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
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Jose Luis Pelaez Inc / Getty Images 

Career Development Is Critical for Employee Engagement

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 own, current 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. This shows that the growth and development needs of employees are not a typical 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. Employers would do well to heed this advice if retaining and attracting excellent employees is critical to your business success.

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 careers, employees are also interested in developing themselves both personally and professionally.

Creating a Career Development Plan

You can create career development plans with your employees by taking a few simple steps. For career development planning to be effective, expand your view of development and that of your employees. An outside training class is not the only way to develop employees. The development that is provided in-house is often more effective and a source of greater employee satisfaction.

Prepare for a Career Development Planning Meeting

These are ideas about how you can help an employee create a career development plan.

  • 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 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? Offer opportunities for the employee to consider as options to accomplish these goals.
  • Prepare recommendations on what the employee can do to ensure that he or she is making progress on his career path. Determine and discuss resources and support the organization can provide so that the employee can accomplish his or her professional job or career growth goals.
  • Determine 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 can accomplish these goals?

Hold the Career Development Planning Meeting

  • Hold a meeting with the employee to discuss these questions and formulate a plan with the employee's involvement. 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.
  • Make sure that you're up to speed and can talk knowledgeably about all of the training and development options that exist for your reporting staff members. Many employees don’t consider development in any other sense beyond taking a class, and it helps to share with them all of the additional available options for training.
  • Create and fill out a form that details the employee's career development plan and turn it into Human Resources for review, additional input, and filing.

Carrying Out the Plan

Employee development is a great concept but it is not without issues. The best plans keep the responsibility for follow-through squarely on the shoulders of employees. Otherwise, if an employee does not complete their development opportunities, he or she may choose to place blame on management, which is counter-productive for all of the involved parties.

  • Steer the employee in certain directions, but don't do the work for them. Make it the employee's responsibility to find a great class in listening if he or she's a poor communicator. If it turns out to be a poor choice, the employee is responsible. If the class doesn’t produce the desired results, the employee cannot place blame on anyone else. Both the Human Resources department and a manager can help the employee explore his or her options, but the employee is ultimately responsible for the choice and follow-through. 
  • If the employee finds what he or she thinks is a great development opportunity, the employee is responsible for selling the company on the idea. Working with the experience of the HR staff to select excellent vendors and avoid low-quality development opportunities is the responsibility of the employee. HR has the experience the employee needs.

Issues to Avoid in Career Development Planning

Certain issues and statements exist that you would want to avoid as you and the employees who report to you create career development plans. A few types of issues can get in the way of an effective plan, such as:

  • 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 where laws are interpreted literally, you want to avoid statements that over-commit the employer. For example, at a small manufacturing company, HR 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.

Disclaimer: Please note that the information provided, while authoritative, is not guaranteed for accuracy and legality. The site is read by a world-wide audience and ​employment laws and regulations vary from state to state and country to country. Please seek legal assistance, or assistance from State, Federal, or International governmental resources, to make certain your legal interpretation and decisions are correct for your location. This information is for guidance, ideas, and assistance.