 Employee Retention Strategies to Nurture Your Top Performers

3) Create Employee Development Plans that are Mutually Beneficial

Since your employee development plans will likely include challenging growth goals, it’s important to emphasize how achieving those goals benefits your team. Research from Cornell University found that employees who receive consistent rewards and are more motivated and perform better than those whose achievements go unacknowledged.

You don’t have to give traditional rewards like free lunches or cash bonuses to have that effect. If your professional development plans are closely aligned with your employees’ personal interests, you can offer mutually beneficial rewards such as the opportunity to work on interesting new projects, join a sought after team, or get access to learning resources.

With this in mind, your plan should comprehensively outline:

  • Their goals along with milestones and a timeline for achieving them
  • The high-level skills, actions, etc. that they need to achieve their goals
  • How management is going to support them
  • The rewards they’ll get for achieving their goals

Give your employees a hard copy of the plan and discuss it face-to-face to give them an opportunity to ask questions and request changes.

If you judge your talent needs and team interests correctly, your employee development plans will be one of the most effective tools you have to inspire your team to achieve your business’s goals.

Give Your Employees the Gift of Productivity

One of the most meaningful ways to show your employees you appreciate them is giving them more time to focus on the work they love. Learn how to give your employees the gift of productivity by checking out our free guide How to Give Your Team Leverage with Virtual Assistants. In it, you'll learn: 

  • What kinds of time-saving tasks your team can offload
  • How we work with you to maximize the ROI of our service
  • Our process for securely leveraging your systems

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About the Author: Emily formerly led Prialto's content production and distribution team with a special passion for helping people realize success. Her work and collaborations have appeared in Entrepreneur, Inc. and the Observer among others.