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Employee Development Plans

  • 1.  Employee Development Plans

    Posted 26 days ago
    I'm interested in learning others' experiences with employee development plans for engineers. Motivated engineers want to know, "What do I need to do to advance to the next level (of technical capability, pay, responsibility, etc.)?"

    It is common for companies to have a high-level description of the skills required for each engineering pay grade. For example, an Engineer II should have XYZ skills beyond that of an Engineer I. These descriptions end up being rather generic because they apply to all engineering disciplines and all engineering job descriptions. On their own pay grade descriptions are not specific enough to chart a course of employee development.

    What is you experience with how employers guide their engineering employees to identify the next steps in their career progression?

    Kirk Oler PE
    Process Engineer III
    Wacker Chemical Corp
    Oskaloosa IA

  • 2.  RE: Employee Development Plans

    Posted 3 days ago
    The best development plans are one on one coaching. Each engineer is an individual with unique strengths and weaknesses. Many companies have programs for engineers to develop their understanding of themselves and their interactions with others. My department also had monthly seminars where we would take it in turns to lead topics for new engineers to learn and for others to be refreshed.  Topics would range from the important safety equipment relief systems, sis systems, control tuning, alarm management, the chemistry of our processes, troubleshooting techniques, how to use process historians, and the like. These would be in addition to company courses on key process safety, Environmental, and Safety topics. Many vendors will provide seminars with cut-up equipment so engineers can see how pumps, control valves, and other equipment work.  Anyone going to an external course would be expected to do a lunch and learn for other engineers, to share the learning, and to help reinforce the learning for themselves.

    Key professional skills are important to learn, for example, project management, understanding safety-critical equipment, risk-based inspection, selecting materials of construction, corrosion mechanisms. Common problems that occur with different types of equipment, what are the preventative strategies, troubleshooting indicators.  As engineers, we work in teams, so teamwork skills, working in diverse groups and global teams training are all helpful. It's important that we understand the roles and requirements of the others we work with whether that be mechanical, instrument, electrical, automation engineers, and chemists. In addition, we need to understand the financial side of our businesses and the products, the customers, and how the supply chain and logistics work. We need to understand how to interact with different groups and what they do for example and how to interact with them. For plant-based people that might be people that come from research groups or corporate groups and vise versa.

    Another key to development is learning what jobs engineers go on to do within the organization, and having mentors who can talk about their experience of these roles. Hearing from role models can be really inspirational. It's important to know what you don't what to do as well as what you are interested in.

    The best learning has always come from engineers all over the world remembering that they were taught by more senior engineers and from what I have seen are more than willing to develop the new engineers they work with.

    Joan Cordiner FREng,FIChemE,CEng
    Professor of Process Engineering and External Engagement
    Sheffield University

  • 3.  RE: Employee Development Plans

    Posted 2 days ago
    Edited by Steve Cutchen 2 days ago
    As a first-line engineering manager at ARCO Chemical, we used to separate performance appraisals from employee development planning to opposite ends of the calendar. We wanted to firmly distinguish between the type of goal achievement feedback and mentoring we provided as part of a performance appraisal from the forward-looking, motivational, and planning processes that were included in a development plan.

    The development plan was a time for "what do I want to be when I grow up?" The employee would have a chance to express their goals and organizational wishes, and ask for approval for things like cost for outside activites. Often times, the employee's vision was kind of out there. Especially in these cases, the manager would discuss what capabilities needed to be developed or improved in order to help the employee make progress toward their goals. The manager would help steer them—both to where their strengths might lie, and where the company foresaw opportunities and needs—in order to put together a plan to try to achieve them. This process included discussions of things like project or temporary assignments, further formal education plans, plans for exposure to other organizations within the company, outside training,  conference presentation opportunities... all tempered with a reality check of what was achievable, from an assignments perspective, a budget perspective, and from a demonstrated capability perspective.

    Performance appraisals were about past performance and were used for salary administration.

    Development plans were about a plan developed for future performance.


    Under Lyondellbasell, I felt like we degenerated this process. We would identify people with high performance capabilities, and then we would move them around from assignment to assignment, with the goal of giving them a broad base of experiences.

    The problem with this approach is that it created a group of high performance generalists that all believed they were destined for a corner office. There was a term that surfaced; drive-by superintendents.  No one was in a place long enough to develop expertise. And it could result in conflicted goals. If I know I'm not going to be around this place in a few years, my decisions about what to do—immediate reward that looks good on my appraisal versus long-term plans for the good of the site—can be compromised.

    Steve Cutchen
    Investigator, retired
    US Chemical Safety Board
    Houston TX