[7 Steps] Career Development Plan For Employees [2024]

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Planning for career development for employees? And not sure where to start? There is a step-by-step career development plan for employees that needs to be followed in order to properly improve the skills and knowledge of employees.

A few years ago, it was common for employees to stay in the same job for many years, sometimes even their whole careers.

Nowadays, the job market is much more fast-paced. Because of this, keeping employees and helping them grow professionally are crucial for any company’s success.

One effective way to do this is by creating personalized career plans that help employees develop their skills and advance in their careers. However, it’s not just about enrolling them in a course. 


Developing a career plan involves much more. In this article, you’ll learn how to create a career plan that not only retains employees but also fosters their growth. A career plan that truly works.

What is a Career Development Plan?

A career development plan isn’t just a professional guide. It’s a structured framework that helps employees grow and advance within the company. 

Creating a career development plan is a strategic step that involves setting professional goals, planning the steps to reach them, and providing the necessary resources to make it happen.

If you’re unsure whether it’s worth creating a career development plan for your employees, consider this: it’s not just a strategic move; it’s also a mutual commitment between the company and the employee. 

This partnership benefits both sides by paving the way for professional growth and success.

A career development plan is a tool that helps employees achieve their career goals. It outlines the steps they need to take and the behaviors they need to adopt to advance in their careers.

Just like business plans guide a company’s growth, career development plans provide employees with direction, help track their progress during performance reviews, and keep them focused on their goals.

However, terms related to career development can often be confused with other ideas. Before helping employees create their career development plans, it’s important to clarify what career development actually means.

– Professional Development vs. Career Development:

Professional development covers both career growth and personal growth. While career development plans focus specifically on actions employees can take to advance their careers, professional development plans consider the overall growth of the individual, both personally and professionally.

Career development is a key part of professional development, encouraging employees to thoughtfully plan their career paths.

– Career Growth vs. Career Development:

Career growth and career development are often used interchangeably, but they mean different things. Career growth refers to an employee’s overall professional goals or endgame. 

Career development, on the other hand, is more focused and specific. It’s a crucial part of the broader journey that helps employees gain the skills and experiences they need to advance their careers.

The Importance of a Career Development Plan for Career Growth

When you plan for career development it benefits the company in a greater way. Career development not only helps in the growth of the company but also helps in achieving the goals of the company.

A. Benefits of a Career Development Plan for Employees:

1. Clarity and Direction at Work: 

One of the most noticeable benefits is that employees know where they are headed in their careers. 

Understanding their goals, how to achieve them, and feeling supported reduces uncertainty about their work. This gives them a clear sense of direction and purpose.

2. Continuous Development: 

Setting goals encourages employees to keep improving their skills and competencies. This ensures they stay current in a constantly changing work environment.

Related: How to change career path at 30?

3. Increased Motivation and Commitment: 

When personal goals are linked to the company’s success, employees become more motivated and committed. They understand how their work contributes to the company’s overall objectives.

4. Recognition and Reward: 

A career development plan provides many opportunities for recognition. As employees reach specific milestones, they are more likely to receive acknowledgment for their achievements. 

This boosts their motivation and can also lead to promotions or salary increases, reinforcing their value to the company.

B. Benefits of a Career Development Plan for the Company:

Career development enables employers to keep the growth of the company on the right track. 

Having deployed an effective career development plan increases the work efficiency of employees, which in-turn makes it easier for your company’s growth.

1. Cultivating a Growth Culture: 

Allowing employees to develop their own career paths helps build a culture focused on professional growth. 

Companies that show a commitment to employee development make their talent feel valued and supported throughout their time with the company.

2. Reduced Turnover: 

Retaining talent is a common challenge for many organizations. Employees with a clear professional growth path are more likely to stay with the company long-term, which reduces turnover and its associated costs, both monetary and otherwise.

3. Increased Employee Engagement: 

Thoughtful career development plans foster a healthy relationship between employees and the company. When employees feel a strong commitment to their growth, their loyalty and dedication to the company strengthen over time.

4. Attracting External Talent: 

Promoting the company as one that values and supports employee development is a powerful tool for attracting new talent. 

Offering prospective employees a structured and personalized career development plan can be a deciding factor in their choice between your company and a competitor.


Investing in employee development not only creates more skilled teams but also fosters stronger and longer-lasting relationships between employees and the company.

When to Create a Career Development Plan?

Career development plans should be accessible to every employee, starting from the very beginning of their employment, even during onboarding.

HR shouldn’t be the sole driver of career development planning because it can overwhelm them and lead to less effective outcomes. 

Nowadays, developing employees isn’t just an HR task; it’s a key part of managers’ responsibilities. With proper training, managers can lead career development planning effectively.

Provide managers with development plan templates tailored to different stages of the employee lifecycle, beginning with onboarding. 

This ensures that career planning aligns with each stage of the employee’s journey. To increase engagement and participation, incorporate career development planning into existing processes like performance reviews.

What to Include in a Career Development Plan?

Creating a career development plan involves a few key steps to guide employees towards their career goals. Here’s how you can do it effectively:

– Identify Goals and Interests: 

Employees’ career goals can vary, so it’s important not to assume they all want the same path. 

Train managers to understand each employee’s strengths and interests, whether it’s advancing within their current role or exploring different opportunities within the organization.

– Clarify Expectations: 

Employees need support from their managers and HR to achieve their career development plans. 

It’s crucial that everyone involved understands what’s expected. During the planning process, ensure clear communication, define terms, and agree on timelines.

– Set Measurable Goals: 

Make sure the goals set are measurable so progress can be tracked effectively. 

Consider using an objectives and key results (OKRs) model, where employees set objectives for their career development and identify key results to measure their success.

– Encourage Written Plans: 

Encourage employees to write down their career development plans. 

This makes their goals feel more real and achievable. Using your organization’s learning and development or performance management software can help track progress.

– Identify Potential Challenges: 

Anticipate potential roadblocks that employees might face in their development journey. 

For example, balancing workload with training. Integrate development activities into their daily responsibilities to overcome these challenges.

– Maintain Accountability: 

It’s important to keep employees accountable for their development plans. Regular check-ins, transparent tracking, and meaningful incentives like bonuses can help. 

Integrating career development plans into performance management software can improve transparency and accountability.

By following these best practices, you can create effective career development plans that help employees grow and succeed in their careers.

7 Steps For Career Development Plan For Employees

Now let’s dive into the detailed process of creating a career plan, from the initial assessment to implementation. Reflect on the examples provided and think about how they can help you create meaningful career paths for your team.

How to Create Career Development Plan for Employees [Step-by-Step]:

  1. Assess Skills and Aspirations
  2. Set Clear and Achievable Goals
  3. Design Individual Development Paths
  4. Allocate Resources
  5. Implement a Continuous Feedback System
  6. Adjust the Career Development Plan
  7. Recognize Achievements

1. Assess Skills and Aspirations

Before creating a personalized career plan, you need to understand the employee’s skills and aspirations. How can you do this?

– Performance Reviews: 

These evaluations help you assess the employee’s current skills. What areas need improvement? What are their strengths? 

Performance reviews answer these questions and more, providing a foundation for the career plan. 

Including self-assessments allows employees to reflect on their own skills, goals, areas for improvement, and aspirations. Use these performance review templates to guide your evaluations.

– 1:1 Meetings: 

Another effective way to learn about an employee’s skills and aspirations is through one-on-one meetings. 

Managers should ask about these topics during the meetings, which also helps strengthen the relationship between them. Here’s a guide with questions for 1:1 meetings to help your managers focus on these discussions.

2. Set Clear and Achievable Goals

Once we know an employee’s skills, areas for improvement, strengths, and aspirations, it’s time to set specific goals. For example, if an employee wants to move into a leadership role, a clear goal could be to lead a small team on a project over the next 12 months.

These goals provide direction and a clear sense of purpose. 

How can you define these goals effectively? Use the SMART methodology.

SMART Methodology:

  • Specific: Goals should be clear and well-defined. For example, “Increase sales by 20% in the next year” is specific and leaves no room for ambiguity.
  • Measurable: Goals need to be quantifiable so you can track progress. In the example, “20% increase in sales” makes it measurable.
  • Achievable: Goals should be realistic and attainable with the resources available. The “20% increase in sales” should be based on what is realistically possible within a year.
  • Relevant: Goals must align with the company’s strategic objectives. There’s no point in aiming to “increase sales by 20%” if the company’s focus is on customer retention rather than growth.
  • Time-bound: Goals should have a clear deadline. In the example, the time frame is “in the next year,” making it time-bound.

Using the SMART methodology to set goals in a career development plan helps track progress and increases the chances of success.

3. Design Individual Development Paths

Each employee is unique, so their development paths should reflect their individuality. 

It’s important to personalize their career plans. 

If you have two team members with the same goal, their paths to that goal shouldn’t be identical. One might excel in an area where the other needs improvement, and vice versa.

Personalizing career plans ensures they meet each employee’s unique needs. To do this, consider the following:

– Define Unique Trajectories: 

Use the skills, areas for improvement, and strengths identified earlier to create diverse paths. 

This might include specific project assignments, targeted training programs, or specialized mentoring. Find a unique path for each employee to reach their goals.

– Be Flexible and Adaptable: 

Employees’ aspirations and circumstances may change over time. Their career paths should be able to adjust to these new goals and situations, ensuring the plans remain relevant and effective.

Related: How to change careers?

For example, consider a graphic designer who wants to move into a leadership role and has a talent for project management. Her development path could include project leadership courses, managing larger projects, and opportunities to lead team meetings. 

This tailored plan matches her skills and aspirations, while also being flexible enough to adapt to her evolving goals.

4. Allocate Resources

Once you’ve identified the skills to work on, the goals to achieve, and the roadmap to follow, it’s time to provide the necessary resources. Employees can’t meet their objectives without proper support. 

For example, if we want an employee to enhance their leadership skills, we must give them the right resources to succeed. Here are several ways to support the career plan:

– Assign Internal Mentors: 

Sometimes, an employee needs a mentor within the company to develop their skills effectively. 

A mentor can offer guidance, support, and practical advice based on their own experiences, ensuring the employee gets valuable training from someone who has been in their shoes.

Related: What are the career advice for teenagers?

– Provide Access to Challenging Projects: 

Giving employees new challenges helps them develop their skills. By learning through doing and making mistakes, employees can grow. 

These projects are valuable as they allow employees to apply and strengthen their skills in a practical environment.

– Offer Necessary Technology Tools and Resources:

Providing access to the right platforms, software, hardware, and other resources is essential. This helps employees develop their skills more quickly and effectively.

For example, let’s revisit our graphic designer aspiring to a leadership role. It would be beneficial to assign her a mentor who has successfully led other teams. 

We could enroll her in leadership training courses and give her the responsibility of leading a project, allowing her to apply her skills in a practical setting.

5. Implement a Continuous Feedback System

Ongoing feedback is crucial for a successful career plan. Regular feedback systems ensure employees get constructive input on their progress toward their goals.

Related: 7 student habits for a successful careers

Here’s how to do it using tools from the first phase:

– Performance Reviews: 

These allow employees to receive feedback from their peers. It’s important to set regular evaluation intervals to review progress. 

Depending on the plan’s duration, evaluations can be monthly, quarterly, semi-annual, or annual. 

For instance, if the plan is quarterly, monthly evaluations are ideal. For an annual plan, quarterly reviews might be sufficient.

– 1:1 Meetings with Managers: 

These meetings help review feedback, goals, and achievements. During these sessions, assess if the goals are still relevant, whether objectives are being met, and identify any obstacles. 

This detailed review helps make informed decisions about any needed adjustments to the career plan.

It’s essential to provide context for the feedback, explaining why it’s given and what needs arise from it. When employees understand the purpose, they’re more likely to focus on key aspects that assess progress and adapt as needed.

To ensure the feedback is effective, share a good feedback guide with employees.

6. Adjust the Career Development Plan

Any career plan can change over time, and that’s actually a good thing. Plans should adapt to employees’ changing aspirations and needs. 

The reviews mentioned earlier help us understand these changes. But at this stage, self-reviews are especially important. 

They allow employees to give feedback on their own progress, which helps adjust the career plan as needed.

For instance, let’s say an employee has been following their career plan for 3 months and, in their self-review, they express interest in exploring new areas. 

In this case, the plan can be updated to reflect these new interests.

Based on the self-review and feedback from managers and peers, adjustments are made to the career plan. What can be changed?

  • Deadlines for goals.
  • Adding new objectives.
  • Adjusting training based on the employee’s progress.

Flexibility is key in this phase to keep the plan relevant. However, we need to be cautious not to change everything. If we completely overhaul the plan, it’s like starting from scratch, and the progress made so far might not matter. 

This might be necessary if the employee’s needs have drastically changed. But if not, we should ensure the core of the plan stays intact despite any adjustments.

7. Recognize Achievements

Recognizing employees’ efforts is crucial for building a culture of growth. Celebrating even small achievements boosts engagement and encourages employees to keep working hard on their career plans. 

What are some ways we can recognize their efforts?

– Peer Recognition Messages: 

Make sure everyone gets recognized for their achievements by encouraging positive feedback among colleagues. This builds a supportive atmosphere and creates a great working environment.

– Public Recognition in Team Meetings: 

Managers can highlight employee achievements during team meetings, encouraging others to do the same. This fosters a positive atmosphere throughout the organization.

– Awards: 

You can set up formal awards based on goal achievement to recognize accomplishments. This could include the classic “employee of the month” award or presenting a small symbolic prize.

– Additional Development Opportunities: 

Recognize progress in career plans by offering extra benefits, like the chance to attend conferences or events.

– Financial Bonuses: 

While less common now, financial incentives tied to meeting goals or performance bonuses still exist. They’re not always linked to direct company income, but they reward employees for meeting their work goals.

– Extra Time Off: 

Another way to recognize achievement is by offering extra days off or allowing employees to adjust their schedules to better suit their needs.

Creating an effective career development plan goes beyond just setting goals or sending employees to training. It requires understanding each employee’s aspirations and skills to help them reach their career goals. 

So, before signing up employees for courses or degrees, make sure you’ve done this analysis. Without a well-defined career plan, the choice of training might not be the best fit.

Example of Career Development Plan For Employees

Let’s create a career plan for Katrina, a graphic designer at an advertising company. Katrina wants to grow into a leadership role, but she doesn’t have much experience in that area yet. 

Let’s help Katrina achieve her goal!

  1. Skills and aspiration assessments
  2. Definition of clear and achievable goals
  3. Individualized design of the professional development path
  4. Allocation of resources
  5. Implementation of a continuous feedback system
  6. Adjustment of the career development plan
  7. Recognition of achievements

1. Skills and aspiration assessments

The HR team organizes a 360 review for Katrina, where different people in the company share feedback on her performance. 

Here’s who gives feedback:

  • Four members of her team
  • Her manager
  • Two members from other teams who are in management positions
  • Two of Katrina’s clients
  • Katrina also does a self-review

Afterwards, Katrina meets one-on-one with her manager to go over the feedback. They talk about Katrina’s strengths, areas where she can improve, and her career goals.

2. Definition of clear and achievable goals

Together with Katrina, we set SMART goals at three different levels:

– Short term (3 months):

Katrina’s goal is to lead a small client project with a team of 3 people for 3 months. To succeed, she needs to improve client satisfaction by at least +50 points.

– Medium term (6 months):

Katrina will lead a more complex project for a medium-sized client with a team of 5 people for 6 months. To succeed, she needs to improve client satisfaction by at least +55 points.

– Long-term (1 year):

First, Katrina will tackle an even bigger project for a large client with a team of 10 people for a year. To succeed, she needs to improve client satisfaction by at least +60 points.

Secondly, Katrina will begin managing the design team, assigning projects, and ensuring they’re completed properly. The average client satisfaction score must be at least +50 points.

3. Individualized design of the professional development path

Katrina and her team agreed on a training schedule that she’ll balance with her new responsibilities based on the goals we’ve set. Her career plan will last a year, so we’ve spread out three courses throughout that time. 

These courses will help Katrina develop the skills she needs as a manager, and we’ll adjust the difficulty based on her progress.

Here’s the plan for the courses, each set as a SMART goal to track progress:

– At the start: 

Katrina will take a leadership course to learn the basics of managing a team. She needs to score at least 9 out of 10 and finish the course in a month.

– In the second quarter: 

Katrina will tackle a project management course to build on her existing skills. She needs to score at least 9 out of 10 and finish in two months.

– In the third quarter: 

Katrina will focus on improving her communication skills with a professional-level course. She needs to score at least 9 out of 10 and finish in two months.

– In the fourth quarter: 

Katrina will revisit leadership training, this time at a professional level. By this point, we expect Katrina to have developed new leadership skills. She needs to score at least 9 out of 10 and finish in two months.

4. Allocation of resources

In addition to the 4 courses Katrina will take for her professional development:

– She’ll have personal mentoring: 

Katrina will team up with experienced managers from other teams for her year-long plan. She’ll meet with each manager every 2 weeks for a total of 4 sessions. These managers will help Katrina improve in areas where they excel.

– She can join workshops: 

Katrina can attend one workshop every 3 months on leadership, management, or communication.

– She can go to conferences: 

Katrina can go to 2 conferences in the first year.

– She’ll have a budget: 

Katrina has €1500 per year to try out and use new tools in her team.

5. Implementation of a continuous feedback system

We’ll use ongoing feedback to track Katrina’s progress in her career plan and make any needed changes.

Here’s how we’ll do it:

Performance reviews:

  • At 6 months and 1 year: Feedback from 2 managers from other teams.
  • At 6 months and 1 year: Feedback from 2 of Katrina’s clients.
  • At 3, 6, 9, and 12 months: Feedback from 4 members of her team.
  • Every month: Katrina will get feedback from her manager, and she’ll do a self-review.

We’ll have monthly one-on-one meetings to discuss all the feedback from each period and see how Katrina is doing.

6. Adjustment of the career development plan

If Katrina wants, we can add any other areas she wants to improve on. 

If Katrina decides she doesn’t want to pursue a leadership role anymore, we’ll stop her current career plan. She can then think about creating a new plan later on.

7. Recognition of achievements

Now that all the steps have completed, the last step is to recognize the achievements:

  • Encouraging Praise from Peers: Katrina’s manager will ask her teammates to acknowledge Katrina’s successes.
  • Public Recognition in Team Meetings: Whenever Katrina achieves a goal, the team will hear about it during their meetings.
  • More Learning Opportunities: If Katrina does really well, we might offer her extra training in different subjects.
  • Possible Pay Increase: After Katrina finishes her year-long plan, we’ll review her salary to match her new job duties.


In one year, Katrina should finish her courses, successfully lead projects, and move into a management role in the design department. 

The aim is for Katrina’s personalized career plan to not only help her grow professionally but also make her feel like a valued part of the team. Katrina will inspire her colleagues as a successful and motivated leader.

Career Development Plan Template

Creating a career development plan template is crucial for guiding managers and employees through the process. Templates ensure consistency and hold everyone accountable. 

– Setting up short-term career goals:

Short-term career goals are like stepping stones, providing quick wins while allowing employees to stay flexible and learn about their strengths and interests. These short-term goals also contribute to long-term aspirations, making career growth manageable and sustainable. 

– Setting up long-term career goals:

Long-term goals offer direction, but they should be broken down into smaller, achievable parts to prevent them from feeling overwhelming. 

It’s important to recognize that long-term goals may change as employees gain experience, so the template should allow for adjustments and regular reviews with managers.

– Developing learning opportunities:

Learning opportunities are essential components of a career development plan, offering practical ways for employees to achieve their goals. These opportunities go beyond traditional training and can include hands-on experiences like leading projects. 

– Data driven approach to track progress:

Accountability is crucial for progress, so the template should include tools like regular check-ins and meetings with managers. Tracking employee growth over time through data-driven records, often tied to performance reviews, provides valuable insights into each employee’s development. 

These records help identify areas of growth and success, ensuring the best outcomes for each employee’s career development journey.

So, here is a guide on how you can develop a career plan for employees.

Career Development Plan Template for Employees

Managers and employees shouldn’t have to figure out career plans alone. Create a template to guide them. Templates make things consistent and keep everyone accountable. 

Let’s look at the key parts of a good career development plan template:

– Short-Term Goals: 

These are quick wins that keep employees flexible. Achieving them helps employees learn about their strengths and interests. Short-term goals also lead to long-term goals, making career growth manageable.

– Long-Term Goals: 

These give direction for the future. They might seem big, but breaking them into smaller pieces helps. Long-term goals can change as employees gain more experience, so it’s important to review them regularly.

– Learning Opportunities: 

Include ways employees can learn and grow. It’s not just about training. Hands-on experiences are valuable too. For example, leading a small project can be a great learning opportunity.

– Accountability Tools: 

Keep employees on track with regular check-ins. These could be meetings with managers or chances to report progress. They help employees stay focused on their goals.

– Tracking Progress: 

Make sure there’s a way to track how employees are growing over time. This might tie into performance reviews, which give data on how well employees are doing. 

Understanding this data helps make sure everyone’s career development is going in the right direction.

Final Thoughts

Career development planning not only benefits individual employees but also helps the entire organization. Employees gain better career satisfaction, improve their skills, and make progress toward their goals. Meanwhile, the organization benefits by increasing employee engagement and retention.

By showing employees a clear future within the company, career development planning supports your talent strategy. It fosters a culture of learning, which is crucial for adapting to changes in the workplace. 

Overall, having a solid career development plan is essential for growing your business and turning a good workforce into an exceptional one.

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