Learning & Development

7 steps to help you get employee development planning right

Deciding on our futures can be a challenging and daunting prospect. Having someone to guide us and offer advice can help us figure out the right direction. That’s why it’s so important to get employee development planning right.

Managers are in a key position to help with this because employees trust them, they understand their employees’ strengths, and they know what opportunities are available within the business.

Employees may find that as they explore a particular path, it’s not for them. But they don’t know unless they try, and they’re much more likely to make the right decision with someone to help them along the way. The more information they have when they choose their path, the more likely they are to choose the right option the first time.

Let’s take a look at what you need to consider when it comes to employee development planning:

What are their skills?

Technical skills are, and always will be, important. This goes further than that, though. 

How are their communication skills? Do they want to improve them, or would they be better off spending their time elsewhere?

Knowing what their current skills are gives you a direction to start with that can then be influenced by my next point…

What are they interested in?

Being good at something and enjoying something are two very different things. Someone may be good at dealing with conflict, but they may dislike dealing with people. If you know someone like this, they’re probably not a great fit to be a manager. They’ll end up finding it increasingly frustrating over time.

Instead, you want to find that sweet spot between what employees enjoy and what their skills are.

Someone who enjoys going deep on a particular topic and likes poking holes in things would be a great subject matter expert, for example.

The more interested someone is in something, the more work they’ll put into learning the skills required to excel in a particular role. This will then lead to bigger benefits for your business.

Where do they need to grow?

To progress in our careers, we all need to grow in one way or another. It could be by learning a new programming language, a new social media platform, or leadership skills.

Having a clear list of areas to focus on as a result of employee development planning gives team members a clear idea of what direction to head in. It can essentially create a checklist of what they need to work on to hit their goals. This can help to motivate them and keep them focused.

What’s a hard no?

We all have our non-negotiables. For me, it’s noisy office environments. I just can’t concentrate in them, and they trigger my chronic pain.

Keeping in mind what someone doesn’t want to do narrows down the list of options when it comes to employee development planning. This can make the decision-making process a bit easier. 

It doesn’t matter how great your employee is, or how well they perform in a particular position. They’ll never enjoy a role that requires them to do things that make them uncomfortable or unhappy.

No amount of money, status, or training will make up for their discomfort. It’s therefore better to rule this out early so that you don’t risk losing them. If they’re doing something that goes against their values, health, or comfort, they’ll be much more likely to leave.

Can you offer them what they need?

If an employee needs to grow certain skills to achieve their career goals, can you help them get there? Does your business have the opportunities and roles that they need? 

If the answer is no, could you create them? If you don’t know how, can you find the answers elsewhere, either from your network or by researching?

When an employee is a great fit for your business, you don’t want to lose them because you can’t offer what they need. You’ll end up losing their loyalty and their company knowledge, and it’ll cost you more money to hire and train a new employee.

Finding external trainers and creating new programs helps you help that employee while future-proofing your business. If any other employees come along with similar needs as you continue to grow, you’ll be ready. Effective employee development planning extends beyond just one individual.

Make your plan

When you’ve answered all these questions, it’s time to create a plan. What do they need to learn, and by when? Setting deadlines makes it easier for employees to stay motivated. It also helps you track what’s happening and when, and gives you both something to work toward.

Consider setting SMART goals:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-sensitive

While the concept is one we’ve all heard ad nauseam, the specificity of SMART goals is what’s important. They’re more likely to be successful because you can pinpoint if, when, and how something is working. In this case, you can assess how effective your employee development planning has been.

Review your plan

Reviewing the results of your employee development planning process periodically ensures that it still aligns with what team members want to achieve. If they’ve hit any roadblocks, you can help them overcome them or alter the plan to fit their needs.

Alternatively, the employee may find that they no longer want to work toward the same goal. Perhaps their career trajectory has changed. That’s all fine and acceptable. 

It’s much better for them to realize this and come out and say it. That way, you can work together to change the direction, rather than risk losing them. If they don’t feel like they can communicate with you about how they’re feeling, they may consider leaving.

Think of the plan as scaffolding, i.e. a guide. What happens inside it can change based on employees’ needs as you continue to build together.


Managers’ trusted and knowledgeable roles mean they’re in powerful positions to help with effective employee development planning. While paths can change, managers can use the information they have on employees and the business to make suggestions.

Helping employees identify areas where they can grow their skills can benefit everyone. Supporting them to lean into their strengths and work on weaknesses can lead to better long-term career outcomes as well.

Employee development planning can be tough. The work doesn’t end with the plan, though. You have to provide employees with ample opportunities to pursue their stated learning goals. Then, you have to make it easy for them to engage.

By organizing all your learning groups, programs, and events in one place with Workrowd, you can connect every team member to the resources they need to succeed. Plus, with real-time analytics, you’ll always know which initiatives are driving results for team members.

If you’d like to learn more and explore how Workrowd can accelerate the impact of your employee development planning, send a note to We’d love to chat and see how we can collaborate.

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