HR Insights

Business strategies are only successful if people can effectively execute them. The same discipline that is applied to business processes needs to be applied to how companies manage their people. HR Remedy takes a pragmatic and practical approach to helping companies manage their human capital. Our goal is to drive business results and create value through an organization's employees.

Back to Basics: Outlining a Successful Development Plan to Enhance Your Employees’ Skills

May 15th, 2012

Author: Jessica Nelson, Managing Partner, HR Remedy, LLC

In recent years, human capital has become one of the largest concerns for businesses everywhere due to the realization that the success of a company depends almost entirely on the talents of its employees. After all, an organization can only be as strong as the people who lead it.

No matter what leadership role you play, whether it is owner, executive, or manager, it is important to identify your employees’ strengths and weaknesses, and cultivate those skills in a manner that breed’s success for your company.


When embarking on a formalized development plan for your employees, there are a few basic steps to keep in mind that will not only save you time and money, but will also encourage the long term success of your company. One of the best places to start is with the performance process. Although there are many ways to conduct the performance feedback process, most have the same desired result: an outline of employee strengths and weaknesses contributed by superiors, peers, mentors, and sometimes, customers. Here are some basic components that any effective performance process should include:

  • Identification of competencies being assessed
  • Detailed and specific examples of success
  • Identification of skills lacking development
  • Individual and company objectives for the upcoming year
  • Opportunity for employee feedback


Once you have completed the performance process, you should be able to determine talents that can be cultivated and skills that need to be improved. Once you have an outline of this information and have discussed goals with the employee, you should be ready to discuss potential development opportunities. To see the best results, try to utilize a combination of strategies:


For a more formalized approach to development, training offers a time efficientoption for enhancing an employee’s skills. There are many different avenues a manager can take when looking to provide their employees with a training course in the skills they are looking to develop. Just a few examples are:
  • Classroom training
  • Webinars
  • One-on-one training

When looking to embark on a training course, it is always important to keep time frames in mind. After all, the goal of employee training is to get the employee up to speed relatively quickly. Continual reinforcement is what changes behavior so sending them to a two hour training seminar may not have the long-term effects you desire.


For a long-term development option, coaching can be a great option. Although coaching is often more expensive compared to other development options, it can prove to be very effective when looking to enhance a high-potential employee’s leadership skills. As the demand for immediate results has increased, many top companies use a coaching program to develop leaders in the context of their current job without interference from their daily responsibilities. These engagements typically require the services of an external business coach.

Tangible benefits of coaching include:

  • High potential employees evolve into high functioning managers or leaders;
  • Executives/Managers change the way they are perceived within an organization to enhance their promotability;
  • Executives/Managers create a high-performing team;
  • Executives/Managers successfully manage an important transition in their work role or responsibility;
  • Executives/Managers discover and leverage their strengths as they improve on their development areas;
  • Executives/Managers are more successful and satisfied with their professional role and career.
Hands on Learning

This is an effective option for employee development. Hands on learning can be a great way to challenge and educate your employees on the skills needed for their position. Although this option can cause the employee to stretch and go outside of their comfort zone, there are many options for developing your employee through hands on learning. For example, delegating the employee to lead a special project can be a great learning endeavor; however, a couple things to keep in mind are the challenge of the project compared to the employee’s experience, as well as the employee’s willingness to jump into a project without hesitation. It is also important to ensure the project is meaningful not only to the employee, but to the company as a whole.


Now that you have identified the many options for employee development, you will need to start thinking about the resources required to achieve the development goals you have outlined with your employee(s). At this point, you will also need to start thinking about the availability and associated cost of those resources. A great place to start is to identify the resources you currently have access to and those you do not. For those resources that are a little further out of reach, you will need to determine how easily they can be obtained. The key is to be creative. Below are a few examples of cost effective development resources:

Intellectual Capital

Existing intellectual capital such as company white papers, articles and marketing tools can provide your employees with valuable knowledge and insight into the company’s product and/or services, which helps to align development goals with company initiatives.

Human Capital

A few examples of utilizing your existing human capital is to implement a formal mentoring program where employees can receive career advice and professional coaching from more seasoned peers or managers. A potential benefit of a mentoring program is the leadership skills a mentor can potentially gain from the leadership experience.

External Resources

For organizations that lack sufficient intellectual or human capital to achieve the development goals they have designated, there are many external options that can be utilized. A great idea for a cost effective, external development option includes subscribing to websites providing expert knowledge from industry experts. Often times, these sites are relatively inexpensive and can provide your employees with a library of articles, insights and other educational resources for a variety of topics in their field. Additional options include allowing employees to take web based training courses or to set up a cost effective leadership development program for a group of employees to attend over a period of time. These options allow employees to receive outside development, work together as a team, and allow the organization to design a cost effective solution that works within their culture.


While outlining a development plan for your employees, don’t forget to consider time constraints. After all, an important piece to any plan is the timeframe under which it needs to be accomplished. So ask yourself, how quickly do these skills need to be cultivated or upgraded? Once this is determined, you will be able to start putting your development plan into action. It is important to monitor progress and follow up at least every 90 days to ensure your employee still has a clear understanding of what it is they need to accomplish and how they are supposed to get there. Reinforcement and rewards are key to keeping the plan on track. Also, make sure to map the progress of the development plan to the employees’ performance review process. This will ensure the employee takes an active role in upgrading his/her skills and that they consider the development plan to be an integral part of their role within the organization. Any good development plan should coincide with the overall company goals. The key is to keep it relevant.


Upgrading your employees’ skills though a formal development plan can seem like a daunting task, but outlining the basics can help to keep your eye on the end result. Keep in mind, a successful development plan is one of the best things you can do for the human capital aspect of your company. Some of the many benefits include, but are not limited to, increased retention and reduced turnover, increased employee engagement and customer satisfaction, improved efficiencies, innovations and profitability.