University of California, Berkeley

Helping Employees Develop Professionally

One very important responsibility of a supervisor or manager is to help your staff with their professional and career development. You can do this by providing opportunities for them to develop the knowledge, skills, abilities, tools, resources, and opportunities to be successful in their job and career. Examples include providing on-the-job training and coaching, giving them performance goals and feedback, asking about and supporting their development goals, and helping them write an individual development plan (IDP)  (Word).

Although the primary responsibility for an individual’s development rests with the individual, the supervisor/manager has an important role in:

  • Encouraging
  • Supporting
  • Removing obstacles
  • Providing resources for their development

In the IDP process, the individual staff member should initiate the process and do most of the writing of the plan themselves. As a supervisor or manager, you should:

  • Meet with them to discuss their plan
  • Provide feedback on their goals
  • Provide suggestions for development activities
  • Help them set realistic timeframes
  • Help them troubleshoot potential obstacles
  • Schedule periodic (quarterly or semi-annually) meetings to monitor their progress
  • Make revisions to their plan as appropriate, and acknowledge results

Supporting the growth and development of your staff is vitally important in helping them be as productive and successful as possible in their current role, encouraging motivation and retention, and setting them up for career opportunities. It is your job to help your staff be the best they can be.


While the IDP is not binding, managers should make every effort to ensure that each employee is given time for the training and developmental opportunities listed on his IDP. Chronic failure to make time for previously agreed upon learning opportunities will breed cynicism and mistrust, completely undermining the IDP's motivational benefits.

Finally, after the employee has attended a training course, it is important to follow up and ensure that he has an opportunity to put the training to good use quickly before the new knowledge and/or skills become a distant memory. This may be a challenge given that an employee who has been out of the office for a week will usually return to find a full in-box. Nevertheless, it is necessary to ensure that the training has the intended benefits for both the employee and the organization.