What are learning and development plans? (Plus strategies)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 22 November 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Creating a learning and development plan is an effective way to guide the professional development of employees and monitor their training and career progression. They enable managers to optimise the professional development of team members and support individuals in self-analysis. Understanding what a learning and development plan is, what it's useful for and how to create one can help you to streamline development at work. In this article, we explore what these plans are, provide effective strategies for creating them and discuss how to write one to guide career progression.

What are learning and development plans?

Learning and development plans, also referred to as L&D plans or professional development plans, are tools that allow managers to monitor, track and guide the career progression of staff members in their teams. An effective L&D plan outlines the career goals of an individual and defines the clearest path to those goals. It also monitors the knowledge and skills that an individual possesses and sets out effective ways to train and upskill individuals in relevant disciplines. This helps individuals to explore their own strengths and to make career decisions that help them reach their goals sooner.

Individuals may create their own L&D plans, or managers and employers create them for their employees. When managers take the time to create detailed development plans for their team members, this demonstrates to staff members that they're valuable members of the team and increases staff satisfaction and motivation. It's essential to create an L&D plan in collaboration with the individual to ensure that the plan factors in their personal career goals, plus your objectives for them as a manager.

Related: How to create an employee development plan (with definition)

What is the purpose of an L&D plan?

The purpose of learning and development plans is to streamline the professional development of individuals and prepare them for the next step in their careers. As an employer, creating personal development plans for employees shows that you're invested in their development and willing to spend time ensuring that they grow in their time with you. This is extremely valuable and may help you attract higher-quality employees and retain more staff members. Some benefits of creating L&D plans are below:

Attract and retain top talent

Creating individual learning and development plans for your employees and supporting your employees in their career development may help you attract the best talent to an organisation. When professionals consider which companies they want to work with, they consider a wide range of factors, including salary, perks and professional development. If talented and ambitious professionals feel they could progress further at this company over another, they may choose the company which promotes career advancement over its competitors.

Related: How to create an actionable personal development plan

Fill skills gaps in the workforce

Most businesses have skills gaps in their workforce. So, not enough staff members have the skills required to cover all tasks adequately at all times. If someone is away in a meeting or off work sick, are there sufficient skilled staff members to take their place while they're unavailable? Creating L&D plans for staff members makes it easy to guide their professional development in a way that meets a business's objectives, ensuring that you fill skill gaps as you train more staff members.

Improve organisation culture and brand

Investing time and money into staff also plays a significant role in creating the culture of an organisation. It sends a clear signal that the company values its staff members and cares about their development. This builds loyalty among your employees and improves productivity. By creating individual L&D plans for staff members, you're demonstrating a commitment to their professional progress and are instilling a bond of mutual trust and respect between managers and team members.

Related: Guide: how to build trust in the workplace in 13 steps

Boost employee productivity

Creating professional development plans for staff members may also boost performance and productivity across an organisation. A happy and motivated workforce is more likely to commit fully to an organisation, making them more likely to stay in their roles longer and more likely to push themselves harder to meet organisational goals. By including personal goals in an L&D plan, it's possible to motivate staff members to work harder to meet these goals and earn faster raises, promotions and other important incentives.

Increase customer satisfaction

All the positive effects of investing in the professional development of staff members add value to the products and services that an organisation offers to end users. Employees who work harder for the same salary increase the quality of products and services without increasing expenditure, which creates wider profit margins for the company. As an organisation, you may choose to re-invest some of these profits into increasing the quality of your products or improving the customer experience. This creates a positive cycle that improves customer satisfaction and increases sales and revenue.

How to create a professional development plan

Creating a learning and development plan for your employees involves considering the roles present within an organisation, what each role requires and what career trajectory it's possible to take from each role. Ideally, managers create L&D plans in collaboration with each employee individually, taking into consideration their role within the organisation and their personal career goals and ambitions. Follow the steps below to find out how to create a professional development plan for employees:

1. Identify career advancement pathways

Before creating individual L&D plans for staff members, consider carefully the career pathways that exist within an organisation. Write a list of different roles in the organisation, define the purpose of each role, the hierarchy of authority and the progression routes between roles. For example, within a sales team, you might consider the roles of trainee sales representatives, senior sales representatives and sales managers. Consider how each of these roles differs from one another and what skills and experience employees require to advance through this career pathway.

2. Define clear roles and requirements

For each career pathway that you identify, define the roles and responsibilities involved. When you write a development plan for someone in an organisation, clearly outlining their existing role and also the responsibilities of the roles they're working towards helps them to understand their own role within the organisation and exactly how they fulfil their responsibilities. Ensure the role descriptions reflect the responsibilities each role encompasses. Then make sure that all staff members have sufficient training to fulfil their existing roles.

A key aspect of this stage is defining the knowledge and behaviours that staff members require to perform each role adequately. Consider, for each role, what knowledge each staff member requires in relation to health and safety, product design, management and performance and commercial awareness. Define the values and behaviour you expect to see from employees in this role and consider what degree of strategic thinking and planning the role requires as well.

Related: How to create a leadership development plan (with tips)

3. Utilise relevant training

Once you identify the knowledge, skills and behaviours that you expect your colleagues to have in different roles, it's possible to utilise the most suitable training to help professionals to progress along their chosen career paths. You can source training from external providers or offer it in-house, for example, by asking more experienced members of staff to mentor or instruct junior team members. For each skill and behaviour you identify as necessary, consider how your colleagues might learn it best and which methods of training are most cost-effective and practical.

4. Build on skills and experience

For some members of staff, attending a training course doesn't mean that their skills in that field are sufficient for their new role. It's often necessary to develop the skills that staff members learn in training by ensuring that they have plenty of opportunities at work to practice these skills. Observe staff members while they work, challenge them with new responsibilities and offer them support and advice as they develop their skills.

Related: What is behaviour driven development? (Tips and examples)

5. Monitor the development journey

Monitor the professional development of each staff member and their progress through your learning and development plan. Be flexible with the plan, and check in with your colleagues regularly to see how they feel their journey is going. Create a personal development review framework for your managers to track the progress of their team members and track which milestones individuals meet and when.

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