3 Steps to Creating the Perfect Employee Learning and Development Plan

Learning and development plans are essential to any business, startups included

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Learning and development drives engagement among employees, sharpens their skills, and much more — enabling them to contribute to your organization at an even higher level.

When it comes to the many tasks on your agenda, as a leader within a startup, building and maintaining a learning and development plan likely seems quite labor-intensive, but it doesn’t have to be. Using competency-based modeling, you can invest time and energy upfront into a sustainable plan, then simply allow the plan to run on an automated schedule.

Let’s dive into the three steps you can take to achieve that.

Step 1: Core Competencies

For any organization, there are core competencies for varying levels of employees that help employees be successful. Those same competencies can be further developed over time, making those employees even stronger over time. Your organization likely has competencies valued for any level of employee, like Attention to Detail perhaps, while there are additional competencies required for various roles, such as Leading Work Teams for leaders.

Take the time to assess the competencies that are important for your organization. You should identify a handful of competencies required for any employee of your company, then additional competencies for varying employee levels/types (leaders, analysts, technology professionals, etc.). These competencies will become the framework for your entire learning and development plan.

Step 2: Building Programs

Your learning and development plan should be high-level enough to apply to a wide range of employees, while specific enough to add value at varying role levels/types. The development of a Project Manager versus an Administrative Assistant look vastly different, as should the program that develops them. That said, all employees must begin their time with your company with a concrete understanding of what is expected of them and how they can meet those expectations, which is where your list of competencies for all employees becomes relevant.

When new employees start with your organization, they are likely expecting to attend some sort of new hire orientation. In that new hire orientation, you want to give employees a clear understanding of your organization, your strategic goals, employee expectations, and the introduction of employee development. In the employee development introduction, you will highlight the core competencies your organization values across all employees, which you will then build upon in subsequent trainings.

It’s important not to pack too much into new hire orientation as that will start diminishing the likelihood employees will retain the information, so introductions are ideal.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

With regard to your core competency development, it’s best to set a timeframe on all-employee development programming. Keep in mind, this program should be conducted before other types of programmatic training (which is not to be confused with role-specific training — that should start immediately).

Upon initial implementation, six months is a good timeframe to aim for with your all-employee competency development. Three months is a bit too short as employees are likely still building comfort in their own role, while a year might be unattainable when you are first implementing learning and development programs.

As you branch into creating leveled programs, which is phase two of your learning and development plan, you will use the foundation you established when you identified competencies required for each level/type of employee. Using leaders as an example, you will begin their specific program when they are either promoted to the role or after the conclusion of their initial 6-month training (depending on whether they were an external or internal hire).

Now that we have established the types of training programs necessary for a powerful learning and development plan, let’s dive into creating and reinforcing learning and development content.

Step 3: Course Creation and Reinforcement

Each course you offer employees will revolve around the development of a specific competency, whether that be for your all-employee program or your leveled programs. Within those courses, you should have clear learning objectives employees will take away from the course — those learning objectives are precisely what you will create content around.

Note: some competencies may require several classes for the largest value-add. As an example, when you are developing the communication competency, you likely want to separate the courses between verbal and non-verbal communication, to ensure the courses can be as specific as possible.

Within each course, there should be a balance of lecture and application of the content — that will help employees better understand and retain the lesson (and it will make the courses more engaging). You can do that by incorporating interactive activities at the end of each learning objective: quizzes, role-playing, discussions — anything that gets employees actively participating.

Outside of the classroom is where the real development takes place. Your employees have learned the theory behind the content you taught in the classroom/lecture setting, but in their day-to-day is where they hone their competencies. This is where involving leaders of your organization is essential.

As leaders give employees feedback, their feedback should relate back to the core competencies employees are currently developing so employees can gain a strong understanding of what success of those competencies looks like in practice. This will require alignment with leadership to ensure they are abreast of where their employees are in their learning and development journey.

Given your leaders are also taking part in learning and development activities themselves, a simple notification should be all they need to support the learning and development plan you so thoughtfully established for employees.


Now equipped with the three steps required to build a perfect learning and development plan for employees (establishing competencies, building programs, and creating and reinforcing content), you can now take the first step toward creating a stronger and more engaged workforce. Time to select some competencies!

Originally written by me on Medium.

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