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Employee Development Plans: A How-To Guide

Employee development is a crucial aspect of talent management and organizational success. With thoughtful employee development plans, companies can boost employee retention, satisfaction, and performance.

In this post, we'll explore what employee development plans are, why they matter, and how to create effective development plans for your team members. We'll look at best practices with examples from Walmart's individual development plan framework. Let's dive in!

What Are Employee Development Plans?

Employee development plans outline learning and growth goals for each team member. They identify strengths to leverage and skills to build.

Well-crafted plans align individual growth with company objectives. They provide a roadmap for employees to gain the competencies needed to excel and advance.

Plans are collaboratively created by managers and employees. They address development across multiple dimensions:

  • Technical skills: Growing proficiency in role-specific capabilities.
  • Business acumen: Understanding the company's strategy and industry landscape.
  • Leadership abilities: Enhancing skills like communication, collaboration, and strategic thinking.
  • Career advancement: Preparing for and achieving promotion milestones.
  • Industry expertise:** Developing knowledge in a particular domain.

Effective development plans are living documents. They're revisited and updated regularly to reflect evolving goals and needs.

The Benefits of Employee Development Plans

Investing in structured employee development delivers powerful benefits:

1. Drives employee retention.

Development opportunities are highly valued by today's workforce. A LinkedIn survey found that 93% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their careers.

2. Boosts employee performance.

As team members gain new skills, their contributions and impact grow. A study by ATD found that companies that offer excellent learning opportunities have 218% higher revenue per employee.

3. Prepares leaders for future roles.

73% of organizations say they struggle with leadership succession planning and filling the talent pipeline. Development plans groom emerging leaders.

4. Increases employee satisfaction.

Employees feel valued and invested in when companies support their growth. This fuels stronger engagement and satisfaction.

5. Achieves strategic alignment.

Plans ensure each employee is gaining the capabilities needed to execute company strategy now and in the future.

6. Promotes a learning culture.

Development plans make learning an organizational priority. They signal that gaining new skills is expected and valued.

With powerful advantages like these, it's no wonder employee development is a top priority for leading companies worldwide.

Walmart's Individual Development Planning Process

Walmart offers a best practice example of how development plans can transform an organization. In 2013, Walmart overhauled their performance management system. They introduced new "Coach in the Moment" conversations and annual Individual Development Plans (IDPs).

Here are key details of Walmart's IDP process:

  • Ongoing two-way dialogues: Coaches (managers) and associates (employees) discuss development regularly in quick Coach in the Moment chats.
  • Annual IDP meeting: The employee and coach conduct a dedicated 90-minute meeting to create the IDP for the next year.
  • Co-created plans: The IDP is a collaborative effort reflecting goals of both parties.
  • Tracks 3 key objectives: The IDP identifies one objective each for new skills, personal development, and career interests.
  • Outlines development tactics: For each objective, specific activities like on-the-job experience, mentoring, classes, and readings are defined.
  • Revisits and revises: Associates and coaches revisit IDPs quarterly to review progress and update plans.

Walmart's adoption of structured IDPs resulted in significant gains. Here are a few highlights:

  • 75% of associates have an active IDP.
  • Turnover decreased 10%.
  • 75%+ engagement scores consistently.
  • Hourly associate promotions increased 300% after 2 years.

Clearly, Walmart's commitment to employee development through IDPs is paying off by fueling skill gains, loyalty, and promotions.

How To Build An Effective Employee Development Plan

Ready to implement high-impact development plans in your organization? Follow these best practices:

Step 1: Set Expectations

Explain the purpose of development planning and how the process will flow. Emphasize that it's for the employee's benefit and requires self-reflection and active participation.

Step 2: Conduct a Skills Assessment

Help employees identify current proficiency levels in technical/functional competencies, business knowledge, and leadership skills. Use performance reviews for input.

Frame discussions around "Describe your experience with ____" rather than just ranking skills. This provides richer context.

Step 3: Define Individual Goals

Have employees ponder where they want to be professionally in 2-3 years. Identify developmental areas to close gaps between their aspirations and current abilities.

Prompt them to dig deeper with questions like:

  • What parts of your job do you want to expand or improve?
  • Where do you have limited experience you want to grow?
  • What are your career ambitions? What capabilities will those roles require?

Step 4: Align with Company Needs

Review organizational and team goals employees' development should support. Identify priorities like:

  • Building emerging capabilities as the company adds new services.
  • Developing leaders for advancement as senior colleagues retire.
  • Enhancing analytics skills to identify process improvements.

Look for alignment between individual and company goals.

Step 5: Finalize Development Objectives

Agree on 3-5 focused development goals for the coming year. For each, clarify:

  • The specific skills/knowledge to be acquired.
  • How capabilities will be applied on the job.
  • How development supports the employee's and company's needs.

Step 6: Outline Tactics

Define on-the-job and formal training activities to achieve each goal:

  • On-the-job experiences like special projects, job rotations, shadowing, new tasks, or committees.
  • Formal training including online courses, workshops, speaker series, conferences.
  • Mentoring and coaching arrangements.
  • Reading books and articles.
  • Joining professional associations.

Step 7: Document the Plan

Record the development goals, supporting business needs, and tactics in an IDP form. Set target dates for completion. Have the employee and manager sign the document to cement commitment.

Step 8: Drive Development

Check in regularly on IDP progress and completion of activities. Provide coaching and resources to support achievement of goals.

Step 9: Review and Revise

Formally revisit IDPs quarterly. Review accomplishments, challenges, and lessons learned. Update development objectives and tactics as needed. Continuous assessment ensures development plans stay on track and evolve with changing individual and business needs.

Employee Development Best Practices

Beyond the planning process, keep these success factors in mind:

  • Make development a shared responsibility. Employees own their growth, with guidance from managers on aligning with company goals.
  • Integrate with performance management. Link development plans to competencies assessed in performance reviews.
  • Offer mentoring. Partner employees with more experienced mentors who can provide insights and advice.
  • Allow time for learning. Ensure employees can devote a percentage of work hours to development activities.
  • Offer varied learning formats. Provide in-person workshops, e-learning modules, online resources, job rotations, and more.
  • Highlight development opportunities. Communicate roles, projects, and assignments that offer growth experiences.
  • Track progress. Monitor completion rates and impact of development activities.
  • Reward success. Recognize employees for achieving plan milestones and share success stories.
  • Incorporate feedback. Gather input on the process and make continuous improvements.

The AI Advantage

With so much complexity in managing development programs, AI solutions like Supernormal provide invaluable assistance. AI-powered tools automate administrative processes like:

  • Documenting development plan discussions in a central system.
  • Monitoring progress on goals and tactics.
  • Prompting managers and employees when reviews or updates are due.

More strategic applications of AI include:

  • Analyzing skills assessments to identify common development needs across the organization.
  • Matching employees to mentors based on development goals, experience, and personality compatibility.
  • Recommending development resources like courses, books, projects, and job rotations customized to an individual's goals.
  • Providing insights into future skills the workforce will need so development can be forward-looking.

By handling time-consuming tasks and providing data-driven insights, A‌‍I enables people leaders to focus their precious time on meaningful coaching and mentoring conversations with team members. Intelligent tools are powerful allies for development planning success.

In Summary

Employee development plans are a strategic investment that pays dividends through more capable, empowered teams. Companies that prioritize development reap the rewards in talent retention, performance, innovation, and agility.

Walmart provides an inspirational case study of using development plans to transform performance management and equip associates for advancement.

Follow leading practices like collaboratively created plans, multifaceted learning approaches, and continuous revision to maximize the impact of development initiatives in your organization. Integrate smart AI solutions to amplify results.

When companies invest in employee growth and progression, they cultivate loyal, high-achieving workforces ready to excel today and lead tomorrow. Employee development done right delivers value throughout an organization's talent pipeline.

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