Employee development is essential to building a winning team. Here’s how to create effective employee development plans.

Wouldn’t it be great if everyone who came to work for you had a full complement of knowledge, skills and experience? Of course that’s not the case, and likely never will be. Which is why winning in business requires growing and nurturing talent. Here’s how to do it.

Create Three-Tiered Development Plans

People learn through three channels: education, experience and exposure. Each consists of different types of learning experiences.

  • Education includes activities such as courses, conferences, seminars, reading and hands-on training.
  • Employees gain experience through participating in on-the-job tasks, special projects and task forces, job changes and rotations, and assignments in other areas of the business.
  • Exposure involves activities that offer visibility and direct contact with individuals, leaders and teams. It includes feedback and coaching, interacting with role models, mentors and advisors, and visible projects.

Effective development plans create and support an appropriate balance of professional growth opportunities by allocating them in the following manner:

  • 10% from education
  • 20% from exposure
  • 70% from experience

Make Development a Two-Way Process

Most people will resist a one-way development process. Instead, effective development relies on mutually agreed upon actions to help people grow in their jobs. To get optimum results, include input from the people you’re developing, as well as a variety of activities and actions.

The best development plans:

  • Teach the skills employees need to meet their changing job requirements
  • Focus on areas that will improve job performance while keeping employees engaged and growing
  • Promote ongoing dialogue between managers and employees about key development areas
  • Motivate employees with opportunities for career advancement
  • Help employees achieve their professional goals

Invest In Your Own Development

For business leaders, professional development has less to do with the technical aspects of our jobs and more about the way we think, process information, and make decisions. In particular, it needs to include learning to overcome the human brain’s natural tendencies that often lead to fuzzy thinking and low- quality decisions.

Examples of brain patterns that get in the way include:

  • The ingrained assumption that what made us successful in the past will continue to make us successful going forward.
  • The tendency to see what we want and expect to see rather than what is actually in front of us.
  • The need to have all the information before making a decision.

In a slower, less complex world, we could get away with these leadership foibles. In today’s hyper-paced markets, not so much.

So as a leader, ask yourself:

  • What actions am I taking to keep pace?
  • What changes will I have to respond to in the future?
  • How am I developing today to meet the opportunities and challenges of tomorrow?
  • What will I do to continue adding more value to the organization?

Make Employee Development a Priority

One objection I frequently hear is that today’s employees change jobs too often to justify the investment. Why waste time and money developing people who will leave in a year or two?

Consider this: when you invest in developing employees, they’re not so anxious to walk out the door looking for something new. Development provides an important retention tool – especially with top performers who constantly seek to improve their skills and value to the organization. Earning a reputation as a company that invests in its employees also helps attract new talent.

Perhaps most important, talent development offers a powerful tool for creating a team of fully engaged employees. When people believe that the organization cares about their professional development, they are more likely to buy into your organization’s vision of winning and bring the best of what they have to achieving it.

Developing employees doesn’t necessarily require a formal program, and it doesn’t have to involve a lot of time and effort. But it should be a priority. Your customers, your market and your industry will likely be in a very different place in a few years – or even months. Will you be there with them?