How to Create an Employee Development Plan that Drives ROI

by Alexandrea Davis on January 25, 2023

Read on to ensure your employee development plan meets your public sector organization’s needs and drives a strong return on investment. Learn how to create a professional development program below.

Article Highlights: 

Over the years, your organization has tried to cultivate professional development opportunities and build employee skills. But your programs never seem to gain traction. One person might sign up for a class, then bail at the last minute when an important project comes up at work. Others might fail to enroll in training altogether. 

If you’re struggling to engage employees in continuous learning and fill organizational skill gaps, employee development plans can help. These connect the dots between an employee’s career goals, organizational skill needs, and your robust training offerings. 

In this article, we’ll clarify what an employee development plan is, including the different types to choose from and how they drive a strong return on investment. Then, we’ll provide guidance on creating employee development plans that support positive outcomes for individual employees and your organization at large. 

What is an Employee Development Plan?

An employee development plan guides employees on how to build their skills and achieve their professional goals. This action plan includes specific goals and areas of employee development – such as earning a certificate, attaining a particular skill set, or achieving a promotion – that yield positive employee and organizational outcomes. 

There are different types of employee development plans, including: 

  • Performance-based plans 
  • Objective-based plans
  • Ad-hoc plans
  • Succession plans

Performance-based and objective-based plans are similar because they both focus on achieving specific, quantitative goals around professional growth. But while a performance-based program is based on long-term goals and often centers around performance evaluations, an objective-based plan is based on shorter-term goals and is self-directed by the employee. 

In contrast, an ad-hoc employee development plan occurs more spontaneously and centers around learning new skills as the need arises. For example, a budget analyst might learn to use Power BI for reporting after realizing Excel won’t meet their needs. 

Finally, succession plans are often based on specific career pathways and trajectories. These focus on cross-training and upskilling employees to fill vacancies as they open within the organization. 

Driving ROI with Employee Development 

Regardless of the specific type of employee development plan, you can expect a few key benefits. An effective career development plan positively impacts your return on investment by encouraging: 

  • More engaged, motivated employees 
  • Better employee performance and satisfaction
  • Continuous growth and upskilling
  • Improved recruitment and retention
  • Increased productivity and better community services

Employee development plans motivate employees, encourage better performance, and boost employee satisfaction. That’s because they help employees understand why enrolling in training benefits them, then provide clear opportunities for professional growth. 

These plans also improve recruitment and retention since a large part of employee development involves regular supervisor feedback. In fact, organizations that cultivate robust career development programs and provide frequent feedback experience 14.9% lower turnover.

These benefits aside, it pays for you to measure the cost-effectiveness of your program. By understanding how much you spend on training and development and what you receive in return, you can achieve greater buy-in from leadership. Understanding cost-effectiveness also lets you know where to make changes to employee development plans that will facilitate better revenue growth and support a higher return on your investment.  

How to Create a Professional Development Program

To maximize your return on investment and create the best employee development plans possible, you should keep three main steps in mind: 

  1. Assess your baseline and set goals: Determine employees’ existing skills and areas for improvement, then set goals. 
  2. Cultivate systems of support: Provide support to help employees achieve their career development plan objectives. 
  3. Measure and evaluate: Track progress towards goals, celebrate success, and identify areas for improvement. 

Let’s discuss each of these steps in more detail. 

Assess your baseline and set goals

As part of your employee development plan process, you should consider agency-wide needs, including your organization’s skill gaps and strengths, weaknesses, or goals. Assessing your baseline before setting individual goals helps you balance agency needs with employee growth. 

After identifying agency needs, have a conversation with employees about their skill development. Ask employees to share their career goals and where they’d like to gain additional expertise, whether in hard or soft skills. Look at past performance reviews to gain further insights about skill gaps and areas for improvement. Whenever possible, identify overlap between employee and organizational goals to maximize the impact of your employee development plans

Once you understand organizational and employee goals, you can more easily determine the type of employee development plan that will help you reach them. The approach you choose will vary depending on many factors, including:

  • Goals and areas of employee development 
  • Employee’s position 
  • Employee’s learning preferences
  • Employee’s career interests
  • Organizational succession plans 

You should uniquely cater development plans to individual employees to account for these factors. Take the time to work with employees and customize training plans to suit their professional goals (for example, pursuing a promotion by attaining leadership skills). At the same time, consider each training plan type discussed earlier to determine which will best enable you to meet agency goals. 

Cultivate systems of support

The most vital step of a successful development plan is supporting employees in achieving their goals. You want every manager or supervisor to know how they can help employees and provide constructive feedback throughout the professional development process. If you fail to prioritize this step, employees may become discouraged or frustrated and fail to actualize their carefully thought-out plans. 

Incorporating multiple types of training to support different learning styles and areas of employee development is also critical. For example, you might offer on-the-job training for employees who learn best by doing and want to practice their communication skills. Other learning and development approaches include:

  • Job shadowing
  • Mentorship programs
  • Networking opportunities
  • Video recordings
  • Long-form content (articles, blog posts) 

You can also support employees in their career development by using employee development plan software, which centralizes and streamlines learning management for your organization. Automated notifications save time and improve productivity by ensuring individuals know what training they need to complete and by when, while a user-friendly interface enhances the learning experience and drives deeper engagement. 

For example, NEOGOV’s Learn is an LMS for government agencies that supports public sector employees. By providing a catalog of more than 1,500 courses, Learn makes it easy for employees to access critical training and build relevant skills. This LMS for government organizations is also mobile-friendly and intuitive, making it a great tool to promote employee development at all levels.

Measure and evaluate

The final step in creating an employee development plan that drives a return on your investment is tracking key performance indicators, measuring growth, and making improvements over time. By identifying and regularly monitoring data, you can determine whether employees and your agency are meeting goals.  

You can also gain insights into whether you’re achieving organizational goals by holding regular conversations with employees. During performance reviews, allow employees to discuss successes and difficulties they may be facing in different areas of employee development. Then, head back to step number two to identify additional ways you can support them. 

To maintain a strategic approach to employee development plans, ensure this final step is ongoing, not “one and done.” Consider whether your return on investment is improving. Are there areas where it’s not? Use the information you gather, both anecdotally and from performance indicators, to determine how you can improve in underperforming areas. 

Final Thoughts

An employee development plan is critical to maximizing your training programs and facilitating continuous learning. By taking a few straightforward steps, like setting goals and using an LMS for government, you’ll create employee development plans that genuinely serve employees and drive a strong return on your investment. 

If you’re ready to take these benefits even further, read how to improve employee training courses and career development in your organization.

Alexandrea Davis

Alexandrea Davis is a Content Marketing Specialist at NEOGOV, supporting content strategy and development. With a love for storytelling and commitment to making an impact, she aims to create meaningful content that builds trust and erodes challenges for public service professionals.

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