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5 Steps to Create an Actionable Employee Development Plan [with Templates & Examples]

Written by: Jennifer Gaskin

Jul 19, 2022

employee development plan blog header venngage

Having a tough time keeping talented people on staff? Maybe you’ve considered giving them a raise or boosting their time off. While both are reasonable strategies, one of the best ways to engage workers is actually to invest in their development. And employee development plans are crucial tools to do just that.

More than 90% of workers say they would be more likely to stick with their current employer if the organization was invested in helping them learn and develop new skill sets, according to a LinkedIn survey.

For companies without mature training programs, creating simple but effective employee development plans does not have to come with a major investment of time or money. In fact, with Venngage for Training and Development, you can create an actionable employee development plan with just a few clicks.


Click to jump ahead:

What is an employee development plan?

An employee development plan describes the process needed to help an individual achieve their professional goals. It covers their career goals, the steps necessary to achieve those goals and the timeframe by which each goal should be met.

This employee development plan template is a good example:

employee development plan

Employee development plans usually include both short-term and long-term goals.

For example, a content marketer may have a short-term development goal of mastering writing long-form content within six months, and a long-term goal of becoming a content marketing manager in five years.

To create a professional development plan in this scenario, the content marketer will need to work with their manager to align their personal development goals with the company’s business goals, then discuss the steps and/or tasks they need to complete to reach those goals. Some of these tasks could be:

  • Ideate, research and write four original blog posts per month, each ranging from 1,000 to 2,000 words
  • Ideate, research and write one white paper per quarter, generating X to Y leads
  • Report on blog post performance in terms of traffic, search result ranking, and conversion
  • Update blog posts if necessary, based on their performance

They can also turn those smaller tasks into SMART goals to better keep track of them:

employee development plan smart goal example

Employee development plans are helpful not only for workers but for organizations as well, and there are many benefits for organizations to develop these strategies, both company-wide and for individual team members.

Related: Employee Development: Definition, Benefits & Visual Aids

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6 employee development plan templates

Before you start creating an employee development plan, let’s take a look at some templates you can use! These include both blank and filled-out employee development plan samples that can help inspire you with development plan ideas as well.

employee development plan

Customize this process with the steps you’ve developed to make sure your team members are fully briefed on what their responsibilities will be as they work through the employee development process.

employee development plan

This individual development plan can be easily customized for your organization’s needs. It’s especially useful for organizations with new or nonexistent training and development programs, as it includes examples to help inspire workers and managers.

employee development plan

If you’re considering a young or inexperienced team member for leadership positions, have them complete this self-assessment. Customize it to add tasks or competencies specific to the job for which you’re considering them.

employee development plan

Monitoring progress during any process is important, but professionals taking part in employee development are especially interested in knowing they’re on the right track. Modify this performance matrix every few weeks to keep them up to date.

employee development plan

Though this infographic is focused on a career change, which you may not want to encourage, you can easily customize it to add the steps involved in the development plan you and your employee created together.

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Benefits of individual development plans

Organizations that invest in employee development can realize many benefits, the least of which is potentially improving the company’s bottom line through recognizing and rewarding employees who show potential. Here’s a look at the biggest benefits of employee development plans.

1. Limiting turnover

We already referenced this survey, but it bears repeating here — 94% of people said they’d stick with a job if the company helped them learn new skills and develop as a professional.

2. Building skills

Career development plans are often focused on adding tools to a team member’s skill set. In doing so, the company itself benefits from their newfound skills. A 2021 LinkedIn survey found that 59% of corporate learning and development programs were focused on upskilling and reskilling.

invest in employee and create employee development plans

3. Boosting engagement & retention

Workers who feel they’re going nowhere in your organization are likely to find somewhere else to go. Engaging team members through training and development programs ensure the new role they find is within your organization.

Read more: How to Improve Employee Engagement with Visuals

employee development plan list infographic on 8 pillars of employee engagement

4. Improving company outlook

For organizations that are looking to expand into new products or services, building the skills of existing employees is often the best way to achieve their goals. In this way, they end up with team members who have the new skills they need and the past institutional knowledge that makes them more efficient.

Looking to create employee development programs and boost retention by as much as 80%? Venngage for Training and Development teams can help with that.

Simply create a free account and start designing infographics, presentations, and microlearning assets to build a strong employee training and development program.

Here’s an example of a flyer outlining the benefits of using Venngage for your company’s learning and development program, but you can customize it for your own training program proposal:

employee development plan

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5 steps to creating an actionable employee development plan

Organizations that lack established training and development programs likely don’t have much experience in creating actionable employee development plans. To set yourself up for success, follow these five simple steps:

  1. Establish executive support and determine organizational goals
  2. Examine skill gaps
  3. Identify employee goals and cross-check with organizational goals
  4. Determine ideal development methods and execute the plan
  5. Monitor progress and refine strategies

1. Establish executive support and determine organizational goals

As with any new major initiative, having support from leadership is crucial.

Programs often sputter out because there’s no managerial-level sponsor or champion. In some cases, the company will need to invest in training, and this requires sign-off from executives and other leaders.

Once you’ve got support from management, start thinking about the business’s goals.

At their core, employee development plans are focused on company goals, though the individual professional is the conduit for those goals. Still, understanding what the organization wants from employee development plans is important.

Organizational goals for individual workers will likely vary from person to person. Examples include improving employee retention, succession planning, upskilling or reskilling — the options are limitless.

2. Examine skill gaps

With your organizational goal and the team member in mind, what skills needed for achieving the goal does the worker lack? Do all workers lack these skills? Identify all the skills needed and determine what gaps exist across the organization.

Here’s an example of a matrix describing the skills needed for different marketing roles. Customize this template to help your employees examine their skill gaps or look for what they’re interested in learning more.

employee development plan

3. Identify employee goals and cross-check with organizational goals

Meet with the employee(s) who want a career development plan. Most of the time, you can meet with them in private — like in a one-on-one. You can also organize a team meeting where you all identify personal goals for each team member.

How often should you meet with your employees about professional development? This typically happens at least once per year, or whenever your reports request a meeting. Some companies have performance reviews every six months, so you can meet with your employee to discuss development goals then.

determine areas to develop based on performance review discussion

In the meeting, ask them what they want to achieve in your organization, what skills they would want to develop and what their long-term and short-term goals are for their careers.

Consider creating a worksheet or checklist like this one to help ensure employees are aware of what’s expected of them in this process.

employee development plan

It’s important both you and your reports prepare for this meeting beforehand. Ask them to think of professional and personal growth areas, and take your own notes on this as well. There are meeting minutes samples that you can use for this, so you can record the conversation and revisit it when necessary.

Examples of development areas

Employee development plans should focus on what team members want to achieve and how they can go about doing that. The process involves identifying their existing skills to see what they lack or where they could improve.

Some employee development plans will focus on broad, soft skills like:

Other employee development plans will focus on hard skills that are directly related to specific job tasks. That could include mastery of specific computer programs or broad digital fluency.

areas of career development according to the high performance model cycle

Examples of personal growth

Employee development plans focus on making team members better workers, allowing them to grow as individuals through the process.

In fact, according to LinkedIn, about 73% of professionals want to learn about topics they’re personally interested in when taking part in workplace development programs.

employee development plan

Indeed, as this infographic illustrates, investing in people means also investing in their personal growth. Many of the soft skills listed above are as useful outside the workplace as inside, if not more.

For example, a workplace development plan focused on building skills for conflict resolution could pay dividends not only in relationships with coworkers but with family members.

Identify areas where employee and organizational goals overlap

With those two sets of goals in mind, determine areas where organizational goals overlap employee goals or where they overlap if certain skills could be developed.

Consider employees’ potential and personality traits, and remember that training and development program should focus on building hard skills and soft skills.

4. Determine ideal development methods and execute the plan

Once you’ve identified areas of development for your employees, start looking at the best methods to help them do so. Many employee development plans include several types of skills, so multiple methods may be necessary.

How can you ensure career development plans are effective? Besides choosing the right methods (which we’ll touch on in a moment), consider the impact on the person’s existing job and the rest of the team.

Will they need to take time off work to build these skills? Do you expect them to do this in their free time?

This infographic describes the process that HR teams can use to help employees break bad habits. An employee development plan won’t likely focus on just reducing bad habits unless the habit is seriously impacting the employee’s individual and team performance.

employee development plan

Employee development methods

In most employee development plans, multiple methods will be used to achieve the desired outcome. Some goals are easier to achieve, while others will take more time, so organizations need to be agile enough to provide the tools employees need to build the necessary skills.

That includes but isn’t limited to the following:

  • Coaching
  • Mentoring
  • Cross-training
  • Job shadowing
  • Job rotation
  • Assessment centers
  • Online employee development

Nearly 60% of learning and development professionals expect their companies to spend more on online learning, according to LinkedIn. Make the most of your company’s investment by creating a robust e-learning course.

employee development plan

5. Monitor progress and refine development strategies based on results

Set a series of milestones employees should achieve on the path toward meeting their goals and building their new skills. Check in with them regularly to ensure they have the support they need and that they remain engaged and interested in the learning they’re doing.

Constantly work to refine your strategies. What works for one person may not work for another, but chances are good that if one particular development method or technique was successful in building a new skill for one person, it will work for another.

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FAQs about employee development plans

How far ahead should employees plan for?

This depends on the goal and the line of work the employee current performs.

For example, a fairly junior employee aiming to become a team lead may have a one- or two-year career development goals. On the other hand, a manager aiming to become a company leader may have much longer-term goals, which should also align more with the organizational goals.

Of course, if you’re planning far into the future, you should also have smaller goals to keep track along the way.

How can I help employees pursue a career I’m unfamiliar with?

In this situation, make sure you offer your employees advice where you can while connecting them to different resources that align more with their career path.

Refer to the different development areas: you may not be able to help your employees with technical skill development, but you can offer advice on personal development areas like negotiation skills, change management, project management etc.

What are the types of employee development plans?

Employee development plans generally come in two varieties, one focused on the employee and one focused on the organization, though both involve helping team members build needed skills.

Individual development plan

An individual development plan is an employee development plan specifically focused on creating a strategy for helping a professional achieve their career goals.

employee development plan

The above worksheet is a good example of an individual development training plan that allows a team member and their manager to determine skills and tools the worker lacks as well as the goals they hope to achieve.

Succession planning

Succession planning is a method of employee development that focuses more on filling internal needs and ensuring that talented workers have the skills they need to step into new roles within the company.

employee development plan

This leadership readiness checklist is an excellent example of succession planning in employee development. A checklist like this can help an organization identify candidates for leadership roles and determine what skills they would need to adequately do those jobs.

Related: 11 (Non-Boring) Training Checklist Templates to Keep Employees on Track

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In summary: Employee development plans prove to your workers that you are invested in their future

No employee wants to feel like a cog in a machine, and companies that treat their workers as expendable likely won’t have those workers on the payroll for long. Show your employees that you are invested in their future by creating employee development plans.

Start by registering for a free Venngage account. Customize our recommended templates and see for yourself how easy it is to design a professional employee development plan, even if you don’t have the necessary design skills.

You can always upgrade to a Business plan to enjoy Business exclusive features, such as one-click branding and real-time team collaboration — which is really helpful if you want to work on the development plan with your employees at the same time.

About Jennifer Gaskin

A veteran of newsrooms and agencies, Jennifer Gaskin is a writer, editor and designer who is the only living person not to have strong feelings on the Oxford comma. She's an award-winning practitioner of journalism and information design who spent the better part of a decade as the creative director of a digital marketing shop. As a writer, Jennifer contributes to a variety of publications while working with clients as well as taking on her own projects.