Many employees want to see more learning and personal or professional development opportunities in the workplace. Employers should want them, too, as these efforts help to build in-demand skill sets and develop new leaders. A well-planned employee development program can set employees up for success while achieving tangible outcomes that benefit an organization. Use this checklist as a general guide when designing and implementing an employee learning and development program.

Selecting a Program

1. Define the organization’s need for an employee development program while answering these questions:
• Why is it important to educate and develop employees?
• What will happen if we don’t offer learning and development opportunities to employees?

2. Tie employee development to the organization’s core values and talent strategies.

3. Audit employees’ skills to identify necessary future skills or potential skills gaps in the organization. Take these steps to do so:

• Identify the roles and responsibilities within the organization.
• Determine the skills needed for each role and those critical for organizational performance.
• Implement various methods to evaluate employees’ skills (e.g., conducting one-on-one skills
audits with each employee, hosting a team or department discussion to get the overall picture and distributing an employee survey).
• Process the results to understand strengths, weaknesses and opportunities.

Developing a Program

1. Establish a program mission and goals. Some goal examples include:

• Develop entry-level employees into leaders.
• Enhance employees’ technical skills in 90 days.
• Establish an internship program and offer development opportunities to interns.
• Develop specific employees’ skill sets further.

2. Establish a timeline for learning and development efforts. In particular, determine if this will be a one-day event, recurring series or an ongoing initiative with occasional check-ins.

3. Set a budget for learning and development efforts. For example, consider investing 1-5 per cent of employees’ salaries.

4. Identify the audience. Consider whether opportunities are meant for all employees or focused on specific departments, teams, roles or workplace locations.

5. Define the subject. Doing so will help drive opportunities and provide a focus for employees. Although a subject such as onboarding may be broad, there are still specific topics and categories to consider.

6. Determine the learning outcomes. Understanding these outcomes can allow the organization to choose the most effective content, create activities and design assessments and evaluations.

7. Review and assess existing resources. The organization may already have a robust library or resource of information or training that could be repurposed based on audience and goals or even built into a new curriculum or initiative.

8. Consider how opportunities will be offered. It’s essential to decide whether initiatives will be
available in-person or virtually, as well as select the appropriate channels and technology.

9. Build out a program timeline with relevant milestones and deadlines. These elements will vary based on whether the program includes evergreen learning and development opportunities (e.g., onboarding and other organizational training) or time-specific efforts with set training days or rigid deadlines.

10. Outline how competency will be measured. Both the organization and its employees need to decide (or understand) what constitutes mastery of knowledge or skills so employee competency can be measured, achieved and rewarded.

Implementing a Program

1. Provide a clear, written policy and guidelines about the program and its criteria.

2. Review and apply adult learning principles of andragogy to the program. Here’s an outline of these principles:

• Adults need to know why they need to learn something.
• Adults need to build on their experience.
• Adults need to feel responsible for their learning.
• Adults are ready to learn if training solves an immediate problem.
• Adults want their training to be problem-focused.
• Adults learn best when motivation comes intrinsically.

3. Accommodate various learning styles (e.g., auditory, kinesthetic, reading-and-writing and visual).

4. Select content carefully so that the topic and format(s) will resonate with the workforce. Targeted and customized content has the potential to increase employee motivation and engagement.

5. Demonstrate and communicate the purpose of development opportunities so employees know how they will benefit their careers or personal growth.

6. Consider ways to make the program enticing to employees. For example, more employees may be eager to participate if the program is not mandatory. It may also help to state how learning opportunities could benefit employees’ careers.

7. Differentiate learning and development efforts from training. The program should be a voluntary way to grow skills, knowledge and abilities.

8. Train managers to do the following:

• Help employees understand their performance’s impact on the organization’s goals and how they drive it to succeed.
• Discuss the approach for managing and rewarding individual and team performances.
• Explain how the program works and how employees can achieve recognition.
• Find ways to motivate and inspire others.
• Learn how to communicate needs, expectations and goals clearly.
• Avoid micromanagement to complete assignments.
• Deliver praise in a sincere and timely manner.

9. Recognize employees regularly through expected channels to highlight their development efforts and achievements.

10. Maintain the overall development program.

Evaluating and Improving a Program

1. Measure progress and results against previously identified program goals or benchmarks.

2. Ask managers for feedback about employees.

3. Ask employees for program feedback.

4. Deploy an employee engagement survey.

5. Adjust the program if it is not meeting set goals or employees' needs.

This checklist is merely a guideline. It is neither meant to be exhaustive nor meant to be construed as legal advice. It does not address all potential compliance issues with federal, provincial or local standards. Consult your licensed representative at The Complete Manager Makeover Membership or legal counsel to address possible compliance requirements.