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How to plan for employee development

There are several ideas about employee development plans that you can use as a base with which to develop your own individualised plans for employees.

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Employee development plan is a catch-all term, encompassing everything to do with the long-term training, education, and development of your personnel with a focus on improving their productivity and value to your organization. It’s slightly distinct from career development, the term used for activities that focus on an employee’s career interests, in that it puts the business first and the employee second.

That’s not to say that your employees won’t get anything out of these activities, just that the training is focused on how to improve their capabilities within the role(s) that already exist within your organization rather than being broader and more applicable to the working world at large.

Type of Employee Development Plan: The Basics

There are several ideas about employee development plans that you can use as a base with which to develop your own individualised plans for the employee(s) in question. Some plans can be broad with applications throughout your entire team, some require a more precise approach that relies on knowing the individual personally.

For that reason, employee development plans are often left to team managers and other members of management that have more direct contact with the workforce, rather than higher levels who might be too far away to see the fine details. Below you’ll find three of the most common templates and where they are best used:

  • Performance: A performance based plan takes the idea that your employee works best when they have a set goal to achieve. Whether that be based monthly or quarterly, the idea is that those who put in effort and work hard are the ones who are rewarded at the end of the period. This type of plan is best implemented in an established environment where conditions are unlikely to change, so as to make simple numbers more accurate.
  • Objectives: An objective based plan relies on short-term goals set by the employees themselves. It’s one that needs constant re-evaluation and re-adjusting over time so as to make the plan more relevant in turbulent circumstances, best utilized in an environment where sudden changes are to be expected.
  • Succession: Succession planning is about moving up the career ladder, where one person mentors another to take their place when they move on. It’s perfect for organisations with pre-existing career tracks and lots of promotions happening. By utilizing someone already familiar with the role and the quirks that come with it, the employee who will take on that role will gain an understanding of how to cope with the nuances of the position.

Designing Your Employee Development Plan

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Now these are just baselines, ways in which you might begin your planning. To really get into the nitty-gritty of things you’ll need to follow a few steps which will outline what needs to be done, but more importantly how it should be done:

  • Check your needs: In employee development, the needs of the organisation come first. You’ll need to consider what skill your employee(s) needs to carry out their role, as well as any future changes that you know are coming and the required skills or expertise that will be needed when that change comes.During this stage of planning you’ll need to think about both the short-term and long-term future, and where your employee(s) will fit into that.

Many organizations are undergoing digital transformation in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as necessary organizational changes that come with shifting circumstances. Those who make the plans need to liaise with those who decide on these changes to find out what adjustments need to be made in order to align with the business’ goals.

  • Check the employee(s) needs: This is done on an individual level, as every member of your team will have their own strengths and weaknesses, specialised skills and career goals. Where possible you should adjust the plans to take into account these factors in order to motivate your employees further into making the most of these programs. Everyone works best when they feel involved, when they have a personal stake in the matter, and employee development plans are no different. 
  • Create your plan: When you’re creating your plan you need to make sure you take into account both organisational needs and personal needs. However, in the case where the two are diametrically opposed, the needs of the organisation win out in this type of planning.

    There might be cases you come across where sacrifices have to be made, and your personnel feel disconnected from the program. When this happens, you need to make it as engaging as possible by adapting the content to a form these people can easily absorb and will enjoy doing. A distracted employee won’t learn much, but one who is immersed will gain great skills.
  • Choose your tools: Each template that we mentioned earlier has strengths and weaknesses that need to be taken into account. When you choose your plan outline you bring with it a certain set of tools that can be utilized – you need to make sure these tools are fitting for the aims of the overall project.

There are also many digital tools and manuals which can help you, especially in the tech sector or in administration. Make use of these as best you can, it’s sometimes easier for personnel to digest information by reading than by being talked at. Of course, this depends on the individual in question so if you’re designing a development plan for a single member make sure to ask them their learning preferences so you can take them into account.

  • Test, change, test again: Employee development plans are just like any other business plan, they need to be tested, adjusted then tested again with the refinements to look for improvements. This can be in the way of surveys, discussions, metrics and more, as long as there is a means of gathering feedback from your employee(s) you can refine your plans over time. 

One of the biggest obstacles when it comes to employee development plans is resistance to change, often, in this case, being where those who are teaching are not communicating in the best possible way but refuse to see that they are the issue.

You’ve probably come across the phrase “this is how we’ve always done it” before, and while routine can bring a sense of comfort if improvements can be made they should be. When approaching these situations, it’s best to use a soft hand and remind them that while certain methods may have worked best in the past, they’re not necessarily the best option right now.

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