Fostering Excellence
Bringing out the best in each of us

Four Fundamentals of Crafting a Development Plan

Developing your employees is one of your most important roles as a leader. Human capital, above all, is the most valuable currency in the market place and it requires investment. Making the time to map out the development of your employees is one of your most important tasks as a leader. Good investments require planning; the development should be deliberate and designed to meet your business needs and the needs of the employee.

If employees are ‘worth their salt’ they will want to develop anyway and they will either do it with you, or somewhere else. Development is therefore a retention strategy as well; retaining talent requires employers to foster that talent in their workforce. In addition, your business reality will change over time and it is important to grow your workforce ahead of those changes. Leveraging already developed talent within your organization is much more cost effective than going through a hiring process or playing catch up with training.

When crafting a development plan, look to the past as well as the future of your employee’s performance. Look not only for opportunities to improve their performance in their current position, but also prepare them for future positions within the company. To the extent possible, your development program should aim to grow and retain the employee over the long haul, as you prepare them for increased responsibilities and opportunities within the company.

Formal Training – A good development program will include some formal training. This could include credentialing offered in the industry or could include training that your company itself offers. Formal training offers the benefit of milestones that your employee can work towards and use to assess progress within the plan.
Shadowing / Meetings – Your plan should include opportunities for your employee to shadow yourself or other leaders within the organization. Allow them to attend meetings or other venues where they see how you ‘make the sausage.’ This will often provide opportunities to discuss background to the processes at work as well as other related issues at play. These types of discussions are invaluable, if intangible, forms of development.

Side Saddle Sessions – You should also consider having your employee sit down with other members of their team or other teams so they can get side-saddle training from their peers. This will distribute the training and development burden as well as give opportunities to develop the team members who will provide the side-saddle training. They will also get the benefit of an entirely different set of perspectives.

Experiences/Projects – Lastly, the plan should have some practical exercises or experiences that will develop the employee further. Give them a thorny problem to work on and watch them grow as they tackle the dilemma. Check up on them and help them through the more difficult parts. By way of experiences, if there are significant stakeholder engagements, invite your employee to participate so they can broaden their experiential background with the company.

When you craft the development plan, make sure that you do so with the employee in question. Get their input; the more the plan develops them in directions they want to go which coincide with your business needs, the more likely it is that you both will fully commit to fulfilling the plan. Your employees are your most valuable asset and deserve to be considered a strategic investment. Make the time to sit down with each one of them and craft a development plan that will enable them to continue to add value to the organization as the years go by and the market place conditions change.
Michael Farr, PMP, is a Chief Master Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force and founder of He is passionate about recognition and enabling professionals to motivate their organizations through recognizing their member’s excellence. When he is not slaying dragons with his kids, he can be found at @fosterxcellence on Twitter and @fosteringexcellence on Facebook.

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