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employee career development plan

A Manager’s Beginner Guide: Employee Career Development Plan


An employee career development plan is a great tool to motivate employees and to nurture talent in your team. And it is essential to build a high-performing team and retain staff.


Depending on your team member the content, form, and purpose of the employee career development plan will vary greatly. Some employees need help to reach expected performance, others will be already performing well but will need further help to reach their full potential. As a manager you also need to think about this as part of succession planning to ensure that key roles in your team are filled at all times.


94% of employees say they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their learning and development.


I had heard my management colleagues speak about employee career development plans but I felt always "too busy" to actually dive deep into the topic. This had to change when I ran an employee survey specifically asking what the team would like to see from me to improve their work satisfaction. All of them asked for career development.


What had to be done was very clear to me and I took some time to learn about it. Having started running employee career development plan discussions with my team I recognised once again how different everyone in my team is. And consequently, how different their development needs are. To help you to make a start on this topic, I have summarised the top considerations for people managers, especially if you are a first-time manager.

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3 Smart Steps Towards Defining an Effective Employee Career Development Plan

competency & career development plan


1. Define the Purpose Together with the Employee

Eventually, an employee career development plan benefits everyone but it should serve your employee the most.


In this step it is very important to ask the employee what their career goals are and not to project your own ways of thinking on them. I have been surprised every time what my team members actually want to achieve. Not all of them are interested in a career progression in terms of a promotion. Some just want to improve work-life balance, others want to be technically challenged by having more exposure to new fields in the company. I even had someone who told me that they don’t enjoy the current job field and are long-term looking to change. This might not be what you want to hear but amazingly valuable information.


I personally approach this by sending out a few questions prior to the first meeting to make the employee start thinking. These are very simple:

What are your career aspirations?
What do you enjoy and what don’t you enjoy about your current position?
Are there other departments in the company that interest you?


2. Be Clear about the Employee’s Ownership

You need to be clear from the start with the employee that their career development is their responsibility. You can support them but you cannot, and shouldn’t, do the work for them.


This might sound obvious but unfortunately it is not. Some want the development but take a passive approach on this. Truth be told, career development is hard work in identifying and using opportunities for further development. A good portion of patience is also needed.


Additionally, I also expect my employees to lead the discussion. I see my job in career development support in providing guiding structure and helpful questioning.


Don’t feel responsible if your employee won’t put in the work in her employee career development plan. After all, we all need to assume ownership of our own development.


3. Format of a Useful Employee Career Development Plan

You can help your team to create their development plan by providing some initial structure to it.


I personally have done this through a series of three meetings which I set up with each individual employee:

1st meeting: Identify short-, medium- and long-term career goals and review company internal help, such as performance descriptors and development plan templates.

2nd meeting: Review and identify resources for development. More often than not the best opportunities lie in the day-to-day activities. External resources are helpful but the on-the-job training provides the practice.

3rd meeting: This would be the last meeting I arrange. This would be to prepare the plan. Each goal would get a page with identified actions and resources.


After the 3rd meeting I offer regular support, however, I also ensure common understanding that the initiative and drive needs to come from the employee.

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Free work interview preparation for first time manager questions
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