Employee development plan with examples

New employee development plan examples
will boost employee job performance
(Free templates in PDF and Excel)

If you are an employer or small business up to about 25 employees, now you can offer your employees development plans (EDP) with these example templates.

They are designed to improve work performance from day one. Free to use, with instructions and how-to screenshots.

Each individual development plan sample comes in PDF, Excel and MS Word format.

Gain massive employee performance with these new EDP templates

Now you can improve your employee’s job performance in all areas, yet avoid the failure of typical employee development plans.

These individual development plan samples join the best of aspects of career development and performance improvement together. 

I reverse-engineered a performance improvement plan, and built it into a quarterly employee development plan. The result is the most advanced yet simple development plan available.

You can download yours below.

Your employees are desperate to develop their job skills

Your employees are clamoring for a skills development plan.

70% of employees surveyed on LinkedIn said they want to develop work related skills, so they can perform at higher levels in their job. They want their job experience to result in being more valuable in the marketplace. 

It is an especially acute need, because of an 8.5% decline in college enrollment since 2012.

college enrollment drops to 18.1 million in 2022

An employee development plan helps solve this. It increases job skills, which increases productivity and job satisfaction.

Productive employees are more profitable, engaged and loyal to the company.

I explain the innovation of how these new EDP templates work in this article. 

Where most employee development plans go wrong - 3 examples

Most employee development plans make the mistake of focusing on goals instead of job skills. 

  1. You may have seen the crappy EDP templates online – very hit or miss

  2. You might have tried SMART goals, only to find they are complex and focus your employee on future goals instead of skills development

  3. And those expensive monthly EDP software programs are overkill for a small employer. Most require time consuming data entry, dedicated labor, and end up comparing employees instead of developing their job skills

That changes now with these free employee development plan templates and examples. 

This EDP is modeled on a career development plan but focused on quarterly performance improvement.

That makes it much more manageable for the employer and more effective for the employee.

The secret to your employee’s performance improvement

The secret to increasing employee job performance is to focus on work-related proficiencies, on a quarterly cycle. This employee development plan integrates both.

The advantages to this are huge:

  • By focusing on job related skills, you can zero in on exactly where employee needs improvement

  • A quarterly development cycle provides employees with a continuous feedback loop, so they always know where they stand. This reduces their stress and anxiety

  • By working on different proficiencies each quarter, after a few quarters they will be fully knowledgeable about the total scope of their job

  • This makes your employee performance review so much easier to manage and much more satisfying for employee

It’s all included in these innovative employee development plan templates examples.

Here they are:
Downloadable employee development plan examples in PDF, Excel and Word

These sample employee development plans help you focus on key areas of development for employees.

Now you can help employees reach performance goals by focusing on job skills development.   

How to deploy these Free employee development plan examples and templates

You can use these Free employee development plan templates to model and deploy to your employees right away. 

Templates are customizable. The PDF has fillable fields and the Excel template can be fully modified to suit your organization’s needs.

No need to struggle for ways to improve work performance with this versatile employee development plan template

The beauty of this template is in its versatility for multiple uses.

This individual development plan template can be modified to use as:

  • Quarterly Employee Review Template

  • Employee coaching template             
  • Employee training and development template
  • Performance improvement plan template

  • Job performance evaluation       
  • Leadership development plan template

  • Professional development plan template

  • Employee rewards program for employee recognition – included

  • Performance review template

This EDP template works well for up to about 25 developable employees.     

Get the ultimate employee development program

These free EDP Template Examples in PDF and Excel are part of a complete Employee Development Program, called Employee Development Plan Template Kit.

Its an individual development plan with a focus on performance improvement. 

These innovative EDP templates along with Quarterly Review template helps you boost employee job performance from day one.

 The EDP program includes:

  • Employee Development Plan Template with instructions
  • Completed Individual Development Plan Example to follow
  • Managers guide to completing the Employee Quarterly Review
  • Employee Quarterly Development Goals (EQD)
  • Bonus 1: Leadership Development Plan
  • Bonus 2: Employee Rewards Program to motivate your team and provide employee recognition

Why wait? If you want the most effective employee development plan available for up to 25 developable employees,  you can get it here:

How to build the ultimate employee development plan

Focus on quarterly performance improvement for best results

The innovation here is to integrate the performance improvement plan into the career development plan from the beginning.

The benefits to your business operations are tremendous:

  • You develop employee accountability expectations from day one

  • Increase employee performance metrics to ninja levels – preventing employee from floundering and requiring PIP intervention later on

  • You can zero in on exactly where the employee needs performance improvement

  • You can use this template as a leadership development plan and for professional development

  • Use the “soft skills” area of this  template for coaching an employee with a negative attitude

How do we accomplish all this? By building a lean plan from a bucket of job role proficiencies. 

Focus your individual development plan template on job skills

There are several benefits to both the employer and the employee when you refocus your individual development plans on job skills,  including:

  • An EDP focused on job proficiencies increases employee buy-in and engagement, because they work on factors they can control

  • A development plan that is job-role focused makes it easier and faster for managers to measure employee performance metrics each quarter
  • Large annual plans have become an exercise in CYA for both employees and managers; this tight quarterly development plan reduces overwhelm for both

In order for you to be confident in implementing this employee development plan example, this article guides you with step-by-step instructions and screenshots.

You are on your way to setting up an innovative employee development plan that gets massive employee performance improvement results.

It will become the cornerstone of your employee engagement strategies.

I explain all about how to complete these employee development templates in this resource.

In this example Employee Development Plan for Employees (in PDF and Excel) you will discover:

Why one-size-fits-all employee development plans fail massively

Most employee development plans fail massively. The reason? Most plans are HR plans focused on the enterprise instead of the employee. 

The plans become huge, standardized HR wish lists designed to please the employer’s corporate mandates. 

Instead, they should be customized to one objective: performance improvement in employees job proficiencies. This focus makes it simple to build and measure the performance growth of the employee. 

Many business managers and HR are confused about this objective. 

They build out expansive, annual career action plans instead of a simple quarterly employee development plan that develops employee skills and leadership. 

Employee development plans that please HR instead of employees

In order to include every possible contingency, and add every possible wish list, many organizations HR departments end up building these huge, sprawling, bloated, unworkable beasts:

  • US Dept of Energy individual development plan examples is 33 pages long – imagine how time-consuming that is for both manager and employees?

  • Some career development plan examples say there are 17 examples of employee development objectives

  • The Chamber of Commerce says there are 6 stages of career development

  • Many career planning professionals – even Indeed.com – confuse Career Action Plans with career development plans

From this small sample of the approaches to employee development objectives, you can see a wide disparity about what exactly employee development is. It’s everything to everyone.

To cover for this confusion, many HR teams build a huge scope to the plan, which makes it a burden for everyone. 

Is your HR confusing Corporate Development with Employee Development?

This is the one big mistake many organizations make, that I see in the field. They try to mix corporate development goals with individual employee development goals.

Unfortunately, this confuses the key objective of employee career development.

Rather than a lean tool to build ninja employee performance and job skill growth, a “corporate citizen” oriented development plan will fail to build performance because:

  • It does not build buy-in from the employee, who is overwhelmed and distracted with the huge scope of the plan, and ends up just filling it out because it’s mandatory

  • It asks employees to focus on corporate factors that are outside of their control, such as climate change and social justice initiatives, creating anxiety and confusion

  • It does not build buy-in from busy managers or directors, who often have multiple employees to manage – they can’t stand to oversee these bloated development plans – so they also mechanically complete them just to CYA

If you have your employees chasing a corporate ‘wish list’ of development goals that are not urgent, you are wasting everyone’s time and energy. 

Worst of all, you are dissipating their focus to areas they can’t control or improve, such as climate goals or social justice.

Too many goals create employee development confusion

There are just too many goals for an employee to manage if your development plan includes HR goals and corporate goals. It creates confusion that interferes with employees skills development. 

It’s like giving each of your employees a Rubik’s cube to solve!

photo of a rubik's cube

Do your employee development plans have too large a scope?

Especially if you mix corporate HR goals, community outreach, and DEI goals along with employee development goals. It doesn’t make sense and is shown to cause overwhelm. 

Plus, mixing in all these different objectives increases the complexity of getting a handle on employee performance metrics.

Yet many businesses try to do just that. 

In an attempt to maintain consistent, uniform corporate performance standards across the board, many managers and HR often end up throwing everything under the sun into the development plan.

Ultimately and sadly, this ends up giving the same set of development goals to every employee! 

This creates growth flatline, mediocrity and does not increase employee growth or effectiveness in their specific job role. 

Keep the focus on employee development

As a career development coach, I know the focus needs to be on the employee’s job role, not vast, all-encompassing company goals.

So I designed this individual career development plan with examples in PDF and Excel to focus on two things: 

  • Employee performance improvement

  • Fast and easy for managers to set up and administer

Building a lean and organized employee development plan template by limiting its scope

As an employer or dept manager, you will be relieved to discover these lean and organized employee development plan example templates.

Using a super easy and innovative process, you can quickly build a reusable template in three steps: 

  1. Manager builds a one-time bucket of desired proficiencies from the employee job description; (once these templates are set up, they take less than 15 minutes to revise each quarter)

  2. Employee and employer sit down (or zoom) to rate and rank development proficiencies together using the simple checklist template

  3. They agree on development plan action items together for the quarter, and sign off on a quarterly summary they can refer to regularly

This keeps you to a tight, workable scope of professional development that has buy-in from both parties. 

PS: For corporate leadership development or long-term career path action plans you need to devise a separate plan.

This way you don’t conflate short-term performance improvement with long-term career path objectives. 

Building ninja job performance

To vastly increase employee performance levels, you need to define the daily steps that answer: what is most urgent for the employee to develop this quarter?

In my employee development coach role, I’ve learned that the best employee development plan templates are based on daily action steps.

This helps employee to increase mindfulness by concentrating on the now, over a quarter (in rare cases, monthly.) 

This concept uses the principle known as Kaizen: focusing on small, simple improvements consistently, to generate ninja performance levels. This is possible for any employee.

Small daily improvement action steps work because the short-term steps automatically add up to accomplish long-term career growth over time. It works like a savings account.

By adhering to only the proficiencies in their job descriptions, the employee masters what is important for success in their role.

The key difference between career action plans and employee development plans

One BIG problem with typical employee development plans is they are confused with Career Action Plans, which have different objectives. 

Action plans are intended to cover way more ground and scope. Treating a development plan like an action plan allows sprawl and mission creep to bloat what should be a simple objective. 

And there is disagreement in career development theory on what a development plan is!

Let’s clear these differences up right now:

What is a career action plan

A Career Action Plan is a mid-term to long-term career path management plan

  • It starts with a long-term or ultimate career goal of 1 to 3 years out

  • It is achieved by working backward through mid-term proficiency goals, short term goals, and daily action steps

What is career pathing

Career Pathing is more of a leadership development plan, 3 to 5+ years out, wider in scope than an action plan, intending to groom employees to senior management

  • It may include a position growth path, working in multiple departments or roles, gaining additional education, executive mentoring, travel between locations, skills development, etc. as needed

What is an employee development plan

An employee development plan (EDP) is a quarterly performance growth plan focused on job proficiency skills development.

  • It is a recurring quarterly growth tool that enables the employee to master a bucket of job role skills masterfully and permanently

  • It focuses only on a few urgent growth priorities at a time

  • It is short-term, quarter by quarter proficiency improvement plan

  • It maintains employee performance metrics

  • EDP includes management input, guidance, and engagement

  • It’s built on a shared consensus between employee and manager

  • It develops long term career goals by focusing on quarterly growth

The gist of the EDP is to maintain concentration on employees’ performance development and growth into their role. This is accomplished with short-term objectives. 

The employee development plan is not the place to focus on serving the entire career path function. 

Yes, the employee development plan may include objectives to prepare employees for a larger future role. This is done through employees’ skills development in their current position. 

If they grow to be superstars in their current position, that is intrinsically readying them for the next step up their career path ladder.

Developing each employee’s individual strengths using an EDP

Every employee has different strengths, and different proficiencies in need of development.

Even two employees in the same role can have differing proficiency requirements. (For example, one salesperson may handle inbound leads and another outbound. It’s the same sales role ‘on paper’ yet it is two different sets of skills to develop.) 

So a manager’s ultimate goal in any EDP is to prioritize focus on where each individual’s performance needs growth. To bring the employee up to master best practices for their role.

The three simple steps to build the ultimate employee development plan

You can build a focused employee development plan in three simple steps as follows:

  1. Develop a bucket of proficiencies from employee job description

    • Break out job role proficiencies into three job role modules: job role, support role, and soft skills

    • Keep the plan employee-centered to avoid overwhelm and complexity

    • Avoiding loading up plan with long term career path goals or ‘corporate citizen’ goals – create an annual plan for those

  2. Employee and manager rate and rank which skills to prioritize development, then they agree to a final shortlist together

  3. When done with prioritizing and agreeing on quarterly goals, manager creates a summary sheet of quarterly goals so employee can refer to them daily & weekly

The result is a simple, clean focused plan that is a partnership between employee and manager, focused only on increasing employee’s effectiveness and growth. 

Once it is set up, it can be administered in a 15-minute meeting each quarter and the employee is self-motivated from there.

Who can benefit from this innovative EDP template?

This template concept can be used by all levels of management, including: 

  • Dept. Managers: Any department manager who wants to raise the standards of the entire team by growing each individual employees’ proficiencies

  • Business Owners: A small business owner or manager who has minimal HR resources but has key employees who need accountability to role and skill development

  • Individual self-improvement: This template concept works as an individual self-growth plan for any individual who wants to do-it-yourself to crush personal improvement goals or professional goals for work

  • Directors: Corporate C-level directors who want to tighten their focus to motivate key employees to high levels of productivity and maximize labor ROI for the corporation

No matter what management level you are at, this innovative model works wonders to engage employees, and best of all you are keeping things simple and low maintenance.

Before we get down to developing the three steps of this EDP, let’s talk about staying focused.

Maintain focus: Identify personal Improvement goals from a bucket of proficiencies

The innovation of this template is you can now customize each development plan quickly from a bucket of proficiencies derived from employee’s Job Description. You only have to build out the bucket of proficiencies one time.

These proficiencies are organized into three modules for easy organization and priority.

Remember, you are not laying out a laundry list or wish list of every single area the employee ‘should’ develop. Especially soft skills wish lists.

Your goal is to focus ONLY on key employee development areas that are pertinent to the best practices of the job position, as derived from the job description. 

The beauty of this bucket approach is that all employee plans are held to the same uniform corporate standards, but each with different customized proficiencies, specific to their roles. 

Note on corporate required proficiencies: For some of the more professional development plans, you may need to draw up a permanent bucket of mandatory/required corporate proficiencies. These are found in corporate governance, sustainability, or operating model documents. 

For example, all employees are expected to follow the same job site safety and technology security protocols. 

Keep these corporate development proficiencies to the minimum, or better, set up a separate process or plan

Ok, let’s get to the three steps to build ninja employee performance, using a lean development plan.

Step one: Identify the three modules of job role proficiencies to build the development plan

This is the most important part of developing your employee development plan: building out the list of job role proficiencies from the employee job description and position requirements.

To keep this process clear for manager and employee alike, I’ve found that the best way is to break out the bucket into three modules of job role proficiencies.

  • Module One: Job role functions

  • Module Two: Job support functions

  • Module Three: Job role soft skills. 

This three-way breakout maintains focus beautifully because you are not mixing support functions and soft skills together with the most crucial job-role skills.

Module one: Job role functions

  1. Identify the universe of all job-related functions into a bucket, the “best practices” for the role:
    1. all role-specific functions for main job role of employee from job description and job requirements
    2. industry and company-specific proficiencies
    3. technology platform-specific
illustration of the individual employee development plan example 2

Example: Job role proficiencies module

  1. Module Two: Assess what support functions need development in order for employee to be most effective in their job role.
    1. composing emails
    2. customer service best practices
    3. safety protocols in how every employee operates
    4. concise phone calls
    5. etc

Illustration of Job Support Proficiencies chart

Example: Job role support proficiencies module

  1. Module Three: assess what ‘soft’ areas need development or to be minimized
    1. interpersonal communication skills
    2. leadership skills
    3. cooperation
    4. etc.

Illustration of Office soft skills list

Example: Job role support proficiencies module

The power of soft skills

In todays digital age, interpersonal communications, listening skills and attention spans have suffered.

You can use soft skills as a powerful tool to:

  • Build communications skills, empathy, tact etc.

  • As a leadership development plan

  • To develop insubordinate employees by helping them learn to manage their behavior

  • Guide career planning for leadership skills and educational achievement  

A one time EDP process

Once built out, this is a one-time process that you can refer back to indefinitely, each quarter. 

Note: When you break each of the job role areas into specific proficiencies, get as granular and detailed as possible. 

For example, a job role support proficiency can’t be “Compose more prospect emails per day.” It is better to be stated as specifics such as “Shorten the amount of time it takes to compose emails by 50% this quarter.”  Or “Work on emails only from 9 to 10 am, and 3 to 4 pm.”

Now that you have identified the permanent bucket of specific development proficiencies, organized in three modules, you are ready for step two. 

Step two: Self-rating and ranking areas of employee development by both employee and manager

The EDP is presented to employee, where they and manager go through a simple checklist in each module of the plan worksheet. It can be emailed ahead of time.

Employee self-rating column: employee self-rates proficiencies and ranks the most urgent ones for development this quarter  

  • First, the employee breezes through a uniform list of the proficiencies for their career role. They self-select the areas of growth they feel they are in need of, using a self-rating scale of 1 to 10 to assess their competence in each proficiency

  • For each self-rating, employee then ranks the urgency of need for improvement, like an A, B, or C, A being most urgent
    • For example, a self-rating of 4 in the number of customer contacts per day has much more urgency than a rating of 4 in email compose time 

Manager rating column: manager rates and ranks each proficiency in need of development  

  • The manager goes through the same list of proficiencies as employee
    • Manager double-check rating and ranking of each chosen proficiency for accuracy and agreement
    • Mgr. can assign their own rank and ratings of proficiencies

illustration of the individual employee development plan example 3

Example: Rating and Ranking urgency of proficiencies development by employee and manager

Agreed on areas to improve column: employee and manager discuss and agree on which proficiencies to prioritize.

illustration of the individual employee development plan example completed 2

Step Two: Three proficiencies identified and agreed upon, with final say by manager

Caution: To avoid overwhelm in your individual development plan, keep it employee-centered!

The goal here is to prioritize focus on those 4 or 5 urgent areas most in need of improvement, so the employee can build kaizen improvement:
steady gradual improvement over time

Please keep the individual career development plan employee-centered. 

This means avoiding the temptation to throw in a ton of deliverables. Choose only 3 to 5 proficiencies out of all three modules.

This limited focus of 3 to 5 proficiencies is how you create permanent kaizen growth and improvement.

Have the patience and trust that less is more here. 

Step three: Summarize quarterly employee development goals in a goals summary, so employees can refer to them daily

Once the final set of proficiencies is rated, ranked, and agreed upon, the worksheet is complete. 

But the development plan is not.

To maintain employee ninja focus, these final proficiencies are transferred to a one-page summary sheet.

The employee can save it in tasks, calendar, or hard copy to refer to it daily.

  • For the most powerful employee development results, I strongly suggest you have employees schedule 15 minutes per week where they review progress, ask for help,  work on specifics, research issues etc. so they can continue to tighten their mastery of proficiencies

Going full circle: Employee Quarterly Review by Manager

At the end of each quarter, the manager conducts a quarterly review with employee:

  • Determine proficiency improvement results of previous quarter

  • Assign new priorities for coming quarter

  • Determine what additional resources the employee might need to achieve goals

  • Optional – assign earned rewards and awards for improvement goals met

Unfortunately the quarterly employee review is a huge missed opportunity for employee development planning.

Many employers prefer annual reviews, which is way too long of a time period to maintain employee motivation and engagement.

Adding rewards and recognition to reinforce employee engagement motivation

Recognition, awards, spiffs, or other rewards, helps build special motivation for employee to exceed development plan performance goals.

I include how to set up and implement a Rewards program as a Bonus to the EDP program.

Employee Development Program

Growing beyond the free EDP Example templates

You can implement an EDP from these free templates as a starter. However, over time it will become limiting.

Without strong quarterly reviews and rewards motivation your career development planning is only minimally effective.

For example, the free downloadable templates in this article do not include:

  • Quarterly reviews or employee progress: You need managers instructions and templates to fully set up and implement the EDP, QED (Quarterly Employee Development Plan) and daily development goals summary

  • Using soft skills to manage difficult employees: How to use the EDP to correct difficult and insubordinate employees

  • Leadership Development Plan as part of your employee development

  • Rewards Program: How to set up and implement a cost effective and motivational Rewards  program

The complete EDP Template Kit does. It gives you a step-by-step guide to creating a customized plan, full guidance to manage the quarterly review and putting the plan on quarterly auto-pilot.

If you want to boost employee performance by keeping them engaged and focused on their job roles, this innovative Employee Development Program will be your favorite tool.

About the author

Larry Lafata, Career Discovery Coach

Larry LaFata is a Career Development Coach and founder of defineyourcareer.com.

He uses his 30 plus years in business evaluation marketing for Fortune 500 companies to create career development resources.

His new publication is coming soon: How to use Rewards to Motivate Your Team

Note: This content was written by a real human being, for human beings.

It was not spun by A.I. machines to produce rankable content that doesn’t provide any value or innovative solutions.

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Larry Lafata, Career Discovery Coach

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