The Career Development Plan - A Quick Guide for Managers and Supervisors

By Jose Adolfo Trueba

A Career Development Plan is a written list of the short and long-term goals that employees have pertaining to their current and future jobs, and a planned sequence of formal and informal experiences to assist the employees in achieving their goals. These goals should be linked to each person's strengths and potential.

Career Development Plans are usually optional. But they should be recommended to all employees, so that their short-term growth and development objectives are aligned and supported by their managers or supervisors and their long-term career expectations are realistic.

Purpose of a Career Development Plan

Ultimately, the purpose of a Career Development Plan is to assist employees in achieving their goals. In doing so, an organization also increases the likelihood of retaining employees, because employees recognize that managers have helped employees achieve their career goals within the organization, rather than employees believing they need to leave to pursue these goals somewhere else.

The Career Development Plan also helps employees set realistic expectations of career growth by suggesting time frames for certain milestones to happen (like promotions) and identifying areas that employees need to develop before becoming eligible for their next career milestone. Note, too, that Career Development Plans are just plans; they do not represent career commitments to the employee nor the Manager or Supervisor.

Format of a Career Development Plan

As a manager or supervisor, encourage the use of an Individual Career Development Plan (ICDP) format for all of your employees. Once you have explained the value of the ICDP, you can emphasize that employees need to take responsibility for creating this form for themselves and provide the following information:

  • Short-term career goals/objectives (1-5 years),
  • Long-term career goals/objectives (+5 years)
  • Development experiences in the short term:
    • Summary statement
    • Education and training
    • Job assignments
    • Developmental activities

Process for Supporting Your Employee's Career Development Plan

Here are some steps for supporting an effective development plan for your employees.  Discussions and plans about development should focus on two dimensions: specific technical and functional expertise and overall demonstration, by the employee, of the organization's culture, philosophy and values. 

  1. Meet individually with your employees to identify their long-term career interests. It should be based on their previous performance review, their objectives for the current performance period, and feedback provided to you throughout the year. Specifically, ask the employee to state goals for the short term (1-5 years) and long-term (+5 years). Also ask the employee about his or her current job: whether she or he is interested in receiving any special types of assignments, participating in any training courses, or contributing in new ways to the department. Record the information.
  2. After the meeting, identify resources within your organization that can help the employee achieve his or her goals. Also consider helpful resources outside of the organization.
    • Formal training within the organization
    • Mentoring
    • Local assignments
    • Books, manuals, other print and electronic media
    • External education (e.g. university courses)

      Discuss with the employee any resources that may help implement the plan and meet defined goals.  Resources may include other people who could monitor progress and/or provide ongoing feedback; customers; other supervisors' feedback; and financial support to attend training or educational courses.
  3. Prepare the plan. A development plan should be used throughout the year to note the employee's completed activities and follow-up activities. In addition, add his/her development goals to the overall objective-setting plan for the year.
  4. Meet in-person with the employee to review the proposed plan, and based on feedback, revise it, adjust it and confirm alignment by providing your signature and obtaining the employee's signature. If appropriate, file the ICDP form in the employee's personnel file. Make certain you keep a copy of the Plan and also make certain your employee keeps a copy. This will help focus your future meetings with each employee. 
  5. At the mid-year review and year-end performance review, meet with the employee to assess progress against the plan, changes in career goals (if appropriate), and revise the plan to adjust it, if necessary.  


Trueba Career Development Plan graphic


The Career Development Plan, as described here, can be a very useful tool for career development practitioners working inside organizations.  Career professionals can offer it to managers as a way to encourage the development of those they supervise.  Used appropriately, it can help the manager focus on supporting employees in gaining new skills, while adding value to their organizations.  It also helps employees stay on track and move forward in their careers.

José Adolfo Trueba (trueba@avaya.com) has more than 17 years of experience in the design and implementation of Career Development plans. As part of his Professional background, he worked for IBM as a member of the "IBM Worldwide Professions Counsel" being responsible for Latin America region. This Counsel was responsible for the design of the IBM Worldwide Career Development Portfolio for all the IBM employees.  He currently works in Mexico for Avaya Communication being responsible for Career Development strategies not only for Mexico, but also for CaLA (Caribbean and Latin America) region in Avaya Global Services Division.

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