5 Steps to Creating Employee Development Plans That Truly Work

A well-thought-out plan provides your employees with opportunities and clear direction on how to increase their skills and advance their careers. And with a more expanded skill set, they have more tools to help your business forge ahead. It’s a win-win for you and your staff.

But an employee development plan or program shouldn’t be created off the cuff. Follow these steps to help make sure your employees’ development plans are on point.

Step 1: Consider your business goals

Before you set objectives for employees, you should try to align their development plan with your company’s needs. Otherwise, you and your employees’ efforts could be all for naught.

Start by considering what your long and short-term business objectives are. Then identify the necessary skills, knowledge and competencies that support those objectives.

For example, if your business will be going through a growth spurt, you may need additional leaders. What skills do these leaders need to have? Do any of your current employees have the skills – or capability to learn the skills – needed to fulfill these roles?

“If not, developing a plan to bridge the gap between current employee skill sets and needed skill sets would be of great value,” says Lynne Klein, human resource advisor at Insperity.

Developing internal candidates can save you time and money on recruiting, onboarding and training outsiders.

“Additionally, creating a career path and demonstrating advancement and promotion opportunities through development can help you retain your top talent,” says Klein.

Step 2: Talk to your employees

Don’t just assume you know your employees’ skill level and career aspirations.

If possible, have a face-to-face discussion with each of your team members to get a better understanding of what their career goals are and how they think they can accomplish them.

You should also talk about any challenges they’re having in their current position. Have your employees do a self-assessment of their work. In what areas do they struggle the most? Would they benefit from additional training or mentoring?

Some of your employees may already have a career path in mind. But many times, they don’t know how to get started. By talking to them, you can work together to figure out what role your business plays in this plan as well as what opportunities you can offer them.

Step 3: Decide what skills your employees need

Once you’ve looked at each of your employees’ abilities and experience, as well as your company’s needs, it’s time to decide exactly what skills each person needs to acquire.

Be sure to your employees’ goals are specific and timely. It’s much more difficult to measure an employee’s progress when their objectives are vague or broad.

Step 4: Create an action plan

Now that you know what the objectives are, it’s time to figure out how your employee will go about achieving them.

Developmental programs can include a combination of activities such as formal training, reading, working directly with subject matter experts, one-on-one coaching and mentoring, and visits to institutions that offer specific development opportunities.

Once you’ve identified some specific learning opportunities, create a plan.

First you need to consider what it’s going to take to put your employee’s plan into action. Is there any prep work that needs to be done? Is anyone else involved? Will employees need to take time away from work? Will someone else need cover for them while they’re training?

After you have all the details sorted out, it can be helpful to create a schedule or time table so that employees keep moving forward and continue to pursue their goals.

Step 5: Apply the new skills in the workplace

You’re spending a considerable amount of time and possibly money on helping your employees improve their skills. To get your greatest possible return on investment, your employees need to be able to put those new skills to work in your company.

Set up some opportunities where your employees can quickly apply the new skills to the job and get feedback. This will help them reinforce and refine their new skills. If they don’t use the new knowledge when it’s fresh, they’re likely to lose it.

The takeaway

Creating a development program not only helps you make your workforce more effective and knowledgeable, but you can also improve employee satisfaction. And when your employees are happy, they’re less likely to go looking for work elsewhere.

How effective is your employee development program? Learn how to design a powerful people-focused HR plan by downloading our free e-book, How to Develop a Top-notch Workforce That Will Accelerate Your Business.

ron buckholtz

helpful information

Insperity Blog

Great to hear, Ron! Thanks for your comment.


What are your core strengths and areas of improvement in your current role?

What knowledge, skills and abilities do you need to acquire or improve this fiscal year to achieve your role aspiration and grow your career?


The expression is “it’s all for naught,” rather than, “not.”

Insperity Blog

Thank you for the editing tip!

Salomy Paulose

thanks. for the info
Question: Some employees are with perfect work /professional Ethics, integrity and hard working . But less in critical thinking which leads to unexpected / unwanted outcomes. what do I do with this category of employees

Insperity Blog

Hello Salomy, Thanks for your comments. Perhaps it’s time to invest in additional training for your employees. Does your company have any specific programs already in place with your HR department? This magazine may also help you strengthen employee engagement and identify training opportunities: http://bit.ly/2htvBIZ

Mike Adams

Every thing must be consider we should know whether the business is for long term or short term. Thanks for sharing your blog. Keep it sharing with more new updates.

Insperity Blog

Thanks for your comment, Mike. You are more than welcome – so glad you’re enjoying our content. Have a great weekend!


Good Article! I’d like to present it in my human resource class tomorrow. can you tell me the date of publishing ?
Thank you!

Insperity Blog

Thanks, Jenny! Great to hear! Sure – that post was published in November of 2012. If you’re looking for something a bit more recent, this post was published in March of this year: https://www.insperity.com/blog/how-to-create-smart-career-development-plans-employees/

Robert Castro

Good Article got the main points. This are good guild line that can be used on your day work day.

Insperity Blog

Thank you, Robert. So glad you found the article interesting and informative!

Dr. Kate Siner

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Insperity Blog

Hello Dr. Siner – I’m sorry you’re having trouble reading our article. Have you tried clearing the cache and cookies from your browser? Sometimes that can help. Thank you for your kind words!