The Power of the Long-Term Development Plan

Strategic Partner, Diane Janovsky, has been developing employees, mentees and coachees for most of her career, in private industry as well as in the realm of professional consulting. She has a lot to say about taking a long term perspective about developing employees for the long haul. When employees believe that you care about their future, they will be loyal and will be continually improving. Enjoy this week’s Power Idea as Diane shares some great ideas for creating long term assets for your organization.

An educated, trained and inspired workforce is a powerful advantage as businesses seek to survive and thrive in an increasingly competitive environment. Macro-influences like accelerating advancements in technology, the shift to a more team-based and virtual workplace, and the impact of the Millennial generation makes investment in continuous learning a necessity.

If employees are not moving forward and adding to their knowledge, skills and abilities, then they are falling behind. If companies are not intentionally nurturing future leaders and finding ways to retain their talent, then they risk falling behind as well. In order for businesses to grow, the people within them must grow, and that is why it is so critical that all employees have a long-term development plan.

What is a long-term development plan?

Employee development encompasses more than just training. A long-term development plan, by definition, focuses on the person, not the job, and it is tailored to each individual and their future growth and career progression. Although more traditional “hard skills” training may be a part of the overall plan, it will also include competencies like effective teamwork, leadership and decision-making, as well as opportunities to expand breadth of knowledge outside the typical area of specialty. Learning methods may include college courses, certifications, mentoring, job rotations or special project assignments.

How is a long-term development plan created?

  • Ideally, career development discussions should be done for employees at all levels on a regular basis and as an integral part of the overall talent and performance management process.
  • Even if no company-wide process exists, managers can still take the lead to do development planning on their own with their team members.
  • The manager facilitates, but the individual must also take ownership for thoughtfully participating and committing to complete the actions that are agreed to.
  • The most important step is for the manager to take the time to understand the interests and aspirations of the employee and in what timeframe. What are their goals in one year? Five years? Ten years?
  • The individual’s goals should be compared with the needs of the business. For example, if an employee wishes to pursue formal education, a Bachelors degree in business makes sense whereas a degree in theology or art history may not.
  • The manager and the employee brainstorm and agree on various elements and steps to be completed prior to the next discussion.
  • In addition to at least annual discussions, informal check-ins are helpful as teachable moments or other growth opportunities present themselves.

What are the benefits of doing long-term development planning?

A commitment to long-term development planning produces many benefits for both the organization and the individual.
Most important is the value of a manager simply taking the time to make a personal connection during the planning discussion. Demonstrating sincere interest and care for the well-being of the employee can have a powerful positive effect on performance, retention and employee engagement. Engaged employees have an emotional commitment to their organization that shows up as an increased level of discretionary effort, and that is what drives above average results.

The creation of a fully capable and flexible workforce with deep bench strength also supports succession and business continuity for the company.

From the employee’s perspective, they benefit from establishing a clear action plan to grow their capability which can lead to higher compensation, more potential for advancement and greater marketability if they elect to explore jobs outside their current company.

By collaborating with their manager, they may find there are learning options that they would not otherwise have thought of or had access to. And because their manager has a clearer understanding of their areas of interest, they can be more attuned to watching for opportunities as they arise.

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Whether a company is a single-employee entrepreneurial venture or a multi-national corporation, low-tech or high-tech, product or service-oriented, people are the most valuable resource. Improving the capability of people improves the capability of the organization. The amount of management time and effort required to connect with employees one-on-one to create a long-term development plan is relatively small, especially compared to the potential return on investment.


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