When it comes to your employees, having a high turnover rate isn’t great. Not only does it mean you have to train new people up all over again to perform the tasks that need doing but it also leaves very little room for personal growth, for those employees to expand their professional skills and put them to work for the good of your organization. For small businesses where each member of your team is likely to fulfill a crucial role that no others are trained to do, an employee leaving can lead to your entire process grinding to a halt as you scramble to find someone new to take their place.

Of course, your employee retention rate isn’t ever going to be perfect, people come and go because of their situations and things beyond their control, that’s just a fact of life. What you can do is minimize the number of people leaving because of things you can control, such as employee satisfaction and your organization’s culture.

An employee development plan is just what it sounds like, a plan for the personal growth of an employee in the long-term. While this might sound like something that has no benefit to the business itself, keep in mind that a developed employee is a happy one. People expect growth, they expect change, and in a fair amount of cases they have ambitions of growing their role into something greater. By helping them achieve these ambitions you can not only instill a sense of loyalty, but improve their productivity and overall engagement. Engaging and fulfilling work brings about a great sense of satisfaction, something mundane and tedious tasks could never match.

Development: The Basics

Employee development is taking a look at the long-term training, education and professional skills of your employees and the processes by which your organization might improve them. It’s about looking internally, focusing on what will benefit the business first and the employee second. The main aim of employee development is to increase productivity, but you shouldn’t let that fool you into thinking there are no benefits to the personnel. Any skills they develop during the process are tuned to help the business, yes, but they will also retain those skills for use during any further employment.

Career development is another term that’s often used interchangeably with employee development, but it’s not quite the same. Career development is based around your employee’s career prospects and professional development, employee first and business second. Any program that looks to use career development needs to be broader and more applicable to the working world in general, rather than the niche aims of employee development activities.

Employee Development Planning: Why and How

When your employees are engaged and actively learning within their job, they’ll be more productive overall. Anyone who participates in an employee development plan will feel more recognized and therefore more valued by their employer – in a small business where you have very few personnel, it’s very possible for you to form a relationship with each and every one of them.

Of course, planning for employee development isn’t something that can be done at the drop of a hat, it takes time and effort to track and evaluate. Below you’ll find several well-established plans that you can use as a basis:

  • Performance: A performance based plan is based on the logic of a school report card, those who put in effort and work hard are the ones who get rewarded at the end of a period of time. It takes the idea that your employee works best when they have a set goal to achieve. Whether that be based monthly or quarterly it’s always best to have long-term targets so your team members don’t slack off once their work for the day has been completed.

This can be tricky to implement in a small business setting, as it’s largely numbers-based and can be difficult to evaluate when conditions fluctuate all the time, but can be a useful benchmark.

  • Objectives: To turn the previous plan on its head, an objective based plan relies on short-term goals set by the employees themselves. It’s one that needs constant re-evaluation and modification over time and doesn’t simply remain static – the employees will alter goals depending on changing conditions. As it’s set by the employees themselves this plan lends more towards career development than the others.
  • Succession: Succession planning involves a career ladder, so while it’s useful to keep in mind for when you want to expand your business it isn’t often relevant in small organisations where roles remain constant. It’s about mentoring and preparing an employee for taking up a higher role, which makes it perfect for filling slots in your team when an employee has to leave or when you want to expand your organisation. It’s something to think about in the case where you can see a team member leaving such as retirement or moving away.
  • Ad Hoc: Ad hoc improvement plans involve employees on the individual level, focusing on the person’s individual needs and desires to grow. It’s far more informal than the other plans mentioned here, which makes it perfect for the small business setting. By identifying places where personnel desire to learn more and offering them the chance to do so, you enable them to grow while also bonding with them and giving a greater chance of staying with your organization past the point where they have the skills to move on.

Wrapping Up

Employee development is something that’s more art than science, especially in smaller organizations that tend to be more informal. By utilizing employee development plans you can not only improve your team’s productivity but promote loyalty and employee satisfaction. In a small business setting these plans are far more likely to be ad hoc or improvised, but that shouldn’t stop you from outlining a few things that every employee could improve on and helping them on their way towards developing those skills.