How to Use Performance Development Plans to Help Employees Grow 1

Melissa is a mother of 2, lives in Utah, and writes for a multitude of sites. She is currently the EIC of HarcourtHealth.com and writes about health, wellness, and business topics.

Helping employees grow with the company and develop their full potential is an important but challenging task for every employer. How can you keep your employees engaged and motivated, yet remain aligned with the company’s strategy and objectives?

First of all, what exactly is “employee development“? Essentially it is a joint effort between employers (or managers) and employees to ensure there are opportunities for individuals to learn new skills, refine existing skills, and build knowledge and experience. This not only leads to more engaged and productive staff, but also increased loyalty.

This is important because not only does it boost morale and engagement, it also helps retain organizational expertise, and helps align employee and company goals.

This article provides a number of tips to help direct your staff towards fulfilling their true potential while making sure the business objectives and strategy are also achieved.

  • Understand What Motivates Them.

Performance development plans are particularly important for ambitious employees who know the exact next role in the organization for which they are aiming. They need to fully understand exactly what competencies and performance levels are required in order to achieve the promotion and be effective in that role. In our Certificate in Performance Management, we teach that a performance plan should demonstrate a clear path for employees to achieve this goal. Therefore, it is important that for ambitious employees, the development plan does not merely focus on skills required for the current role.

This not only increases the employee motivation and loyalty to the company, but it also helps them to better understand their place in the company, and how their contribution helps both them and the company succeed together. Research indicated that providing employees with context gives more meaning to their work and helps improve overall performance throughout an organization.

  • Cascade Business Objectives to Personal Goals.

This is important, but often neglected. Even when it is addressed, if the business objectives are not well defined and communicated in the first place they can misinterpreted by managers.

Cascading goals means reinterpreting the business objectives so that they are applicable and relevant for the individual concerned. For example, if a business objective for the year is to improve customer satisfaction by 50%, then perhaps a goal for the individual would be learn a new technical skill and spend an extra 10% of their time directly with customers helping them to achieve more with your solutions using that skill.

  • Identify Capability Gaps with the Annual Appraisal

Goals are typically identified by the gaps in competencies or behaviors, so the annual appraisal is the perfect time to identify any skills gaps indicating opportunities for development. Whether you use 360 degree feedback mechanisms or simply joint feedback from both the supervisor and employee, this is an enormous opportunity to discover new areas to help both the employee and business grow together.

An important aspect to using the appraisal meeting as a jumping off point for development is to separate it entirely from any compensation related discussions. Performance management training and development discussions should be entirely separate from assessment, promotion or pay discussions.

  1. Make the Plan Fluid to Adapt for Changing Roles

If you have a fast-growing company, you may need to allow for an additional level of flexibility in your development plans. Holding employees to development goals that are no longer relevant to their changed role is both pointless and demotivating.

Each time a person’s role changes or when there is significant change in their responsibilities you will need to jointly revisit the performance plan to make sure it is still relevant.

  1. Understand the employee’s favorite learning style.

Development plans need to be individualized for employees, and that means a certain level of sophistication is required. You and your employee need to discuss their preferred learning style to discover which type of activities will help them the most. There is no point sending an employee on an academic-intensive course if they are mostly a “hands-on” learner. You are only setting them up for failure which will demotivate both them and you.

Depending on their learning style you can consider a range of options, including:

  • Traditional “in-person” classroom style courses.
  • Online learning courses.
  • Coaching and mentoring
  • Access to specific impact projects for “on-the-job” training.

One caveat is to not try to do too much. Help your employee focus on just two to three of their most important priorities. This will provide them with the best opportunity to deliver with your business and reach their true potential.