What is a career development plan?

A career development plan is a structured approach for employee development. It enables an employee to assess their skills and interests, set professional development goals and create a strategy to reach them.

The plan may also include educational components such as certification or degree programs, networking strategies, and other activities designed to promote career growth. With a career development plan in place, individuals can create a roadmap for success and stay focused on reaching their professional development goals.

A career development plan can be tailored to fit the employee’s specific needs and circumstances. It is important to start with a thorough evaluation of current skills and interests since these will serve as the foundation for setting attainable goals.

The importance of a career development plan for career growth

Two people working on a plan on paper with tow laptops in front of them

It’s important for companies to develop and implement career development plans for their employees’ career growth. Career development planning is one of the best ways to ensure that your employees are prepared for promotions, changes in job functions and advancement opportunities within the organization.

Having a career development plan provides both employers and employees with clear expectations about how to achieve success at each stage of an employee’s career. It also helps to identify areas in which employees may need additional training or development. The employer can provide resources to help the employee reach their goals, while simultaneously developing a more productive and engaged workforce.

The step-by-step to create a career development plan

If you are dedicated to maximizing your employees’ development, the below roadmap will guide you to help your people meet and exceed both your and their own expectations. Here is a step-by-step guide to creating a career development plan for employees.

  1. Assess employee skills and interests.
  2. Identify career paths for employee development.
  3. Set professional development goals.
  4. Create an employee development strategy.
  5. Monitor progress during all stages of team development.
  6. Reward success and recognize achievements.

1. Assess employee skills and interests

An employee’s career development plan should begin with a thorough evaluation of their current skills and interests. This can be done through surveys or conducting 1:1 meetings. However, in Nailted we highly recommend not forgetting about the power of performance reviews for this purpose.

Performance reviews are a very useful tool to identify the progress made by employees during a certain period of time. This evaluation will provide valuable information about the employee’s strengths, weaknesses and areas of improvement.

Two employees talking to each other at the office with laptops on the table

2. Identify career paths for employee development

Once you have a better understanding of your employees’ skills and interests, you can start to identify potential career paths for them. Consider the type of work they are interested in, as well as the strengths and weaknesses you’ve uncovered in the performance review.

3. Set professional development goals

Once we’ve gathered all the information related to their skills and interests, we can begin setting professional development goals for their career growth. It is recommended to set SMART goals so these can actually come true and not just be forgotten in the first run:

  • S-pecific: The goal should be clear and specific, so that everyone understands what it is and what needs to be done.
  • M-easurable: There should be a way to measure progress towards the goal, so you can tell if it’s being met.
  • A-chievable: The goal should be challenging but achievable, so that it motivates employees to work towards it.
  • R-elevant: The goal should be relevant to the employee’s role and the organization’s objectives.
  • T-imely: The goal should have a timeframe attached to it so that employees know when they need to achieve it.
A few employees in a meeting working on a career development plan on a board

Here you have more information about how to set SMART goals for employees to boost career growth.

4. Create an employee development strategy

Once the employee has identified their goals, you can help them create a strategy to reach those objectives. The plan should include activities such as educational programs, job search techniques, networking strategies, and other activities.

Bear this roadmap in mind when delving into the employee development strategy:

  • Establish training and development needs: you’ll need to establish the specific training and development needs your employees will need in order to achieve their career goals. This may include courses or degrees, workshops, or other forms of training.
  • Assign mentors or coaches: a good way to help employees achieve their career goals is to assign them a mentor or coach. This individual can help them navigate their career path and provide support along the way.
  • Encourage continuing education: one of the best ways to help employees develop their careers is to encourage them to continue their education. This could mean taking courses online or attending seminars and workshops.
  • Set up rotation opportunities: job rotation opportunities can also be helpful in developing employees’ career growth. This allows them to gain experience in different areas of the company and learn new skill sets.
  • Help them optimize their work: help employees with productivity techniques so they can get into a healthy routine and see progress on their goals as soon as possible.
A woman working on a career development plan on a board

5. Monitor progress during all stages of team development

It’s important to regularly monitor the progress of your employees, as well as provide them with constructive feedback on how they are doing. This will help ensure they are on the right track and make any necessary adjustments.

In this regard, gathering feedback through pulse surveys and 1:1 meetings can be very useful. As well as evaluating performance results with performance reviews that will help you track your employees’ progress and measure their success in reaching their career goals.

New guide! How to make feedback a habit in your company

Don’t forget to keep all your people analytics organized, as you will not only have to monitor professional development goals, but also changes in employee engagement and satisfaction. Getting the right insights automatically will allow you to make better decisions in real time.

Remember that this monitoring can help you review the career development plan regularly to ensure that it is still relevant and up-to-date.

6. Reward success and recognize achievements

Two employees doing teamwork at the office

Finally, it’s important to recognize and reward employees for their successes in reaching their career goals. Celebrating achievements is a great way to motivate them to continue striving for excellence.

When your employees progress in achieving their goals, don’t forget about employee recognition! This open appreciation and recognition for employees’ contributions to a company can have various forms: congratulations, a recognition message, a gift, or a simple thank you card! 

In Nailted, we highly recommend setting the habit of recognition within all employees with a gamification procedure such as giving virtual claps, as it builds your employee engagement and makes your team feel appreciated.

You can also take a look at these ideas to recognize employees’ achievements.

What a career development plan looks like in real life

To give you a real-world example of what a career development plan like this can look like, we’ll think of someone working in the field of customer service. 

  1. The employee might assess their current skills and identify areas where they could improve (e.g., communication skills, problem-solving). They could then set professional development goals to become a customer service manager in two years.

  2. To reach that goal, the employee, along with HR and/or their manager, might develop an employee development strategy. This strategy includes participating in seminars on customer service management, taking a customer service certification program, and networking with other professionals in the field.

  3. Then you create a plan to monitor their progress throughout the two years to ensure that they are on track to reach their goal. Finally, they should review their career development plan at least once a year to make sure it is still relevant and up-to-date.
An employee working on their career development plan on an agenda

Establishing professional development plans for employees is an excellent way to grow the company and the employees! Keep in mind that taking employees’ career interests into account will make them see that the company cares about them. This feeling will increase their commitment and job satisfaction, making them less likely to think about leaving the company. 

Employee turnover can be really detrimental to a company, so if you’re looking for ways to reduce it, this may be the ideal technique to do it!