manager in meeting with employee

Individual plans for infinite growth

In our fast-changing world, organizations need to keep their employees engaged or risk seeing great talent walk out the door. One of the best ways to increase employee loyalty and commitment is to create individual development plans. You’ll help employees identify advancement opportunities. You’ll show you care about their career path. You’ll go a long way toward building long-term loyalty.

Here are some essential questions and steps to follow:

  1. What skills and talents will help your organization grow? Consider short- and long-term goals, as well as industry trends. Ask yourself:
    • Do you foresee an expansion or new processes/equipment that will require new skills or talents?
    • Are employees up to date on the latest techniques or software used in your industry?
    • Are there any skill or knowledge gaps?
    • What knowledge transfer needs to take place in light of foreseeable promotions, retirements or other personnel changes?

  2. What details need to be figured out before you start? Work through and finalize all of the key parameters and logistics before communicating the individual development plan process with employees. Make sure the following points (and others you decide are necessary for your workplace) are clearly communicated upfront to avoid misunderstandings and potential hard feelings later:
    • Is training paid or unpaid time for employees?
    • Will someone need to cover for employees when they are in training sessions?
    • Will training take place during or outside of regular work hours?
    • Is there anything employees need to do to prepare for training?
    • What will you do if an employee refuses to take part?

  3. What skills and talents does the employee want to use or develop? One-on-one conversations can help you determine if employees have skills and talents that are not being used or are underused. This also provides an opportunity to learn about career challenges, interests and aspirations. Consider having employees do a self-assessment of their work, answering these questions:
    • How do they feel they’re doing their job now?
    • What are their strengths and their biggest challenges?
    • Are there areas where they feel they need more training or mentoring?
    • Do they have a particular career path in mind?
    • Where do they see themselves in one to two years? In three to five years?

  4. How do employee desires align with organizational needs? Think in terms of immediate skills that each person should have to do their job well, and new skills they may want to develop. Then see how that fits with your organization’s workforce needs. There are many different types of employee development options to consider, including classes, apprenticeships, internships, mentoring and on-the-job training.

  5. Are you ready to define opportunities, goals, steps and time frames? Developing individual plans with each employee will help bolster buy-in, a key element of success. Be sure each person understands the plan, what training they’re committing to and why they need the training.

  6. Follow up to maximize value. Ensure that employees have opportunities to apply their new skills on the job. Discuss progress with each employee and, together, evaluate the return on the organization’s and the employee’s investment. Keep the employee’s development plan updated and consider creating a long-term schedule for additional growth. At a minimum, follow up on each employee’s individual development plan during the employee’s annual review