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Development planning engages the employee and functional manager in a discussion of individual strengths, ambitions, and work preferences relative to company direction, needs, and future opportunities. This formal discussion is planned and documented, occurs at least annually, and includes development goals that can be tracked and reported against. A formal program calls for trained and well-informed managers (a common weakness in many companies), employees with accurate expectations for both the process and their responsibilities, and a documented plan that becomes part of a commitment between the employee and the company.
Preparing managers to conduct career discussions is essential to the success of development planning. Assuming that typical managers have 5-10 direct reports, that such discussions are held twice or more per year, and that these sessions communicate a company’s interest in long-term employment with each employee, a manager's capabilities should be well-honed.