Workforce learning and development is becoming an increasingly important factor for many companies. But how do you put together a workforce development plan that works for you?
When do businesses need a workforce development plan?
The short answer is that there’s never a bad time to implement a workforce development plan. Just last year, 73% of employees surveyed by Linkedin said that a lack of development plan at work was a top reason for their seeking other employment, as it suggested a lack of support to progress their career.
The same study found that businesses with a solid workforce development plan and internal hiring practices enjoyed 41% longer employee tenure, saving companies money on costly new hires.
Data like this demonstrates why larger businesses can benefit heavily from a learning and development scheme. In a smaller or start-up organisation, there is often a kind of informal development, as employees often have the chance to try their hand at various tasks and take on extra projects, learning as they go. This can be helpful, but it can lead to missed opportunities for development and can leave workers feeling unsure of their career potential within the company.
What should a workforce development plan include?
So, what exactly should a workforce development plan look like? Broadly speaking, to be effective, there should be a budget set aside for formal upskilling and time set aside for employees to train. Ideally, you should also set up a mentoring or shadowing scheme to fully maximise the plan’s success.
The plans should be tailored to each individual. A large part of a workforce development plan depends on employees wanting to take the path set out for them. For example, it’s no use forcing someone to specialise in social media when they’re much more interested in SEO.
Ideally, a manager should sit down with each team member and work out which skills are most important for the employee to develop, both for their own career goals and for the company to benefit.
Together you should look into courses that will help them to upskill and work out how those new skills might then be put into practice in their role.
There should also be goals to meet along the way and regular check-ins to ensure that they are realistic and align with your employees’ career ideals. This will both keep your employee motivated, as there is clear progress being made, and ensure that you’re both happy with the outcomes.
Who should maintain a workforce development plan?
While a genuinely successful workforce development plan needs the entire workplace to have a growth mindset, it can help in any situation have a learning and development lead.
This person should be able to champion employees’ wants and needs and be able to provide information on how their expectations align with the company’s budget.
They’re most likely to sit within HR, but businesses can be flexible when it comes to this. It may well be someone from a different department who took a learning and development diploma and is eager to help build the company’s plan.
Having an apparent leader is particularly useful in a large organisation, where employees don’t necessarily interact with colleagues from other departments. If there is a central L&D leader or team, they can act as a matchmaking service for mentors and mentees.
Perhaps someone in merchandising has done a course on environmental management and would benefit from a chat with someone in charge of the company’s sustainability initiatives? Again, using the wealth of experience already present in your organisation is a great way to supplement your development plan.
How often should a plan be updated?
Ultimately, it’s good to review your workforce development frequently if you’re only just starting your development journey.
You should be measuring how well things are going and monitoring any snags you hit along the way. For example, are teams being left short while someone trains? Are your employees’ new skills not all that much use to the organisation as a whole?
Every mistake you make at first can be tweaked and refined, making your development plan smooth and working towards optimum efficacy.
Even if you think you have the perfect plan in place, it’s worth considering regular feedback. For example, it might well be that the plan works well for the business but makes employees miserable.
In short, update your workforce development plan whenever it finds a hiccup, whether that’s after five days or five years.