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Employee development plan - everything you need to know

Published 9th February 2017 by Melissa Farrington
Development plan label on file

Employee development plans: what are they?

Employee development plans are action plans, working documents used actively by both the employee and line manager to ensure the employee is growing personally, developing their ability to achieve more in the workplace, and meet the organisation’s goals.

They differ from personal development plans in that personal development plans tend to be owned solely by the individual and supported by the organisation where necessary, often more focused on life goals than work goals. Employee development plans tend to be owned more equally.

Employee development plans: why create one?

People are generally motivated by self-development. If this self-development is aligned with organisational goals and future needs, you help address the principal-agent problem and build employee motivation.

Also, employee development plans help address future business needs and succession planning. This reduces the costs of recruiting, onboarding and training external candidates.

Employee development plans: what do they include?

There are five key phases of an employee development plan.

Step 1: Establish personal and career development goals

This is an important step because it encourages the employee to think holistically and tie in several domains of development, which makes it more likely they’ll buy into the idea of an EDP.

These goals could be growth-oriented (public speaking), skills-oriented (intermediate Photoshop knowledge) and relationship-oriented (assertiveness). The best plans will include goals in different areas.

It’s important that employees don’t view employee development plans as separate to their daily work lives

Step 2: Establish work development needs

This involves an objective look at the demands of the role initially, to ensure the employee development plan is aligned to organisational goals, and also at the future demands of the role (how it will evolve) and future positions available in the organisation (for succession planning).

This business-oriented list of development needs can be mapped against the personal list established in step one to create alignment. You should always aim for alignment, although there may be some parallel areas of personal growth and role-focused growth.

Step 3: Develop an action plan

Once the alignment has been established and the areas for development identified, the path to this development needs to be mapped out.

Don’t forget the 70/20/10 rule - that 70% of learning comes from on-the-job experience, 20% from other people and 10% from coursework and training.

You might build formal training into the development plan but most steps should be crafted into the job itself or based on relationships with others.

Step 4: Make changes on the path to development

Once an action plan has been created, the employee must implement the changes, with support from the manager. The manager’s job is to clear obstacles.

Don’t forget - making individual changes at work is difficult because you are essentially making changes to an established system where everyone, including the person making changes, interacts with each other. You are changing the status quo. So it’s very important for the employee to have managerial support until habits are firmly established.

Step 5: Reflect on efficacy and update the plan as required

Changes the employee makes must not simply be left to exist in a vacuum. The path to development is often murky and filled with sub-optimal decisions.

Self-adjustment and reflection should be built into the final stages of the employee development plan.

It’s important that self-adjustment and reflection are built into the final stages of the employee development plan so that both manager and employee can see what went well, what didn’t and make changes so that, over time, the development becomes more successful and smoother. This is good for the employee, the manager and ultimately the organisation.

Employee development plans at work: tips to ensure they work

  • The whole, not an aside: it’s important that employees don’t view employee development plans as separate to their daily work lives, as something to be done in their ‘free time.’ Used properly, EDPs provide development opportunities through daily work.
  • Codifying is important: many managers essentially run through an informal employee development plan at the performance appraisal stage, but it’s not codified and doesn’t act as a working document - it’s seen as existing at a fixed point in time. Codifying the plan and referring back to it helps establish its importance.