As a manager or employer, ensuring that you have in place a career development plan for each employee is important!

Ensuring that each employee has a clear career path and is aware of the opportunities open to them, tends to incentivize employees, reduce employee stress, and helps you to keep skilled employees long-term.

The problem though as a manager is how best to develop an employee career path strategy. And how can you do this in a time-effective manner given you have lots of people to manage and are short of time? This post below is for you!

Benefits of Helping with Employee Career Development

1. Reduces Staff Turnover

As we discussed when talking about onboarding (induction training), staff turnover (and the need to re-train new employees) tends to be a significant expense for most companies.

For this reason, it is essential to do everything you can to retain employees and one such way is to ensure that employees have a clear route and path through your organization to continue progressing.

Career development opportunities within an organization give employees a:

  • sense of personal worth (as opportunities open up for them)
  • sense of purpose (as they progress)
  • feeling of being valued by the company (given that the company are wiling to invest time and money on them)

2. Creates an Opportunity to Attract Talent to Your Company

Being a company that is known for offering good career progression is a strong selling point.

Employees who benefit from training and who see their career moving forward will tend to speak positively about the company and this helps to build your reputation as a business.

Being known as a company that looks after its employees, and as a company that cares, makes it easier to attract talented individuals to your business.

3. Makes Retaining Younger Workers Much Easier

Likewise, younger employees such as those who come straight out of school, college, or university, to work for you, are much easier to retain if they are given the chance to develop their skills.

Stages to Building an Employee Career Plan

These are four key stages in the development of an employee career development plan.

The main framework I suggest is composed of these stages:

  1. Find out the employee’s personal career aspirations (and previous skills and experience)
  2. Evaluate how these aspirations can be blended with the company’s goals and opportunities that exist
  3. Map out a career development path plan with and for the employee
  4. Re-assess the development plan regularly
Employee career planning template

Stage 1: The Employee’s Personal Aspirations

In order for the employee to feel that the career plan you set out for them is something that genuinely inspires and motivates them at work, it needs to be personal to them.

The plan has to embrace their true personal aspirations and be realistic.

A problem often is that some employees really do not know what they aspire to be and to do in the future.

This though is where your expertise as a manager needs to come into play.

The trick is to understand how to get to the core of what the employee is about and what they really want to achieve.

You will need to understand their skill set and personality and how these factors will influence the next stage 2.

One skill that can certainly aid this process is being skilled yourself, as a manager, in Active Listening skills.

Take the time to listen and really understand what:

  • they have achieved and done in the past
  • what their real deep-rooted passions are (in relation to work)
  • if they have any pre-conceived ideas of how the company can benefit them

The employee might already have decided that s/he would like to get a certain qualification or move vertically into another role.

Questions you can ask them to help elicit the information you need can include:

  • What energizes you and makes you happy and excited in your work?
  • What would be your ideal job or position?
  • What experience, awards, and qualifications do you already have?
  • What do you enjoy doing?
  • What would make you want to stay with the company long-term? Apart from salary, what can we do for you to help you in this company?
  • Do you enjoy or would you like to manage people?
  • Is there any training you particularly are interested in doing?

Stage 2: Facilitating the Employee’s Career Needs

Once you have completed the initial meeting and gained an understanding of the employee’s own goals, the next stage is to develop a career plan that you can then present to the employee.

This analysis on your part will include gap analysis, meaning that you need to assess where they are and how you can best help them towards their career goal.

What qualifications do they have, for example, and what ones could the company offer them in line with their career development plan?

There are a number of ways in which you can potentially help the employee and these ways include:

  • Matching them with available in-house training
  • Organizing for them to do external training
  • Adapting their job role so that they can learn or take on new tasks to learn new skills
  • Setting them up with a mentor
  • Helping them to apply for another role vertically within the organization
  • Guiding them on how to gain certain skills themselves outside of the workplace (such as through nightschool)

Ideally, as a manager, you will have access to or will create a database of all the training opportunities (internally and externally), and any other opportunities such as in-house mentor programs, self-study grants, and so on, that exist.

This will, of course, really depend on the size of the company you are working with.

If you have a large number of employees to manage though, having one central location where you can quickly search and draw on all resources, can be a great idea.

Note: You might find that your company’s Intranet already provides a central point for detailed training and development opportunities.

Stage 3: Finalising a Career Plan

What Should be Included in the Employee’s Career Development Plan?

I would recommend including the following on the career development plan:

  • Short-term goals
  • Long-term goals
  • Milestones – the employee should have a specific time target that s/he works toward. Understanding SMART goals as a manager can be really useful here.
  • A breakdown of the intended way to achieve each short and long-term goal
  • Re-assessment dates
  • Sign off by you both
Case Study Example: If Peter works as a graphic designer and, in the future, he really wants to be a forklift truck driver then in a company, there are often opportunities. It might be that you have warehouse staff, and alongside his normal role, you can provide Peter with forklift truck training a few hours a week with the idea of helping him to move into warehouse work. This might be better than losing him altogether.

Reaching an Agreement and Following Through

It is essential to get a balance between what will work well for the employee and what aligns also in the interest of your company.

It is also vital that you as a manager follow through with the tasks that you need to do for the employee.

These tasks might, for example, include:

  • aligning the employee with a mentor within the office
  • talking to HR to send the employee on a training course
  • setting aside time in the future for follow-up meetings

Stage 4: Re-Assessment

It will be necessary to re-assess the progress with the employee, every so often.

You might want to meet the employee every 6 months or at the very least, make sure that a meeting takes place annually. The development plan should be organic in that it will evolve.

Example Template for Career Development Goals

Career development goals setting

For documenting the employee’s career development plan, you can include a table in the document you produce, with fields for the objective, action, and completion date.

Common Issues with Employee Career Development

So what happens if there is simply no budget for training employees, in your company?

What about if there is no natural career route for staff?

Such issues can make your job as a manager quite difficult and these are issues that do need addressing.

There should be a natural route through the company and training opportunities. If there is not, then this points to a poor company structure and this needs addressing at the management level.

Classroom lesson plans
Dr Valeria Lo Iacono