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It’s one thing to lay out a plan for employee development, but it’s another to actually see the results. Often, employees get stuck in one mode of thinking about their job and end up remaining in one position until, when their patience snaps, they leave the position. This leaves everyone wondering: employers are left scratching their heads and may even blame employees for not taking initiative. At the same time, employees might complain that they weren’t given ample opportunities.

So how do you remedy this situation? How do you see real results from your development plan? The answer lies in the adjustability of your goals.

Development should be a hands on activity.Development should be a hands-on activity.

Goals with purpose
Every employee development plan starts with goals. Some are lofty and others are more practical – but no matter what their degree of intensity, goals are an integral part of the endeavor. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology recommended setting clear, measurable goals. Depending on the situation, early goals can be made by the manager, though the employee should be considered when it comes to more advanced targets.

When you hire new employees, outline where they might go in a year. What skills should they acquire in that year? What responsibilities will they have? A higher level employee should be responsible for tracking these goals and ensuring they are met in a timely manner. But that’s not to say that every employee will follow a cookie-cutter route to career advancement. Goals should be adjustable to reflect the strengths and weaknesses of each individual. Not everyone learns at the same pace, but that shouldn’t be an excuse for letting someone go when that employee doesn’t meet a certain goal. Often you can build loyalty by helping  struggling individuals to achieve their goals at their own pace.

The opposite is true as well – you don’t want high-flying employees to become frustrated because their advancement is too slow. Be prepared to fast-track those exceptional employees who go above and beyond their day-to-day responsibilities.

Targeting competencies
According to the Society for Human Resource Management, one key aspect of developing leadership is taking a targeted look at an individual’s competencies. Colleagues and managers may be able to point to someone’s competencies, though you must consider whether or not they are transferrable. For example, someone in a mid-level managerial position may excel at the job and therefore be put up for a promotion. However, the new position may require skills that the employee has never used before, thus creating a need for education and evaluation. It’s a heavy task and may require HR outsourcing services. Having an outside expert’s perspective can make all the difference when it comes to developing top talent.

Filling in the gaps of an employee’s knowledge is an integral part of the development process. Skills can’t always be fully developed through on-the-job training, and may require special programs to reach full advantage. E-learning opportunities are a great way for employees to digest important information at their own pace. Forcing development into daily routine can make individuals resentful, but when they can complete courses in their free time, retention rates may rise.

Adjustability and customization are vital to an effective employee development plan. Too much rigidity in the system will only cause frustration and problems. Ultimately, the plan should be about motivating individuals to take initiative. Then you provide the tools for advancement.