How to Build Your Employee Development Plan [Template]

An HR professional working on her tablet in the office
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Investing in your employees is investing in your business. Growth opportunities like skill building, education, coaching, and career advancement foster a more engaged, productive, and loyal workforce. If you want to personalize this to individual employees, that’s where an employee development plan comes in.

An employee development plan is a framework that plots an actionable path for an individual’s professional growth. In this context, growth can mean any number of things, including building on job-relevant skills, earning a new certification or degree, or being promoted. Plans are developed collaboratively with the employee, HR leader, and manager, pinpointing the steps necessary for that employee to close skill gaps and reach their goals.

Read on for a step-by-step guide to building employee development plans, and don’t forget to grab our free development plan template!

Employee Development Plan Template

Start building your employee development plan with our free template.

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Creating an Effective, Actionable Employee Development Plan

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel regarding learning & development, but a successful employee development plan should be tailored to the needs of your business and its individual employees. Let’s review the steps to building effective development plans.

Step 1: Identify the Business’s Current and Future Goals

Employee development should align with company strategy, benefiting both worker and employer. 

Some things to consider are:

  • Growth & sustainability. Employee development plans can prepare newer employees to eventually fill roles as they open, either because of growth or when veteran employees leave.
  • Keeping up with new initiatives. Courses, certifications, and training can prepare workers for new tech or platforms your organization may adopt.
  • Closing skill gaps and improving performance. Training or classes in communication skills, leadership presence, and time management can improve overall performance in key metrics like sales and customer experience.

By first assessing your organization’s current needs, initiatives, and goals, you’re preparing yourself to help employees build more efficient, realistic growth plans. Tying plan development into strategy early on will also make earning leadership buy-in easier down the road – you’ll know exactly how an employee’s personal growth will benefit the business and the C-suite’s bottom line.

Step 2: Pinpoint Your Employees’ Professional Goals

No two employees are looking for the exact same thing in their professional lives. Realistic timelines, effective training styles, and even the goals themselves will vary from person to person, which is why collaboration is so crucial in creating a successful development plan.

While you can use performance evaluations and managerial feedback to assess an employee’s skills and competencies, don’t make assumptions about their career goals, wants, and needs without speaking to them first. Frequent communication and active listening are key, so schedule meetings with employees individually to identify their needs.

Here are some tips for developing realistic goals:

  • Learn about an employee’s career objectives. Not everyone aspires to management, and even those who do may want to delay that movement for personal reasons. If they don’t have any clear goals in mind, that’s okay, too. They may still be open to development opportunities.
  • Identify skills or tools that could help them now, in their current role, or that they may need for future projects and initiatives.
  • Create a list of skills, certifications, or experience they’ll need to move into a new, desired role.
  • Pinpoint goals that best align with organizational strategy and objectives.
  • Establish clear, measurable, and attainable goals for the employee and outline how progress will be measured. Following the SMART method when developing goals can set your employees up for success.

Step 3: Develop a Personalized Plan for Achieving Those Goals

Collaboration doesn’t end at the outline stage. Once you and your team member have identified their goals, it’s time to work together to develop an actionable development plan. A personalized plan will suit an employee’s learning style and set them up for individual success.

Don’t forget to provide adequate resources and support for your employee:

  • Have a list of helpful resources ready to go. Identify mentors within your organization or assemble a database of reputable courses, conferences, webinars, books, and other learning materials. Once built, this resource will be helpful for all future employee development plans.
  • Keep your employee involved at this stage. Chances are, they have an idea of how they learn best and what they might need to do to develop or improve a given skill. Ask them what your business can do to support their growth, whether access to courses, cross-training, or something else.
  • Go beyond courses and webinars by embracing mentorship and coaching opportunities. A personalized, 1:1 virtual coaching experience can vastly improve engagement and productivity over training alone.
  • Discuss the developed steps and goals with your employee and management to ensure everything is understood and achievable.

Step 4: Track Progress, Celebrate Success, Keep it Organic

Clear milestones and regular check-ins, whether in-person or via video call or email, are crucial to measuring the success of an employee development plan. 

  • Provide regular feedback to the employee and ask them for feedback on the process, courses, and coaching – this feedback loop will encourage improvement on both sides of the equation.
  • If an employee struggles to meet interim goals, don’t hesitate to adjust. An employee development plan isn’t written in stone, and a willingness to adapt to someone’s individual learning needs will go a long way toward making them feel seen and valued.
  • When an employee does hit a milestone, celebrate that success, too. Recognition – even small and personal – is a great motivator.

Unlock Employee Potential with 1:1 Coaching from Sayge

When workers have room to grow, they lay down roots, which is why learning and development is a worthy investment for your business. Individualized employee development plans will set your workers on the path to success, and personalized resources like one-on-one virtual coaching can supercharge that journey.


Sayge pairs your employees with expert coaches that fit their needs, factoring in personality, learning style, and skill set during matchups. We create a one-of-a-kind one-on-one experience that unlocks your people’s full potential. Ready to level up your learning and development? Amplify employee learning – say hello to Sayge.

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