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Developing staff

The development of staff should be an on-going consideration for employers and their managers.  A manager should regularly discuss with their team members what opportunities may be available and listen to what sort of development they might be interested in. 

Why develop staff?

Individuals will bring different skills and behaviours to a job when they are recruited, so regular development can help them master their new responsibilities.

Even once fully trained in their role, further development is important. Offering staff suitable development opportunities can help you to:

  • keep them motivated in their work
  • build loyalty towards your organisation
  • provide them with the skills to progress their career
  • fill identified skill gaps within your organisation
  • help the organisation stay ahead of your competitors.


Personal development plans

A personal development plan is where your employee's development needs are set out. The plan need not be complicated but should include: 

  • the development needed
  • how the development will be achieved
  • when the development will be achieved
  • how the achievement will be measured.

It should be agreed between the manager and employee.

Performance conversations provide a good opportunity to talk about training needs, relevant interests and agree a personal development plan. Future conversations should then check on the employee's progress.

The development plan could also be included as part of the employees record of performance. For more information go to our guidance on Measuring staff performance.

Common ways to develop staff

As with any training and development there will be many ways to help employees develop. Development opportunities could include:

  • working alongside or shadowing more experienced staff members
  • the manager delegating more challenging tasks
  • temporarily moving to a different area of the organisation to learn new skills
  • providing a mentor and/or buddy
  • arranging external/online training courses
  • supporting membership of career-relevant associations or institutes
  • help with study for higher level management and other qualifications
  • arranging coaching sessions

Coaching staff

Coaching is an increasingly common approach used by organisations to develop staff and ensure expected standards of performance are being met.

Coaching sessions can give a team member the opportunity to reflect on their own performance and help build confidence in their own abilities.

Coaching usually involves a manager:

  • arranging a time to shadow the team member undertaking a set task
  • taking a break to have an informal discussion about how the task went
  • asking the team member to self-evaluate what went well and what could be improved
  • giving feedback for them to consider
  • encouraging the team member to consider whether a different approach may have led to a better outcome
  • agreeing goals for the future

Supporting staff who may refuse development opportunities

Staff may not always want to develop further. For example, pressures outside of work may mean they just want to do the job they are expected to do.

As long as the employee is not underperforming, staff should not be pressured into agreeing to development opportunities.

However, managers should still talk to staff about their interests. While they may not want to commit to certain development opportunities, their manager should consider how they can stop them getting bored in their role and keep them motivated in their role.

Additionally, while they may not currently want to develop further, it can still be reassuring for an employee to know that the opportunity to develop will be there should their circumstances change in the future.

Further tools and training available

Acas offers training courses and e-learning on Performance Management. These are designed for supervisors, managers, team leaders and HR professionals tasked with creating new processes.

View event dates and locations

Access Acas learning online

We can also offer support for any individual issues your organisation may be facing. Find out more about our in-company services or contact us on our online enquiry form to let us know how we can help.