Steps to Create a Career Development Plan

A Career Path Is Crucial to Guide Employee Development

Business people using laptop in office to make a career development plan.
••• Jose Luis Pelaez Inc / Getty Images

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) identified 18 conditions that must be present in the workplace for employees to experience engagement. Then, employees rated their overall satisfaction with each of these factors in their workplace.

Four of the lowest rated seven conditions that must be present for employees to experience engagement were related to training, professional development, and career development. So, the growth and development needs of employees are not a priority in many workplaces.

Yet, when employees identify the factors that they must have from work, career growth and development is one of the top five. 

A career development plan is a win for employers and employees. The plan focuses on the employees’ needs for growth and development and the assistance the organization can provide so that the employee has the opportunity to grow his or her career. In addition to growing their career, employees are also interested in developing themselves both personally and professionally.

What to Avoid in Career Development Planning

There are issues and statements that you want to avoid as you and the employees who report to you create career development plans. For example, you want to avoid:

  • Guaranteeing or forming a contract with the employee by promising that the company will provide training or any other promised benefit. The best that you can do is to say that you will help however you can, but that the company growth, economic circumstances, priorities, and goals will have an impact on the employee’s desired developmental path, promotions, and career goals. Nothing is guaranteed.
  • In states such as Michigan where laws are interpreted literally, you want to avoid statements that over-commit the employer. For example, at a small manufacturing company, HR had put up a career opportunity bulletin board in the lunchroom. The company attorney advised them that the board implied that employees were promised careers and asked HR to call the board job opportunities board instead. Know your state and international governmental laws.
  • The manager owning or having responsibility for carrying out the plan. The career development plan belongs to the employee. You can facilitate its pursuit, explore options with the employees, provide opportunities for the employee when possible, encourage the employee to have goals for growth and expansion of his or her career and skills, but you cannot do it for them. The employees must own their plan.
  • Overcommitting your time or resources. As much as you are devoted to helping the employees who report to you grow, you have a limited amount of time available to help, in addition to the rest of your job. For example, unless you are already aware of a great class or resource, researching options for the employee to develop skills is not your job.
  • You can steer the employee in certain directions, but you cannot do the work for him. Do not take on the responsibility of finding a great class in listening for a poor communicator. If it turns out to be a poor choice, you are responsible in the employee’s eyes and if it doesn’t produce the desired results, you are also responsible. Both the Human Resources department and you can help the employee explore his or her options, but the employee is responsible 
  • If the employee finds what he thinks is a great development opportunity, he is responsible for selling the company on the idea—not you. Working with the experience of the HR staff in selecting excellent vendors and avoiding low-quality development opportunities is the responsibility of the employee. HR has the experience the employee needs.

    Steps in Discussing Career Development

    You can create career development plans with your employees by taking these simple steps.

    • Tell the employee that you want to meet with him or her to discuss career development plans and hopes. Ask the employee to think in advance about his or her options for growth and development and how they see their career unfolding in your company. Encourage the employee to think about how they’d really like to see their careers progress.
    • Suggest that the employee think about and come prepared to discuss these questions: What professional job or career growth goals does the employee hope to achieve within three years? What would the employee like to accomplish this year? What opportunities does the employee consider options to accomplish these goals?
    • What can the employee do to ensure that he or she is making progress on this career path? What resources and support can the organization provide so that the employee can accomplish his or her professional job or career growth goals?
    • What professional and personal goals will help the employee improve or develop great performance in their current job? What additional support can this organization provide so that the employee is able to accomplish these goals?
    • Hold the meeting and direct the conversation to these questions. Be flexible because the employee may have other avenues that he or she wants to discuss. As a manager, your job is to know all of the options available to the employee such as job shadowing, mentoring, and coaching on particular skills.
    • Many employees don’t consider development in terms beyond taking a class, and this is a limited view of development and the options that are available in organizations that have vision. As their manager, you need to ensure that you can talk about all of the options that exist for your reporting staff members.
    • Fill out the appropriate form that details the employee's career development plan and turn it into Human Resources for review and additional input.

    Options for Career Development Plans

    For career development planning to work, you need to expand your view of development and that of your employees. A training class is not the only way to develop employees. In fact, the development that is provided in-house is often more effective. Here is the rest of the information you need to help your staff members create a successful career development plan.