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Career Development Programs and Succession Planning

19 January, 2016 - 15:28

Another important aspect to training is career development programs. A career development program is a process developed to help people manage their career, learn new things, and take steps to improve personally and professionally. Think of it as a training program of sorts, but for individuals. Sometimes career development programs are called professional development plans.

Figure 8.5 Sample Career Development Plan Developed by an Employee and Commented on by Her Manager 

As you can see, the employee developed goals and made suggestions on the types of training that could help her meet her goals. Based on this data, the manager suggested in-house training and external training for her to reach her goals within the organization.

Career development programs are necessary in today’s organizations for a variety of reasons. First, with a maturing baby-boom population, newer employees must be trained to take those jobs once baby boomers retire. Second, if an employee knows a particular path to career development is in place, this can increase motivation. A career development plan usually includes a list of short- and long-term goals that employees have pertaining to their current and future jobs and a planned sequence of formal and informal training and experiences needed to help them reach the goals. As this chapter has discussed, the organization can and should be instrumental in defining what types of training, both in-house and external, can be used to help develop employees.

To help develop this type of program, managers can consider a few components: 1]

  1. Talk to employees. Although this may seem obvious, it doesn’t always happen. Talking with employees about their goals and what they hope to achieve can be a good first step in developing a formal career development program.
  2. Create specific requirements for career development. Allow employees to see that if they do A, B, and C, they will be eligible for promotion. For example, to become a supervisor, maybe three years of experience, management training, and communication training are required. Perhaps an employee might be required to prove themselves in certain areas, such as “maintain and exceed sales quota for eight quarters” to be a sales manager. In other words, in career development there should be a clear process for the employees to develop themselves within the organization.
  3. Use cross-training and job rotation. Cross-training is a method by which employees can gain management experience, even if for short periods of time. For example, when a manager is out of the office, putting an employee “in charge” can help the employee learn skills and abilities needed to perform that function appropriately. Through the use of job rotation, which involves a systematic movement of employees from job to job within an organization, employees can gain a variety of experiences to prepare them for upward movement in the organization.
  4. Utilize mentors. Mentorship can be a great way for employees to understand what it takes to develop one’s career to the next level. A formal mentorship program in place with willing mentees can add value to your career development program.
Figure 8.6 Career Development Sample Process to Become an Accounts Payable Manager

There are many tools on the web, including templates to help employees develop their own career development plans. Many organizations, in fact, ask employees to develop their own plans and use those as a starting point for understanding long-term career goals. Then hopefully the organization can provide them with the opportunities to meet these career goals. In the late 1980s, many employees felt that career opportunities at their current organizations dwindled after seeing the downsizing that occurred. It gave employees the feeling that companies were not going to help develop them, unless they took the initiative to do so themselves. Unfortunately, this attitude means that workers will not wait for career opportunities within the company, unless a clear plan and guide is put into place by the company. 2 Here is an example of a process that can be used to put a career development program in place: 3

  1. Meet individually with employees to identify their long-term career interests (this may be done by human resources or the direct manager).
  2. Identify resources within the organization that can help employees achieve their goals. Create new opportunities for training if you see a gap in needs versus what is currently offered.
  3. Prepare a plan for each employee, or ask them to prepare the plan.
  4. Meet with the employee to discuss the plan.
  5. During performance evaluations, revisit the plan and make changes as necessary.

Identifying and developing a planning process not only helps the employee but also can assist the managers in supporting employees in gaining new skills, adding value, and motivating employees.

Figure 8.7 Career Development Planning Process 

Key Takeaways

  • There are a number of key considerations in developing a training program. Training should not be handled casually but instead developed specifically to meet the needs of the organization. This can be done by a needs assessment consisting of three levels: organizational, occupational, and individual assessments.
  • The first consideration is the delivery mode; depending on the type of training and other factors, some modes might be better than others.
  • Budget is a consideration in developing training. The cost of materials, but also the cost of time, should be considered.
  • The delivery style must take into account people’s individual learning styles. The amount of lecture, discussion, role plays, and activities are considered part of delivery style.
  • The audience for the training is an important aspect when developing training. This can allow the training to be better developed to meet the needs and the skills of a particular group of people.
  • The content obviously is an important consideration. Learning objectives and goals for the training should be developed before content is developed.
  • After content is developed, understanding the time constraints is an important aspect. Will the training take one hour or a day to deliver? What is the time line consideration in terms of when people should take the training?
  • Letting people know when and where the training will take place is part of communication.
  • The final aspect of developing a training framework is to consider how it will be measured. At the end, how will you know if the trainees learned what they needed to learn?
  • A career development process can help retain good employees. It involves creating a specific program in which employee goals are identified and new training and opportunities are identified and created to help the employee in the career development process.


  1. Develop a rough draft of a training framework using for a job you find on
  2. Write three learning objectives you think would be necessary when developing orientation training for a receptionist in an advertising firm.
  3. Why is a career development plan important to develop personally, even if your company doesn’t have a formal plan in place? List at least three reasons and describe.