The Development Plan – Why Your Employees Need to Learn on a Regular Basis

The Development Plan – Why Your Employees Need to Learn on a Regular Basis
One quote commonly attributed to Henry Ford reads “the only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.” Businesses, and the world around them, are constantly changing, and it’s important that employees adapt alongside this. It’s never been more crucial to have a development plan in place – not only for the continued learning and improvement of your staff’s skills, but for the continued success of the business.

The benefits of having a plan

It’s clear that businesses who wish to grow recognise the importance of employee learning and development. In 2014 alone, global spending on corporate training totalled a huge $130 billion. But is there a tangible return on this investment? Yes, because when employees succeed, a business succeeds, and so does its bottom line. To begin with, a study from Bersin by Deloitte found that businesses that placed an importance on employee development made a median revenue of $169,100 per employee, while those businesses that didn’t saw less than half of this at $82,800. Furthermore, the best talent will always have one eye on continuous learning and development, and your company will have to meet this need if you want to retain them, when other companies have wised up to the fact. This is crucial, as a report from Oxford Economics found that losing an employee who earns £25,000 a year has the average financial impact of over £35,000 on the business. And this doesn’t include the costs and time that must then be spent on-boarding a replacement. Finally, as your business grows, you’ll naturally want to attract new talent too. Millennials search for new careers based on multiple factors, but 87% say that development is important in a job. Make sure that you advertise your development plan in job adverts and on any of your communication materials such as your website or social media. If you show that you are excited about it, then potential candidates will be too.

The key ingredients of a successful development plan

So, what does a successful development plan look like? It will change from business to business, but the same basic structure will remain the same, and is traditionally split into four areas; preparation or assessment, development opportunities, monitoring progress and feedback. To structure yours in the way that will most benefit both you and your employees, you need to start by asking yourself these key questions: –  What are you trying to achieve with your plan? –  Why do you want to develop your employees? –  What skills are you trying to nurture? –  And how does this align with your business goals? Once you have your answers, you can begin to formulate a plan that includes the right ingredients, with measurable outcomes and specific goals in mind. There are three popular types of development plan commonly used in businesses around the world:


This is a plan that uses appraisals to review accomplishments and results, as well as capabilities, and then utilises this information to set new goals. This helps employees to build on their current capabilities and skill set, pushing them further in the areas that they are both strongest in, and the areas that they need to develop.

Management by objectives (MBOs)

These are similar to performance-based plans, but are more structured in their approach. They are used to identify specific objectives, what is needed to achieve these, and has progress monitored at regular intervals. These are generally used for team work, but can still track both a team’s and an individual’s development and performance.

Succession planning

Succession planning is used for positions where the training or learning is happening constantly with an end role in mind. For example, lawyers may spend eight or nine years training at a firm, with the aim of becoming partner at the end. But this type of plan can also be used by businesses who wish to continuously grow and develop their employees, even if there isn’t a specific end role in mind.

What development opportunities can you offer to your employees?

Once you have decided on the structure that will work best for your business, you can begin to think about what opportunities you would like to incorporate. The way in which you do this is down to finding a strategy that works for you, but it’s best to take a mixed approach to maximise avenues for growth. In-house training is one avenue, and is something that has seen an increase in recent years, with the total spend of a business’ development budget on external services falling from 41% in 2009 to just 14% in 2015. Look at organising things such as internal hackathons, team building events, or allowing employees to shadow more senior members of the team. Consider having off-site days externally, or even corporate retreats in different countries. Taking a break away from the usual office routine is important, and can greatly help to increase morale. This can be beneficial, as Gallup found that organisations with employees who have a high morale see a 22% higher rate of profitability than their less upbeat competition. Other opportunities include industry courses or visits from expert speakers, which can help to advance an employee’s knowledge of the industry that they operate in. Or, you could allow them to attend personal development classes that will help them focus on a particular skill set. Think something like a Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) course; designed to improve the communication and influential skills of attendees. On-the-job training is another key avenue, and is something that an employee can work on constantly. Using a performance-based development plan, set them goals and metrics against their work, allowing them the opportunity to constantly improve.

Structuring your plan

The structure of the plan you choose, the opportunities you want to offer, and the timeframe for these will all depend on what it is that you’re trying to achieve. But, the important thing is that your employees are regularly learning, that they are fed with useful and constructive criticism, and that any barriers to their success and learning are removed. While a development plan will differ from business to business, what’s important is that you do have a well-structured plan in place. By helping employees to grow, increasing the attraction and retention of talent, and ultimately contributing to the bottom line of your business, a development plan can be a worthwhile and fruitful investment.