Employee development

Individual development plans: How to accelerate employee growth

Investing in employee growth is essential for talent retention and business success. Here’s how you can accelerate the process with individual development plans.

Nikola Sekulic

Published on 

January 25, 2023

Updated on 

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We live in a highly competitive global business market that will only get more competitive in the coming years. The fact that businesses have opened their doors to talent from all over the world and that remote work has become commonplace among forward-looking organizations means global talent has more opportunities to grow and advance than ever before.

This growth is a good thing, but it can also be challenging for businesses that are not yet prioritizing their employee development plans. Now that talented employees have more opportunities to switch companies and choose an employer that wholeheartedly invests in their future, you have to be wary of losing your best employees.

Their happiness, engagement, productivity, and long-term outlook are crucial indicators of their relationship with your brand, and if you’re not careful, you could drive people away. For that and many other reasons, you should prioritize employee development in 2023.

That said, there are no cookie-cutter solutions here, so let’s take a look at a better way to go about it and maximize your ROI. Here’s how to accelerate growth with individual development plans.

How to build an individual development plan

Personalization seems to be all the rage nowadays, but there’s a good reason for it. 

Internally, companies can struggle to retain talent if they try to apply the same tactics and plans to all their employees. Simply, it’s because we need to acknowledge their individual differences, perspectives, aspirations, and professional goals.

But that’s just one piece of the puzzle. As people leaders, we also need to acknowledge that employee training and development should be optimized and adapted according to age, gender, diversity, and inclusivity, and a myriad of other personal factors that can influence a person’s ability to consume and internalize training and education. 

The first step to organizing individual development plans is to conduct thorough employee research, schedule interviews, and compile data on performance, engagement, current career path, and happiness. Depending on the size of your organization, this process can be lengthy, so it pays to send out pulse surveys and individual questionnaires to collect data faster.

That said, you shouldn’t skip one-on-one meetings, as they will prove instrumental in getting to know exactly what the individual is looking to achieve with their career. More importantly for your business, however, these meetings will tell you all about the individual employee experience and whether or not investing in their professional development in the first place is worth it.

They won’t tell you if they’re planning to quit, of course, but you will be able to gauge their level of interest, engagement, and whether or not they have any long-term ambitions and plans for their career.

Importance of individual development plans to recruitment

While investing in your employees is all about talent retention, it’s important to note that this process begins during talent acquisition. In other words, companies that grow inevitably hire new people, and while you’re doing that, you need to think of ways to maximize the lifetime value of that new employee.

You can do that by immediately creating an outline of their career and a coaching plan that will help them bring more value to your organization over time. This strategy requires you to recognize their talents and skills, for one, and then transition into talking about their career aspirations, with an emphasis on how you can help them get there.

Simply asking the proverbial “where do you see yourself in five years” won’t cut it, and will elicit nothing more than a vague response. Instead, talk about your organization, connect with the applicant, and convey your values and how you see them growing with your business.

This approach is the difference between high-retention employers and high-turnover companies. Make sure to use your recruitment software to capture their responses so you can formulate a plan as soon as they join the team. Preparing this early will show the individual how much you care and appreciate having them as a part of your brand, which means they’ll be less likely to be tempted by a better offer.

Plan and Invest in leadership development

Not all employees are meant to become leaders, and different individuals will have different career paths in your organization—not all of which need to lead to leadership positions. It’s important to remember that development plans should cater to the individual and their needs, which means that if someone doesn’t want to be a leader or doesn’t have what it takes, you need to respect that and find a different way to help them thrive.

It’s also important to remember that employees will feel stuck and look for upward mobility opportunities elsewhere if you don’t act quickly. That’s why planning for leadership development is crucial for aspiring employees.

To start, identify potential leaders, and then work with professionals to create individual leadership plans. Leadership development consultants like Michael Mauro can help you create clear and compelling employee development programs that will develop your talent for years to come.

It’s a good idea to get an outside perspective to eliminate bias and ensure that every aspiring leader gets a career development plan that’s right for them.

Leverage the intranet for efficient training

It’s one thing to talk about why development plans are important and what they should include, but we also need to talk about the how. The way you structure and deliver high-potential leadership programs or career advancement training for people who want to expand in their current roles is equally important as crafting a personalized development plan.

The way you deliver these personalized plans will depend on the employee, your organizational culture, and the tools you use. For example, employee training in the banking sector is typically done via an intranet to ensure complete security and privacy when handling sensitive information and when conducting workshops that require trainees to examine real-life examples and sensitive internal processes.

On the other hand, in the creative sector you may want to bring in outside consultants, schedule events and online workshops, or send people to specialized training and education. The possibilities are numerous, so make sure to adapt the delivery to your organizational needs and also the needs of the individual.

Have a long-term career path in mind

Everything we talked about today can have one or two main objectives: to develop an individual for short-term gain or to develop them for long-term gain. What this means is that you can deliver their individual plan to resolve current pressing issues and scale quickly, or to invest in bringing value to your company over months and years.

Both are sound options, and if you have the resources, you should work to achieve both goals. A sound career growth path will take the individual’s current and long-term needs into consideration and then match them with the needs, goals, and vision of the company. It’s this kind of prudent planning that will minimize financial waste, bring value back into the business quickly, and set the individual up for success and long-term job satisfaction. 

Emulate the success of others

When in doubt, always take a look at what some of the most prominent companies in the world do, and how they invest in their employees and their development. There are many wonderful employee development examples in various industries; some of the leaders include Pixar, Etsy, AT&T, and Amazon.

For example, Etsy focuses heavily on the scientific principles that help employees and leaders build better careers but also improve their mental health. At Etsy, people learn about interpersonal psychology, sociology, and various learning theories on an individual level.

On the other hand, Pixar is all about their internal university, where they focus heavily on developing very specific skills in different disciplines within the animated filmmaking space. They allow the individual to choose their growth path and select the classes they want to take to really take their careers into their own hands.

Bottom line

Investing in employee development is a crucial step towards long-term business success in a world where quiet quitting and job hopping have become common. If you want to keep your top talent at your side and avoid wasting time and resources on constant talent acquisition, your focus should be to deliver a personalized development plan to the individual.

Now that you know why personalized development plans are important and how to work on them, be sure to start investing in your employees right now to make 2023 your best year yet.

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