How to create a career development plan

A key role for managers is to develop staff so that they can advance in your organisation.

Staff development takes deliberate and continuous effort by both staff and managers. As a manager your role is to be alert to the development needs of your staff, keep an eye out for opportunities, provide the support and resources for staff to take those opportunities, and to follow up with opportunities to apply and share new skills and knowledge.

A career development plan is a key document in carrying out this role.

Developing such a plan does not need to take long and the plan does not need to be a complex document.

To develop your staff, follow these steps:

  • Separate development from performance appraisal. While development needs may be identified during a performance appraisal discussion, planning how development needs will be met is a separate and different conversation.
  • Meet with each member of your team to discuss what you see as their development needs and what they see as their needs.
  • Discuss strengths and areas for improvement. Identify the areas that the staff member is interested in and good at, namely their strengths, so that they can continue to grow and apply them.
  • Focus the majority of your development efforts and resources on these opportunities. Improving a skill that someone already finds easy and enjoyable is more valuable than spending time on an areas where the person is merely adequate. Identify an area for improvement or development that is essential to meeting performance standards, business goals, work requirements.
  • Write a development plan. The essential parts of this plan are:
  • Specific learning goals that state what skills the person will acquire, what subject areas the person will learn.
  • Resources required to achieve the learning goals. How will the person acquire the skills and learn the knowledge? Options include stretch assignments, formal training, mentoring, secondments, projects.
  • Staff member responsibilities and resources. What will the employee do or contribute to achieving the plan?
  • Date of completion for each learning goal.
  • Standards for measuring accomplishment of learning goals. These need to be clear and attainable and agreed by both of you.
  • Follow through. As a manager, provide the support you said you would. Monitor progress. Take an interest in how learnings are going. Provide opportunities for applying skills and knowledge and for sharing with your team so others can benefit.
Dr Ann Villiers, career coach, writer and author, is Australia’s only Mental Nutritionist specialising in mind and language practices that help people build flexible thinking, confident speaking and quality connections with people.