Every company has its own set of priorities to help take it to the next level, but knowing which initiatives will make the most significant impact can be tough. The truth is, what makes a business successful is not the product it sells or the service it provides, it’s the people within it.

Without quality employees, your organization will suffer. Your employees are your most valuable asset. According to a report by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), employee attrition and disengagement can cost anywhere from 50-250% of their salary. So to ensure your employees stay, and stay engaged for your organization to reap the value of the strong team you put in place, you need to ensure you’re committed to their professional development.

One way to show your employees you’re dedicated to their growth is through development planning. 

Development Planning

A development plan, sometimes referred to as an employee growth plan, is a process used to help team members increase their knowledge and skills for their current role and future roles and responsibilities within the organization. It’s an opportunity to plan for an individual’s development and growth with an eye toward both the company and employee’s future needs. It’s a long-term initiative, with short-term benefits like increased loyalty and improved performance and engagement.

In the process, employees set personal development goals that will increase their ability to contribute to your organization’s success, while also providing them with the skills needed to grow their careers.

Employee development plans should be created on an individual basis. Here are some steps you can follow to ensure your employees’ development plans are designed to provide your employees with expanded skill sets to have more tools to help your business forge ahead.

How to Implement a Development Plan for Employees

Prior to implementing a development plan for your employees, it’s important to step back and remember the business’s overall goals. Consider the long and short-term initiatives for your business. What are the knowledge, skills, and personal attributes needed to reach those goals?

For example, what are your current or upcoming leadership needs? What are the characteristics and attributes that current leaders within your organization possess that you would like to see throughout your organization? Do any of your current employees have the skills needed to fill that role, or do they have the capacity to learn those skills?

Development planning is key to bridging the gap between current employee skill sets and desired skill sets.

The process enables you and your employee to identify their personal and business goals that are most significant to the organization’s success. It allows you to build a plan of development over time. In the process, employees set personal development goals that will increase their ability to contribute to the success of your organization.

Think of this process as the roadmap to developmental growth within your organization. Sure, you have a destination in mind, but there is often more than one route. By understanding where you need to go, you can work with your employees to determine which route will be best. Plus, creating a career path that demonstrates advancement and promotion opportunities through development can help retain top talent.

1) Engage your employees

When building a development plan, you must meet with each employee face-to-face to better understand their career goals and how they think they can accomplish them. 

While some employees may have an idea where their career can take them, others won’t. By having an open conversation, you can work together to decide what opportunities are available to them and what support you can provide to ensure they reach those career aspirations.

2) Assess the skills needed on an individual level

Once you’ve looked at each of your employees’ abilities and experience and your company’s needs, you need to decide exactly what skills each person needs to acquire. This is the time to lay out a plan for each individual on your team. You cannot assume everyone will be at or learn at the same pace and level.

3) Create an action plan

Now that you know what the objectives are, it’s time to figure out how your employee will achieve them. Developmental planning can include a combination of activities such as formal training, reading, working directly with experts, one-on-one coaching, and outside training and development opportunities such as workshops or conferences.

Decide what it’s going to take to put your employee’s plan into action and set deadlines to ensure that employees keep moving forward and continue to pursue their goals.

4) Implement

You’re investing a considerable amount of time and money in helping your employees improve their skills. To see the ROI, your employees need to put those new skills to work in your company.

Set up some opportunities where your employees can quickly apply the new skills to the job and get feedback. This will help them reinforce and refine their new skills. If they don’t use the new knowledge when it’s fresh, they’re likely to lose it.

5) Hold accountability

Establish the path of performance and a follow-up format to measure performance. If an individual deviates from their plan, it’s usually a lack of knowledge, experience, confidence, or willingness. There should be a development planning component in performance reviews. You can use past patterns and metrics to ensure the employee is on track.

It is best to have an employee one-on-one meeting weekly or bi-weekly. This frequency will ensure you can provide support where and when needed without the employee drifting too far off course. It’s important to think about effectiveness over efficiency here. This weekly meeting allows you to offer assistance and identify any help or tools your employee needs to succeed.

When you follow this process, you’ll see your employees are more productive, feel supported, they know why they are here and what they are working towards.

Development planning helps you not only create better leaders, but it enables you to build better teams overall. It’s also a proven way to increase retention, staff experience, and productivity.

Whether you’re just starting to grow, or you’ve had a large team for years, it is never too late to start working on your leadership skills. By implementing these skills within your business, you’ll have your team operating at peak performance. If you need more help with your leadership and don’t know where to start, you don’t have to go at it alone. Schedule a free two-hour session to dig into your business and develop a plan.

What other tips do you have for driving employee engagement through development planning? Let us know down in the comments.

This article originally published on GREY Journal.