It should come as no surprise that employees today are on the lookout for growth opportunities, both professional and personal. Opportunities for employee development are practically expected in today’s companies, no matter how big or small.
According to LinkedIn’s 2018 Workforce Learning Report, an astonishing 94 percent of employees say they would stay longer with a company if that company invested in their careers. And one of the most effective ways to show that commitment is with an employee development plan—a document jointly drafted by employee and employer that outlines a plan for growth that helps the employee achieve both personal and company goals.
“The employee development plan is about establishing and working toward mutually beneficial goals,” says Michelle Thompson, vice president of human resources for XMI. “The more your employees feel their company is investing in them, the happier they’ll be.”
Here are five practical tips for creating and implementing an effective plan:
1. Make the employee development plan a joint effort
It’s not really an employee development plan unless both employee and employer are involved in its creation.
“‘Here are the things we want you to get better at,’ is not the way to approach an employee development plan,” Thompson says. “It should be a collaborative effort, and the plan itself should include a mix of goals that personally interest the employee and benefit the company.”
2. Really focus on the individual.
While improving company performance is a worthy end goal, any employee development plan should start with the employee. Via one-on-one collaboration, ask open-ended questions that can spark a meaningful conversation about your employee’s interests, goals and aspirations. Plan for at least an hour per employee to uncover these answers.
“That may seem like a big time commitment,” Thompson says. “But however long it takes, keep in mind that it’s less time than hiring and training someone to replace an employee who left because they didn’t feel like their employer was investing in their personal and professional growth.”
3. Assess the company’s needs.
In the same way you’re asking employees to evaluate where they are and where they want to be, consider the company’s goals, opportunities and challenges, and where these two lists intersect. Alignment is the goal here.
“Employers should let strategic needs drive development,” SHRM’s Employee Development Toolkit explains. “For example, facing impending retirement of many older workers, an organization might broaden those workers’ skills so they can add variety to their jobs and take on new responsibilities. Such measures could encourage experienced workers to stay on the job.”
One useful tool is the 9-box grid. Most commonly used in succession planning to help find a company’s next leader, the 9-box grid can also be used as an individual assessment tool to help evaluate someone’s current and potential contribution to a company.
4. Keep a timeline and establish metrics to improve accountability.
All this talk of future plans and aligned priorities is meaningless unless a workable plan is in place. A working timeline, one that includes dates for the completion of certain goals, can go a long way toward making both the employee’s and the employer’s goals a reality.
Just as important are metrics to help measure success. An easy metric for employee development is completion of individual tasks associated with each goal on the employee development plan.
5. Update the employee development plan as needed.
Change is never easy, and the path to development could turn out rockier than initially assumed. Or, new priorities may arise that weren’t on the horizon when the employee development plan was created six months ago. Thompson suggests being nimble and open to tweaking the plan as needed. Better yet, schedule frequent check-ins so you can review progress regularly.
“The employee development plan is not something to mark off your to-do list once a year,” Thompson says. “To be successful, it should be a living, breathing document that you and your employee revisit regularly.”