Developing your employees will help your staff and your business.
Stay competitive in the job market and keep good employees around longer by investing in the growth of your staff. — Getty Images/Tempura

One of the best business investments you’ll ever make is in the training and development of your own employees. Investing in your employees can help your business stay competitive and decrease your employee turnover. Here are seven steps to write a career development plan for your employees:

Identify the employees you believe are ready

You can start by identifying the employees you believe are ready for a career development plan. Ideally, these should be your high-performing employees that have shown they’re ready to move to the next stage in their career. Underperforming employees will benefit more from a performance improvement plan.

Talk to your employees about their plans for the future

Once you’ve identified the employees that are ready to move forward in their career, schedule some time to talk to each person. This first meeting can be a very informal 15-minute check-in.

The goal is to let them know your ideas for their career development plan. After the initial meeting is finished, you can schedule a time in a couple of weeks to have a more in-depth discussion.

It’s a good idea to give your employees some questions they can start thinking about. The following questions can be a good place to start:

  • What are your biggest strengths and weaknesses?
  • Do you prefer working by yourself or with other people?
  • Where do you see yourself in your career in the next five years?
  • What would your ideal job description look like?
  • What would your ideal workday look like?

Identify short-term and long-term goals

Now it’s time to help your employees create both short-term and long-term career goals. Ideally, these should be SMART goals, which stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound.

Career goals should be realistic but should also stretch and challenge your employees. You don’t want to set objectives that are too easy, but your employees should feel confident that they can reach their targets.

[Read more: How to Set Goals for Employees]

Career goals should be realistic but should also stretch and challenge your employees.

Create milestones for each goal

Once you’ve helped your employees come up with short-term and long-term goals, you want to create milestones for each one. Milestones are like mini goals within the larger goal and can give employees tangible steps to move forward in their career development plan.

It’s a good idea to make each of these milestones time-bound as well. That’s the best way to hold your employees accountable and keep them on track.

Provide your employees with useful resources

There is no one-size-fits-all career plan. Each career development plan should be personalized for each of your employees and tailored to that person’s interests, skills, experience and desired result.

Once you’ve worked with each employee to come up with their career goals, it can be helpful to provide them with additional resources. These resources can include things like classes and seminars that they could attend or certifications that they could receive.

For instance, if one individual wants to work on becoming a better public speaker, you could help them identify speaking opportunities. Another employee might want to step into more of a leadership role within the business, so you could help them identify opportunities to take on and lead new projects.

Keep the responsibility on your employees

As a business owner, you want all of your employees to be successful and reach their full potential. But it’s important to remember that you can only guide them in their career development; the ultimate responsibility must remain with your employees.

You can guide your employees and give them the tools and resources they need, but they are responsible for implementing the work themselves. Feel free to help your employees explore their options, but never take responsibility for their poor choices or lack of follow-through.

[Read more: Tools for Tracking and Boosting Employee Engagement]

Continue to evaluate and reassess the plan

Finally, you should always view a career development plan as an ongoing, ever-changing process. Be sure to check in with your employees quarterly to see what kind of progress they’re making toward their career goals. You can use these meetings as an opportunity to create new goals if necessary.

Make sure you have a system for tracking your employees’ progress and addressing any problems that come up along the way.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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