Employee Development Plan

Investing in the development of your employees is crucial to maximizing their potential — and to maximizing the value they provide your business.

But simply “knowing” that employee development is important will only get you so far.

To truly put your employees on the path to success, you need to have a solid game plan in place for each and every one of them.

In this article, we’ll discuss everything that goes into creating effective employee development plans for your team members.

Without further ado, let’s dive in.

What is an Employee Development Plan?

An employee development plan is a document outlining an individual’s personal, professional, and career goals — along with an action plan to guide them to these goals.

The main purpose of an employee development plan is to act as a roadmap for the individual along their path to success. 

To this end, effective employee development plans make clear:

  • Where the employee currently stands in terms of knowledge, skills, and career growth
  • How the employee intends to develop and grow in these areas
  • What the employee will need along their way

We’ll get more into the specifics of what this entails in a bit. 

For now, know that an employee development plan aims to get team members from where they are to where they want to be professionally, as effectively as possible.

Why Intentional Planning is Key to Employee Development

As we discussed in our previous article, focusing on employee development will benefit your business in a number of ways:

  • Enhanced employee engagement and motivation
  • Improved employee performance and productivity
  • Increased retention of top talent

…all of which add up to improved business performance, overall.

To fully realize these outcomes, though, creating formalized plans for your employees’ development is essential — for a few key reasons.

Foster a Growth Mindset

While most employees understand the value of continuous learning, an intentional growth plan ensures they stay focused on growth at all times.

Without a clear plan in place, learning often takes a backseat to doing. With so much else on their plate, employees may overlook opportunities to learn and grow as they come about — or they may avoid them altogether.

With formal employee development plans in place, though, learning will remain top-of-mind throughout your organization. In turn, team members will start actively seeking out opportunities to develop their knowledge and skills — and to help their colleagues do the same.

Provide Tailored & Relevant Development Opportunities

Formalized employee development plans allow you to ditch the one-size-fits-all approach to training your employees, and instead take a more tailored and personalized route.

A good plan ensures each employee pursues specific training and developmental opportunities that will benefit them and allow them to reach their unique goals. From simply providing relevant resources and information, to offering tailored training sessions and series’, a solid plan allows you to anticipate your employees’ needs — and provide for them as necessary.

Connect Employee Development to Business Goals

Creating employee development plans ensures that any investments you make into said development end up paying off for your business.

(As we’ll discuss, this is partially why creating these plans should be a collaborative effort between manager and employee.)

Moreover, it gives you a chance to show with clarity how your employee’s efforts add value to the company on the whole. This is not only huge for intrinsic motivation, but also allows your employees to focus on developing the skills and knowledge that bring the absolute most to your business.

Qualities of an Effective Employee Development Plan

Now, let’s look at the characteristics of an impactful employee development plan.


Your employee development plan should be specific in three key ways:

  • Goals and outcomes should be specific and objectively measurable.
  • Action plans should be clear and direct
  • Resource listings should be comprehensive and accurate

If it’s included in the document, it should be easily understandable and certain. Otherwise, it can mislead an individual down the wrong path — or derail their development efforts altogether.


As mentioned above, all plans (and all learning materials cited within the plan) must be relevant to the individual’s goals and skill level.

Again, you want to ensure that every effort your employee puts into their growth pays off in dividends — both for them and for your business. Providing irrelevant information, resources, or guidance of any kind not only hinders progress, but is also a waste of valuable time, energy, and money.


While you’ll ideally want to stick to your plans as best as possible once they’re in motion, things don’t always go so swimmingly.

That said, your employee development plans should allow for some flexibility as you revisit them over time. Basically, you want to be sure that any changes to your plan can be easily reflected in the document — and that any sections impacted by the change can be attended to as needed.

(For example, it should be easy to substitute the training sessions listed in the plan if the employee’s overarching goals are changed in any way.)

In some cases, you might even include contingency plans directly within your documentation. Should things go off-track, the employee will then have a backup plan at the ready — along with additional resources and guidance as needed.


Speaking of resources and guidance, your employee development plans should either:

  1. Provide information, guidance and assistance directly within the document
  2. Point to a secondary resource that can

These resources include:

  • Organizational knowledge content
  • On-demand lessons and educational content
  • Colleagues, mentors, and other teammates
  • The tools needed to engage with the above

That way, your employees can simply refer to their development plan to see where or who they should refer to whenever they need help.

Sections to Include in an Employee Development Plan

Your comprehensive employee development plans should include the following sections.

Employee Info

Each employee development plan should define who the plan is for, along with their position and title within the organization.

This section may also include information about the employee’s supervisor, and/or anyone else who will be helping them create and implement their development plan.

Goals & Objectives

Here, the employee will explain exactly what they intend to achieve, accomplish, or be able to do as they move forward within your organization.

These objectives can vary wildly depending on the situation.

Some examples:

  • “I want to learn how to use x tool to improve my performance as a salesperson.”
  • “I want to close more sales and decrease my average time-to-conversion.”
  • “I want to be promoted to Head of Sales.”

You might even break this section down into short-, mid-, and long-term goals to create a developmental continuum for the employee.

In this case, the above might be listed as so:

  • Short-Term Goal: “Learn how to use x tool to improve sales performance.”
  • Mid-Term Goal: “Improve my conversion rate while decreasing my average time-to-conversion.”
  • Long-Term Goal: Earn a promotion to Head of Sales

Note that you should only include multiple goals in a single development plan if said goals intertwine or connect with one another directly. If an employee has multiple goals that only loosely relate to one another, it’s best to create separate documents for each.

Skills Assessment

This section will include all relevant information regarding the employee’s current knowledge, skills, and abilities.

Here, the employee’s supervisor can input their own assessment of the individual’s performance — and can also attach any official performance reviews or other documentation to back up their claims. The employee may also be asked to provide a self-assessment of their current knowledge and skill levels, as well.

(Note: Any discrepancies between the supervisor’s assessment and the employee’s self-assessment should be addressed to create alignment between all parties before moving on.)

You’ll then include additional information regarding any gaps in the employee’s knowledge or skills that must be filled before they’re able to achieve their goals. This should actually be the “meat” of this section, as it will become the starting point for the individual’s developmental journey moving forward.


  • “My conversion rate is considered excellent, but I need to work on closing sales more quickly and efficiently.”
  • “My performance in my current position is exceptional, and I now need to strengthen my leadership capabilities.”
  • “I’m currently not performing at the level I’d hoped. I need more training and practice in (x) to overcome the challenges I’m facing.”

Development Opportunities

Here, the employee and their supervisor will work together to create a list of potential training and learning opportunities the employee can take advantage of.

This section can be rather high-level, showcasing the main overarching approaches to development that would work best for the individual employee given their current circumstances.

Some examples include:

  • On-the-Job Training
  • Job Shadowing
  • Classroom Training
  • Workshops and Seminars
  • Coaching and mentoring
  • Communities of practice

Once the appropriate option(s) have been identified, more specific information can be added as you begin to formulate an actual game plan for the employee’s development.

Action Plan

Here’s where you’ll more fully expand on the above information based on what’s most practical for the circumstances given, and on the employee’s learning capacity and preferences.

A few examples:

  • “Shadow (veteran colleague) and attend on-the-job training to learn more effective sales techniques.”
  • “Complete our Advanced Sales Techniques webinar series and accompanying assessments.”
  • “Participate in mentorships and communities of practice with more experienced colleagues for additional guidance and assistance.”

Again, these separate action plans will often tie into one another. 

For example, the above employee might first complete an online training session to strengthen their foundational knowledge, then shadow an expert colleague to see this knowledge “in action”. From there, they can participate in more advanced discussions and exercises to further strengthen their abilities.

(Conversely, the individual likely won’t get much out of a community of practice if they haven’t yet gained the foundational knowledge provided from your training sessions.)

This section should also include a timeline and definition of success for each action item. This more specific information will help employees stay on-track toward their developmental goals — and keep their supervisors informed of their progress along the way.

Plan for Monitoring & Assessing Progress

On that note, your employee development plans should make clear how the individual’s progress will be assessed moving forward.

Examples include:

  • Weekly check-in conversations with supervisors
  • End-of-session quizzes and tests
  • Quantitative improvements in job performance

Employees should also identify ways they can track and assess their own performance over time, as well. As necessary, this section can also explain how to proceed should they need additional assistance in a specific area.

Again, timelines are crucial to ensure the employee stays focused on their development over time. Furthermore, a solid timeline ensures their supervisor will be close at-hand at crucial developmental milestones — and will always be prepared to get them back on-track before they stray too far off-course.


Finally, the supervisor will attach or point to any resources the employee will need to put their developmental plan into action.

As discussed above, this list may include:

  • Relevant training sessions offered by your organization
  • Specific knowledge base content and other informational materials
  • Individual colleagues and teams to forge partnerships with
  • The tools required to engage with all of the above

While much of this information will already have been covered within the document, this dedicated section will be a go-to resource should the employee need guidance, encounter blockers, or otherwise be unsure of how to proceed.

Best Practices to Create Effective Employee Development Plans

Adhering to best practices when creating employee development plans is vital to your employee’s and your team’s success.

Here are a few key things to keep in mind.

A Cooperative Effort

We’ve alluded to this a few times, but let’s be clear:

Creating an employee development plan should be a collaborative effort between the employee and their manager(s) — and any other member of the team that might be of some assistance.

As a manager, you don’t want to leave your employees to create their development plans on their own. For one, they’ll likely need guidance as to what to learn and how to learn it. Secondly, they’ll need you to confirm that their goals are practical and will actually allow them to provide more value to the organization.

But, you also don’t want to simply dictate their development plan to them from on-high. Rather, your employees should maintain ownership of their own professional development — with you simply guiding them in the right direction as needed.

Finally, you might choose to involve mentors and other experts to help your employees create their development plans. Since these team members will have likely walked similar paths in their own careers, they’ll be able to put their proteges on the most productive path to development for their situation..

Challenge Your Employees

Your employees path to professional development should never be “easy” — and should always push them to do their very best work.

In short, their goals should reflect their capabilities. If they’re capable of accomplishing more, there’s no reason they shouldn’t set their sights even higher.

That said, there’s a fine line between challenging your employees and overwhelming them. While you do want to motivate them to learn and grow as much as possible, you don’t want them to shut down in the face of an insurmountable task — nor do you want them to be disheartened should they fall short of their goals.

Ironically, in some cases the solution is to actually raise the bar too high, to the point that it’d be impossible for them to accomplish everything on the plan in the time frame given. That way, they’ll always have something they could do to further their development — but never feel pressured to push themselves to burnout.

Make Ongoing Adjustments

As mentioned, your employee development plans should be flexible enough to change things up should the need arise.

To actually know when this need arises, you’ll need to stay on top of your employees’ progress over time — and be able to tell when things are or are not going according to plan.

Firstly, be sure to plan formal check-ins and assessments throughout the plan’s timeline. Typically, you’d want to assess the employee’s progress at certain time intervals, and as they reach certain developmental milestones. Define these moments during planning so all involved parties are prepared to check in when the time comes.

Also, keep the door open for informal engagements between yourself and your employees that could lead to a change of plans in some way. If your employee is struggling in a certain area, they should feel comfortable coming to you for further assistance — or to potentially change course altogether. Similarly, there may be times when you’ll need to proactively step in and offer guidance when it’s clear an employee has hit a rough spot.

In any case, make sure any changes or adjustments made are reflected in your planning documentation — both for posterity and to help inform additional planning in the future.

Acknowledge & Celebrate Growth

When it comes to facilitating employee development, you need to be prepared to acknowledge and celebrate the individual’s progress at both the planned and unplanned milestones along their journey.

(This goes along with what we just said about checking in and keeping tabs on your employees over time.)

It’s important to reinforce the impact their newfound knowledge or skills will have on their performance abilities in their current position, along with how it might prepare them for higher-level positions within your organization. They need to know they’re not just jumping through hoops for the company without actually benefiting from their growth on multiple levels, themselves.

Similarly, you want to keep your employees focused on further growth as they accomplish more along their developmental path. As they acquire new abilities and reach higher levels of performance, be prepared to deliver additional resources and learning paths for them to choose from. 

In making growth and development intrinsically rewarding to your employees, you’ll create cycles in which they’ll always have more to learn — and will always be looking for opportunities to do so.

Using Helpjuice to Supercharge Employee Development Plans

Helpjuice’s knowledge base software is a valuable tool for creating, distributing, and implementing employee development plans.

  • Collaborative editing makes it easy for employees and managers to co-create development plans in real-time.
  • Permission controls allow employees, managers, and other stakeholders to access development plans whenever needed.
  • Internal knowledge base content provides critical information to employees throughout their development.

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