Training & Learning

6 Employee Development Plan Examples to Help Your Teams Grow and Thrive

In today's fast-paced and ever-changing professional landscape, one thing remains constant: the importance of continuous learning and professional growth.

Organisations that prioritise employee development through robust learning and development programmes reap the rewards of enhanced productivity, increased employee engagement, and a more adaptable workforce. But what makes a development plan effective? And what types of development plans are available?

In this article, we share why development plans are critical for professional development, offer a six-step framework for creating a professional development plan, and outline six development plan examples you can start leveraging right away.

But first, let’s define what an employee development plan is.

What is an employee development plan?

Professional development plans are live documents that outline actionable steps for growth, created by employees with the support of their line managers. They ensure employees have growth and career goals and that they’re developing their performance in the workplace. 

From an organisational perspective, professional development plans help support employee retention, boost critical skills, and meet the organisation’s workforce goals.

Professional development plans shouldn’t be confused with personal development plans which tend to be owned by the individual employee and are often more focused on personal goals rather than work goals.

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Why are development plans critical for professional development?

Professional development plans help employees boost their skills and competencies while also benefiting business goals. Here, we breakdown the advantages of development plans for employees and organisations.

For employees:

  • Motivation and engagement: Professional development plans boost employee motivation and engagement, resulting in higher job satisfaction and generally making people happier at work.
  • Professional development: Most employees want to grow and develop, although this varies between different generations. For example, 59% of millennials see work as an opportunity to learn and grow, whilst 44% of Gen Xers and 41% of baby boomers say the same about these types of opportunities.
  • Transparency and support: Formalised development programs help increase transparency across the business. It’s key to communicate what employees need to do to progress at your organisation and give them the support and guidance to do so. Be sure to have the same professional development structure for everyone in the business from leadership to entry-level employees. This goes a long way in creating a culture of transparency.

For organisations:

  • Internal mobility: Investing in professional development can help promote internal mobility, a strategy that is cheaper than hiring externally, especially in tough economic times. Upskilling, reskilling, or giving employees an opportunity to make an internal move is far more cost-effective than filling the position through external hiring. With skill gaps on the rise, it might even be the case that the skills you’re looking for don’t exist on the market yet.
  • Easier upskilling: Upskilling your employees helps build more resilient and adaptable teams and supports your succession planning. This allows organisations to achieve higher returns for the business. In fact, on average, 66% of employers see an ROI within one year as a result of upskilling and reskilling their workforce.
  • Employee retention: If employees don’t have a clear career path at your organisation, they’re much more likely to leave. Offering career development and certifications increases employee retention. Implementing actionable steps for team members to learn and grow helps keep employee turnover rates down and reduces the risk of additional costs of having to hire new people.

Next up? Let’s dig into the different employee development examples out there.

6 employee development plan examples to help your teams grow

There are various different types of development plans. From objective-based and skill-based plans to development plans for managers and succession plans, here we share examples of each.

1. Goal-based employee development plans

A goal-based development plan is designed to help employees set and achieve milestones and objectives and key results (OKRs).

The development of OKRs should be a top-down as well as bottom-up exercise, but managers play a key role in facilitating buy-in and making sure OKRs have a positive impact on your company’s performance.

For a goal-based development plan, it’s key that managers and employees collaborate when setting goals to ensure transparency across the board. 

Here’s the steps we take at 360Learning to create OKRs:

  1. Identify company wide goals
  2. Break those goals down into team objectives
  3. Turn team objectives into individual objectives and break them down into key results
  4. List initiatives within key results and create daily to-do lists

If you’re looking to implement OKRs across your business, it’s a good idea to upskill your teams on how to create them from the get go. You can consider including OKR training as part of your onboarding training.

Related:Check out our free OKR template to help you get started.

Setting OKRs course at 360Learning
Setting OKRs course at 360Learning

2. Performance-based employee development plans

Like goal-based development plans, performance-based plans focus on goals that directly influence employee performance. These types of plans are designed to develop your team’s abilities to perform day-to-day job responsibilities more effectively.

For example, you might conduct a training needs analysis and identify a cohort of employees in the sales team who have skills gaps when it comes to communication. As communication skills are critical for the job role, the individuals can create a development plan to help them close the skills gap.

Related:Check out our Free training needs analysis template.

3. Development plans for people managers

A development plan for people managers is similar to an individual contributor plan but is specifically designed for people who manage a team or a particular function within an organisation. This involves a roadmap of what the manager can do to improve their performance and their team's performance.

A managerial development plan may include business objectives, like achieving the team’s revenue targets or specific leadership skills that might focus on their delegation skills.

As part of your managers development plans, consider offering leadership training to help prepare managers with the skills they need to progress.

4. Skill-based employee development plans

Skill-based employee development plans differ slightly from performance-based plans in that they focus on developing fluid sets of capabilities (skills), rather than sets of duties and responsibilities you need for that job title. For example, this might include an employee developing their written, creative, or communication skills.

A skill-based development plan creates more room for employees to make internal moves, while ensuring organisations become more resilient and adaptable.

Related: Goodbye Jobs, Hello Skills: The Fundamental Shift Reshaping the Way We Think About Talent

5. Employee self-evaluation plan

A self-evaluation plan is used as part of an employee’s performance review to track both how well they’re performing and pinpoint target growth areas. For employees, self-evaluations help employees reflect and increase their self-awareness while for managers, they are critical in understanding what the employee’s goals are at work.

A self-evaluation should include:

  • What the employee has achieved over the past year including goals that have been achieved and future goals the individual wants to pursue.
  • What professional development training has been taken and whether there is further training the employee would like to partake in next?
  • How would the employee rate their creative skills?
  • How would the employee rate their communication skills
  • Does the employee have good time management skills?
  • Has the employee shown mastery in organisational values and behaviours?

6. Succession development plan

Succession development plans describe the process of helping employees progress to more senior positions within your organisation. For example, a marketing executive may develop a succession plan highlighting the steps they need to make to become a marketing manager.

It’s important to note that succession plans must align with your company’s level-up or promotion policy, creating a fair and transparent process for all employees to advance to the next level.

As part of your succession planning, you can also consider offering management training to individual contributors who show an interest and potential in advancing towards a managerial role. Your management training can include things like how to conduct atraining needs analysisto determine gaps in the team's knowledge, how to handle and prevent burnout, or how performance reviews work at your organisation.

Related: Your New Manager Training Isn’t Working—Here Are 4 Ways to Revive It


So, how can you get started with creating an employee development plan?

A 4-step framework for creating an employee development plan

The key to skills development success is to keep track of employees short-term goals and long-term goals. This ensures people have a clear, time-bound career track defined, helping them reach the next level.

Writing a professional development plan helps employees break down set goals into simple steps and allows both them and their line manager to track progress throughout a determined period of time. 

Employees should create professional development plans with the help of their manager. Once the plan is drafted, employees are encouraged to refer to it and update it accordingly, especially after reaching new professional goals or milestones. Here are four steps you can follow to help your employees create their development plans.

1. Conduct a self-assessment

First, employees should consider their current role and objectives as well as their interests and challenges. This will help them identify their strengths and weaknesses and define their career goals. The self-assessment stage of writing a professional development plan includes answering questions such as:

  • What is their current job role and responsibilities?
  • What aspects of the job do they enjoy the most?
  • What are their professional strengths, skill sets and competencies?
  • What transferable skills do they have?
  • What are some of their weaknesses and areas for improvement?

With this information to hand, you can guide and support your employees in conducting their self-assessment.

2. Set clear development goals

The next step is for your team members to set both short-term and long-term development goals. You should encourage employees to use SMART goals to make them realistic, measurable, and timely.

  • Specific: Goals need to be clearly defined.
  • Measurable: Goals should have quantifiable metrics attached to them so that they can be tracked easily.
  • Achievable: Goals need to be realistic based on the time frame and should also take into account the employee’s experience level.
  • Relevant: Goals should be relevant to the employees passions and should be aligned with their career path.
  • Timely: Goals should be set and achieved within a specific time frame in mind.

3. Create an action plan

The third step of developing a development plan is to set the strategies the employee will use to achieve their initiatives. At this stage, it’s important for people to consider these questions:

  • Does the employee know how they will achieve the goals or do they need to research them in more detail or speak to a professional?
  • Do they need any additional qualifications to reach their goals?
  • Which skills and experiences do they need to reach the next level?

4. Identify any additional resources required

The last step of setting a professional development plan is to list the resources the employee will need to help them achieve their goals. This may include:

  • Educational institutions: Degrees, diplomas and certifications will help employees move into more senior roles in various fields.
  • Employee training: Internal employee training programmes such as managerial training or leadership training will help employees develop the skills and competencies they need to advance their careers.
  • Networking associations: Networking will enable people to make new connections and can help open up new career opportunities.
  • Webinars: Online and in-person webinars or conferences can help employees develop new skills in certain areas e.g. soft skills such as communication skills or critical thinking or digital skills like social media.
  • Mentors: For employees, finding a one-on-one mentor or joining a mentorship programme can be beneficial as it’s a way to gain new experiences and get advice on how to progress at work.

Next up? Let’s take a look at some examples of different types of professional development plans.

Related: How to Design a Mentorship Program (That Employees Will Actually Enjoy)

Employee training is at the heart of professional development

Implementing employee training programmes at your organisation is key to supporting your team's continuous improvement and career development. Whatever your employee’s goals, everyone will benefit from training at work whether that be through onboarding, management training, leadership training, or product training. Ready to invest in employee training at your organisation? Get in touch with one of our learning specialists today.

Frequently asked questions

What are the benefits of a development plan?

What are some examples of development goals?

What’s the difference between a personal development plan and a development plan for work?