Growth from within is very important to the long-term health – and growth - of your organization.  It also ensures that you have leaders for the future and aids in employee retention.

But employee development doesn’t just happen. It takes a concerted effort on the part of management to establish a road map for each employee in terms of where the employee wants to go within the organization (which leadership position they aspire to) and what skills they will need to get there.

The process starts with an annual performance review designed to be a one-on-one meeting between the employee and his or her supervisor. From that meeting, an Individual Development Plan is created. It should highlight two or three goals the employee needs to work on until the next review.

Goals need to be specific, measurable, agreed upon, realistic and time-based.

A note of caution: don’t just focus on areas of weakness. Look for the untapped strengths of the employee that can have a positive impact on the business if leveraged properly.

When meeting with an employee, the supervisor needs to assess whether the employee’s goals are realistic, determine what resources and training they will need to reach those goals, and define what achieving the goals means to the success of the organization.

While plans can be developed for a specific group of people during the early stages of an employee’s tenure, plans need to be tailored quickly to the individual. And remember all employees — including senior management and the leadership team — should have a specific development plan.

At a minimum, the plan should be reviewed twice a year to ensure that there is continual progress toward the established goals. The review gives the supervisor the opportunity to support or refocus the efforts of the employee. What you are striving for with the Individual Development Plan is a living, breathing document which can evolve and change as old goals are met and new ones added.

The plan needs to be in writing to help everyone involved stay focused and on track. Without a written plan, it’s too easy to wander away from the goals and it can lead to misunderstandings about exactly what the agreed upon goals were.

To measure the success of the development plan, ask yourself if the employee achieved the identified goals and whether they acquired new skills or improved existing ones.

If goals were not met, find out what happened and reset goals to reflect lessons learned. Was the goal too ambitious? Did you fail to provide the necessary support to the employee? Did the employee fail to take advantage of the resources that were made available?

Failure to focus on employee development means a lack of skill development, something you can ill afford to risk in this ever changing industry. And it could also result in loss of talent and growth from an organizational standpoint. It is important for the long-term success of your fleet that you build “bench strength” and have employees in place who you are grooming to take over leadership positions. Of course when management positions open up you can hire from outside but it’s far better to already have employees in place whose skills have been developed to the point where they can step into a new role.

Fleets that can take employees and help them grow are the most likely to succeed in the long run. It is a careful balance of managing both new and existing human capital. As employees grow, so does the success of the organization. Your most important assets walk in and out of your building every day.