business owner trying to create a career development plan for employees

How to Create a SMART Career Development Plan for Employees

Many small business owners don’t take the time to craft career development plans for their employees. This is a huge mistake because employees nowadays care about personal improvement and career development. Even if you can’t afford expensive benefits and perks, you should at least offer training and promotion opportunities to your people.

A career development plan often consists of goals, ideas, projects, tasks, and time frames designed to help employees develop their own potential. A plan crafted based on SMART principles are even more specific and actionable, helping employees grow together with your company.

Read on to discover how to create a SMART career development plan for your staff.

What is a SMART Career Development Plan?

A career development plan includes long-term and short-term goals, as well as what can be done to utilize employees’ strengths and achieve career aspirations.

A SMART career development plan is even more actionable, practical, and specific. You can plan ahead what you can offer to employees and how you can support them. Employees can better understand their duties, what they need to work on, and what steps they can take to reach their career goals.

What is SMART? SMART stands for:

S – Specific

The first step to creating a development plan is to set goals. The goals should be specific and answer these 3 questions: What? Why? How?

Think about these three questions: 

  • What goals are you aiming for for your employees?
  • Why do you and your employees have to do this together?
  • How will you and your staff undertake the career development plan?

M – Measurable

Think about the metrics you’ll be using to measure employees’ work progress. Stick to specific numbers.

A – Attainable

Make sure the career development plan you set is achievable. If you build a goal with little hope of accomplishing it, it’ll discourage your employees and kill their confidence. Make sure that you and your employees are determined to reach the goals.

However, if the plan and training sessions are too easy to achieve, it might be too comfortable. Considering the viability for a challenging goal is an indispensable part of goal setting and planning.

Ask yourself these questions: 

  • How can we achieve this goal?
  • Based on the current difficulties, how achievable are the goals?

R – Realistic

The career development plan shouldn’t be too far-fetched. Estimate your resources, budget, time, and efforts and plan accordingly. Don’t put in tasks you and your employees can’t afford at that time.

You should have a conversation with each employee to figure out what they want to achieve. Then, start thinking about what opportunities and training that suit them and help them nurture their abilities. 

T – Time-bound 

Like an appointment, any goal, big or small, needs a specific time limit to accomplish. Time frames allow staff to know where they are on the journey and complete tasks in time before deadlines.

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Create a SMART Career Development Plan in 5 Steps

1. Align the plan with the company’s vision and goals

A company’s vision may include answers to these questions:

  • In 5 years or 10 years or more, what would you like your business to be like?
  • In the long term, what do you want to focus on for your company?

The development plan should align with what you’ve answered. How can employees contribute to your company goals? For instance, if you want to focus on upgrading the quality of existing services, you should set goals related to upgrading employees’ skills and knowledge.

2. Set long-term and short-term goals

Based on the SMART principles above, you and your employees need to talk and define the goals for the career development plan, both long-term and short-term.

Ask your employees about what they want to accomplish. Are they looking to achieve it in a month, a quarter, or a year?

Remember, every goal must be feasible and have specific time frames for completion. State what you and your staff want to achieve. Avoid ambiguous and confusing words.

For example: “Increase traffic to company website to 100,000 visitors this quarter” instead of “Increase traffic to company website”.

3. Determine the metrics and measuring tools

Start breaking down the big goals into smaller projects, tasks, or ideas. Set numbers for the goals and tasks. Is it the number of courses employees have to take? Is it the percentage of increase in sales employees have to achieve? Is it the number of shares and comments on your company’s social channels? How do you measure those numbers?

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4. Make it attainable and realistic

Make sure the goals and tasks are attainable. Consider the practical aspects of your strategy, and make a list of what you’ll need to do to make it a success. Break down big projects into smaller, achievable tasks.

A career development plan must be achievable, depending on your business budget and your employees’ abilities. If you can’t afford to hold training sessions or grant your employees business trips, you’ll have to find alternatives that suit your budget, yet still efficient.

5. Set time frames and give deadlines

A common mistake in management is setting goals without tying them to specific deadlines. Or the deadlines are so unreasonable that employees can’t finish work in time.

Consider employees’ competencies and experience, as well as the requirements of each project, to set reasonable time frames for every step of the career development plan.

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The concept behind a SMART career development plan is simple: it helps employees improve their individual performance and contribute to your business based on specific goals and actionable steps. It’s a win-win situation. So why don’t you start crafting some plans for your staff now?

Read more about creating a career development plan for employees.

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