How to write a Career Development Plan
Career development is essential within any company.
As well as providing motivation for employees, nurturing talent and recruiting from within is an extremely cost-effective way of filling highly skilled positions. Without a detailed career development plan, however, it’s almost impossible to successfully advance employees.
Why you need to a career development plan
The highly skilled positions in any company are the costliest in all respects. As well as demanding a higher salary, there are fewer candidates with the right skills to fill these positions making sourcing and recruiting them much harder. Because of their demand, they also have higher expectations of the work experience, such as rewards and compensation. Not only does this make their ongoing employment more expensive, it also makes them even more at risk of leaving within the first year for another competitor.
Nurturing existing talent early on the career track to fill these positions is much more cost-effective all round, saving money on sourcing, recruiting and potential bad hires. This is also a good way of nurturing extremely loyal employees which act as better ambassadors for the company and are generally more productive. Additionally, we all tend to work better with clearly defined goals and aims. Directionless employees are not only less productive but are probably not as satisfied with their career either.
Of course, to successfully nurture top talent and create succession paths there needs to be a clearly defined career development plan. It provides a clear view to both employees and managers of their current roles and skills along with the future roles and skills needed. It also provides a timeline by defining when each of these short-term and long-term goals should be achieved so that progress can be tracked and adjustments can be made accordingly.
Writing a career development plan
Managers and employees should work closely to plan and write the career development plan.
Managers should use experience from their own career development to make sure that goals and activities are realistic and achievable, and to help the employee identify the best way to achieve them. They should also be ready to offer mentorship and allocate resources to help employees progress.
Identify and define a primary career interest
This is usually a general vocation such as within a particular department or sector in a certain industry. For example, the employee may want to work in marketing within the retail fashion industry.
Identify long-term professional goals
This is usually the position and things the employee wants to achieve within the company as well as how they might get there including any lateral moves or promotions.
For example, they may want to become a regional marketing manager. The best career path to achieve this might then be to move from digital marketing assistant to marketing executive and then finally regional marketing manager.
Identify the short-term goals
These should be the more immediate goals that contribute to long-term interests. Typically, this will include the skills and experience you might need to get, and the challenges that must be overcome to meet these goals.
With the employee, identify both personal and external barriers that might stop them meeting short-term goals and then come up with ways to overcome them. For example, the time constraints that their current responsibilities may have on the time needed to train and get the new skills for their long-term goals. The solution to this could be to find more efficient ways to work or delegate current responsibilities to make more time for training.
Identify the activities for each goal
List 2 – 3 activities that will help them achieve each goal including how they will accomplish the activity, any resources they might need to accomplish it and the time frame each goal will be accomplished in.
Common development activities might include identifying and cultivating a relationship with a mentor or role model, completing qualifications or training materials, reading other relevant material, receiving coaching from co-worker and so on.
As a manager, there are resources you could also provide or help employees to access to help them reach their goals. This could be an online portal with learning materials, funding and access to other colleagues in the company who could provide them additional support, expertise or experience.
Identify positive tasks in the current role
Define the tasks the employee’s current role that are contributing to long term goals and should be emphasised or performed more frequently. For example, they may already be spending a lot of time with a co-worker who could provide valuable mentorship.
Identify the negative tasks in the current role
Similarly, define the tasks in the current role that are not contributing to or are inhibiting the employee from achieving their long-term goals and suggest ways to minimise, remove or delegate them. For example, they may currently have a lot of customer focused tasks that is taking time from their training for what is to be a mostly non-customer role. These tasks could be re-distributed to another employee who is looking a customer-focused role as their long-term professional goal.
Identify additional skills and experience
Write down any other additional skills, knowledge or experience that the employee might like to acquire that may directly or indirectly help in their current job or future positions.
Identify progress checkpoints
Finally, set out a time line and define when and how the progress on all activities and goals will be evaluated. Decide when each activity and goal will be accomplished to help define when each checkpoint should occur and decide on how each of these checkpoints will be carried out. For example, by phone, meetings or memos as well which developmental activities will be discussed at these times.
Don’t forget to make sure you’re providing the right king of progress evaluation. For example, if you plan to have smaller checkpoints of individual activities then memos or brief phone calls will be adequate, but if you set a checkpoint for the deadline of a short-term goal then this might be better in a more in-depth meeting format.