February 5, 2020 By SmartBiz Team

An employee development plan is a win-win both for employers and employees. These programs are focused on professional growth, helping employees build key skills, and can lead to higher work performance. They can also spark motivation and encourage employees to expand their skillset as they advance professionally.

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There’s no denying it: trained and developed employees are more motivated and invested in the company’s success. Consider what this means for your business as you look ahead and plan for future opportunities. With employee development comes a team that’s proud of their work and excited to take on new responsibilities.

Wondering where to start? You don’t have to enroll your team in expensive trainings. Our checklist can help you ensure that you have a strong plan of action in place from the get-go.

1. Talk to your employees

Get employees invested in the program from the start with open communication and conversation. It’s a best practice when it comes to Human Resources in general, and for achieving specific goals. Speak to your employees individually to discuss their goals and how they hope to see their career unfold at the company. Before the meeting, encourage them to come prepared with a few preliminary questions answered: Where do they see themselves professionally in the next year, three years, and five years? What major goal would they like to accomplish before the end of the year?

2. Gather information

The big picture can help you narrow in on the specific development areas where you can offer guidance, education, and skill-building opportunities. Once you’ve determined those specifics, you can brainstorm career paths together and work toward a solution that’s fueled by motivation and strong performance outcomes. Without the right perspective and a good grasp of the necessary information, you might lead your employees down a path that doesn’t fit their needs.

When considering benchmarks and tools to measure success, make sure you’re both on the same page by talking through the details together. Your employee will know what to expect in terms of measuring performance, and you’ll make the process more transparent in the long run.

You should also put in the work on your end to come up with relevant recommendations for your employee, whether that be job-specific trainings, information sessions, or introductions to key individuals. Identify common trends as you reflect on your conversations so that you can provide effective next steps in the right areas. You might find that they fall under one of these common categories:

  • Leadership
  • Management
  • Skill building
  • Problem solving

Reflect on how you can facilitate growth for your employees and encourage them to take initiative. Investing in your team can set you apart from other employers.

3. Consider business goals

Even while getting to know your employees’ needs, consider your own company’s development. An effective plan isn’t one-size-fits-all, it should fit well within your company’s line of work and make sense in terms of your overall vision. You should ask yourself the same questions you give your employees and focus on the answers that overlap. That way, you’ll work toward a solution that benefits both your business and the team members who contribute to its success.

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4. Discuss potential vs. readiness

As you balance the individual needs of your team members and the requirements for your business growth, consider the difference between potential and readiness.

While you might see the potential in your employees to take on more responsibility or move into a new role, there are a variety of other factors that determine whether they’re ready to take that next step, whatever it might be. Remember that current skill isn’t the only factor that should inform your decisions—it also comes down to individual preferences, availability, and willingness to make a change at the moment. It’s as simple as this: a technically skilled employee might be showing potential to move into a leadership role, but they don’t feel ready for that kind of pivot. Unless the employee shows they’re ready, you shouldn’t make decisions for them.

5. Research training and development types to achieve goals

After gathering all the information you’ll need, you can weigh all your options in terms of the types of developmental programs your employee will have access to. Trainings in classrooms or online are just one form of education and aren’t necessarily the most effective. Consider these options that can be more affordable and can keep your employees deeply engaged:

  • Long-term assignments and projects
  • Guidance from an expert in the field
  • One-on-one coaching with an experienced employee
  • Local networking meetups, groups, and peer training sessions

6. Set up a plan to keep track: before, during, after

Employee development isn’t over in one step—after recommending a plan, it’s your responsibility to create a system to continuously monitor progress. Without your continued interest and support for the project, employees can become discouraged and unmotivated. Instead, you should offer encouragement and guidance to boost their confidence and promote their success.

Before your employee sets out on the unique program you’ve chosen together, make sure they understand why they’re working toward this goal, what you expect them to learn, and how this benefits the company and their career. You should also agree on specific success metrics in advance. Then, you’ll be able to check in regularly throughout the process to make sure they’re on the right track or make any adjustments as early as possible so that they feel like they’re gaining valuable information.

7. Check in regularly

Schedule regular meetings so you can stay up to date on your employee’s feedback about the program. Take time to review the quantitative and qualitative measures you’re using to track along the way and tweak anything that needs adjusting.

If things aren’t going as planned, focus on the wins first. Then, decide how to optimize for success going forward. Remember that your employee might be going above and beyond their current position. Take time to evaluate where they can use additional support. They might need to be guided in smaller increments, or maybe they’re looking for additional resources. Whatever the solution might be, it’s up to you to create a plan of action.

After the training is completed, help employees apply their new skills in the workplace. Create opportunities tailored to them so they can use their fresh knowledge as soon as possible to reinforce and refine what they’ve learned.

Advantages of building development plans

A trained, highly skilled workforce can only bode well for your business’s success. Not only will your operations become more efficient, but your employee engagement will become stronger. This usually means retention and loyalty will rise, because you’ll be delivering more than just daily tasks. Instead, your employees will feel empowered, supported, and fulfilled.

For more helpful recommendations, tips, and guides, head to the SmartBiz Resource Center. Search for “Employee Management” to see detailed articles all about the steps you can take to build strong relationships with your employees.

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