In the world of HR, employee development is more than just a simple buzzword. 

Being able to effectively help your people grow in their roles and reach their full potential is essential to any HR professional’s role. Proper development helps with a wide variety of things, whether that’s bolstering job satisfaction, enhancing employee retention, or even boosting productivity. 

A well-designed employee development plan can be the bedrock of your team’s career growth. And in the long run, it can truly become the driving force behind your company’s success. 

In this guide, we offer full insight into creating an effective employee development plan, highlighting its importance, the process involved, and the steps needed to turn your plan into a reality. Plus, we give you a customizable free employee development plan template to help kick-start your team’s growth paths.

<<Download these employee development templates with a robust structural framework to get you started>>

Why is an employee development plan important?

An employee development plan, or an EDP, is a strategic document outlining your team members’ career development. 

EDPs are vital for several reasons: 

  • Skill development. They help identify the skills a team member needs to improve or enable them to reach their professional goals. 
  • Greater engagement. When a team member sees a clear pathway for their growth within the organization, it can lead to greater engagement. 
  • Succession planning. They help to shape team members for future leadership roles, allowing you to plan for the future. 
  • Increased retention. They can reduce turnover rates as team members are more likely to stay with an organization that invests in their future and development. 
  • Performance improvement. Consistent learning and development improve team members’ productivity and performance, contributing to the organization’s overall success. 

How to create an employee development plan

Crafting an effective employee development plan requires a tailored approach that includes carefully evaluating your individual team members’ goals, strengths, and specific areas for improvement. 

The process of creating and carrying out an EDP is a collaborative effort. It works best with the full involvement and commitment of team members, leaders, and management.

Here is a step-by-step guide on curating an employee development plan: 

  1. Identify goals. The first step to any employee development plan is to establish several clear and achievable short- and long-term professional goals. You can align these goals with your company’s business objectives to help achieve true cohesion and ensure the team member’s progress contributes to the overall success of your organization.
  2. Assess current skill levels. The next step is performing a thorough skill audit to  better understand team members’ current skill levels. This process helps you understand what skill gaps team members need to bridge to enable them to reach their desired goals.
  3. Develop a series of actions. Once you’ve identified any and all skill gaps, you can start to formulate specific actions to close these gaps. These actions can involve a wide range of development activities, such as on-the-job training, workshops, online courses, mentoring, or even job rotation or shadowing.
  4. Set a realistic timeline. Once your actions are in place, the next step is to set a realistic timeline outlining when the team member can be expected to achieve each goal. A timeline provides a sense of direction and adds a hint of urgency, helping you and your team member manage time effectively and stay on track. 
  5. Review and adapt. An effective employee development plan doesn’t stand still. It’s a fluid document that you regularly update and change. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to review and tweak each EDP regularly to align with team members’ progress and accommodate any changes in their roles, career ambitions, or the organization’s needs. 

A practical employee development plan template

Creating an employee development plan from scratch can seem daunting. That’s why we’ve put together a template that can act as a framework for you to start building your own personalized development plan. 

An employee development plan template gives you a robust structural framework for creating individualized plans for each team member. It can provide the spark of inspiration you need to develop programs that perfectly match both your team and organization.

Here’s our comprehensive template to help you get started:

employee development plan template
template for employee development plan

Examples of employee development plans 

To give you a better understanding of the structure and content of an effective employee development plan, here are two hypothetical examples of what a filled-out EDP might look like:

Example 1: Leadership development

employee development plan examples
development plan examples pdf

Example 2: Skills development

employee development plan templates
employee development plan template

When it comes to filling out your EDPs, you may choose to be far more detailed than we have been here. But as long as you clearly lay out your points and your team members’ progress, you can write your plans however works best for you. 

<<Download these employee development templates with a robust structural framework to get you started>>

Making your employee development plans a reality

Creating your employee development plans is a vital first step, but the journey doesn’t stop there. The next challenge is effectively implementing your plans and making actual progress and change within your team. 

Here are some detailed steps to help bring your EDPs into reality: 

  • Communicate clearly and continuously. As with any business interaction, clear communication is crucial. Your team should fully understand their development plans, agree with the goals set, and fully commit to pursuing them. Make it clear that communication is a two-way street, allowing team members to express any concerns or provide general feedback. You can encourage this by holding regular meetings and providing open communication channels. 
  • Provide full support. Supporting your team members comes in many forms, all of which are vital for growth. Support can come in the form of making sure there’s enough budget for any training, that each team member has the time they need to work on their goals, and ensuring everyone has full access to mentors and coaches. 
  • Monitor progress. Your job isn’t over when the plans are complete. In fact, tracking your team members’ journeys is just as important as actually setting up the plans themselves. Regular check-ins or progress meetings can help reinforce the importance of their goals and provide an opportunity to discuss challenges, give feedback, and even celebrate successes. 
  • Foster a constructive environment. We all know how vital a good company culture is. But when it comes to EDPs, a culture that encourages, recognizes, and rewards learning and development can significantly enhance the effectiveness of EDPs. This also includes promoting collaboration, knowledge sharing, and nurturing curiosity and creativity. Most importantly, supportive environments motivate your team and amplify their learning experiences. 

Measuring development plans’ success

To make sure your employee development plans are delivering what you planned, it’s important to measure their effectiveness continually. Here are three key points to consider when evaluating the success of your EDPs: 

  • Key performance indicators (KPIs). In your plan, you will have set clear and measurable KPIs that link to each goal or objective in your team member’s EDP. These KPIs could be anything that shows progress toward their end goals—such as projects completed, sales targets, customer satisfaction scores, or other metrics. 
  • Feedback scores. During your regular feedback sessions with team members, remember to ask them to evaluate and score how effective they feel their plans currently are. This feedback can help you to tweak or change parts of plans to keep them as effective as possible. You can also gather feedback from team members’ managers or team leaders. 
  • Objectives achieved. Review whether or not team members have successfully met the objectives and goals set out in the EDPs. This includes things such as what improvements your team members have made in their general performance or any other aspects of career progression. Identifying any places where you can clearly see that they’ve successfully met their objectives, or made substantial progress, indicates that the plan has been successful.

Plan for your team members’ success

An employee development plan is a powerful tool that can drive individual growth, the employee experience, and organizational success. 

By investing time, care, and resources in your team’s development, you’re nurturing your most valuable asset: your people. And when your people shine, your organization shines, too. 

Use our free template for employee development plans to jumpstart your own template, helping you, your organization, and your team pave the way for a brighter, more productive future.