“The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.” Harvey S. Firestone

With the workforce now comprised by a majority of Millennials and Gen Z, companies who are investing in training and development are retaining these younger employees longer than their competitors. A recent study by LinkedIn found that 25% of employees in these generations say that development contributes to their workplace happiness and more than 25% of them would leave their company if they weren’t learning and developing.

And when employees believe their company is investing in them, they stay longer which translates into a 24% higher profit margin according to Huffington Post. And furthermore, 40% of employees with poor training will leave their company within the first year.

Now development and training cost money, so it’s important that before you start investing in training you have a solid development plan for employees. This means the plan needs to be specific to the needs of the employee and it supports the goals of the organization.

The goal of a development plan is to document the development goals, required skills and competencies, and a specific timeline an employee has to accomplish their goals.

Organizational Needs

Your business strategy will need the right people, in the right seats, doing the right things for your strategy to be successfully executed. Part of your business plan should include a talent conversation to identify your high performers, high potentials and gaps that need to be filled to meet the future talent needs of your organization.

This requires organizations to understand what defines potential in your company as well as your core leadership competencies.

Employee Needs

The first step in a development plan is to identify skills, competencies, and knowledge gaps that, if filled, will make the employee more successful in their current job or help prepare her for the next step in her career.  Start with an updated job description and a competency ladder for the position.

In concert with the employee, review current performance against the competencies and skills for the position. Ask these questions: What skills and/or competencies need to be worked on, how will the gaps be filled, and in what time frame? The answers to these questions are the framework for a good employee development plan.

One of the most important questions is “how will the gaps be filled?” The answer will direct you to choosing the right development technique for the desired result.  When determining the technique required, ask yourself these four questions:

  1. What is the learning objective? Hard skill or soft skill?
  2. When do you need the employee to complete the objective?
  3. How does the employee best learn? Visual, auditory, verbal (reading/writing), or kinesthetic
  4. What is the training budget?

Once answered, match your answers to a development method that will meet your objective. There are a variety of methods to choose from including: mentoring, coaching, stretch assignments, job enrichment, cross training, training others, book clubs, online resources, industry and professional associations, workshops, and college education.

A good development plan will ensure the employee is growing personally and professionally by developing their capabilities to help meet their professional goals and your organization’s goals.

Once the development plan has been completed with the employee, it’s important to track and monitor the progress through quarterly development conversations. And if your organization has an LMS, Learning Management System, the progress can be documented for more talent pool transparency. Transparency can help with more efficient redeployment and decisions on promotions.

Committing to a structured developing process not only helps with retaining your key talent but it also helps with accomplishing your long-term strategic objectives. If you don’t have a structured development planning process in place, what’s holding you back and how can you eliminate these roadblocks to make development a priority?