May 10, 2024
March 1, 2024

Creating an Effective Professional Development Plan

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Professional development for employees is a big topic, but it’s also an important one. So important, in fact, that 94% of employees say they’d stay at their company longer if the company made an effort to help them learn and grow. However, on the flip side, 86% of professionals say that they would change jobs if the new company offered them opportunities for professional development.

So how do you nail professional development, this benefit that nearly 100% of employees are willing to stay or leave depending on whether they get it?

The best solution is actually something that employees can do for themselves to help you in your professional development strategy: an employee professional development plan (PDP).

As employees create their own PDP, they’ll clarify their own goals and help their company and leaders know where they want to grow and improve so that the company can offer effective training and development.

What Is a Professional Development Plan (PDP)?

A professional development plan is a step-by-step guide for personal and professional growth. The plan can and should include things like:

  • A self assessment of where you are now
  • SMART goals
  • Specific skills to develop along with actionable steps
  • A timeline

A PDP helps you get your goals on paper and helps you think about and plan exactly what you need to do—and what the company can help you with—as you try to accomplish your goals, learn new skills, and develop your professional life.

5 Steps for Developing a Professional Development Plan

If you want to create a PDP for yourself, here are the five steps you need to go through to nail it.

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1. Do a Self-Assessment

Where are you at now in your career? What skills do you have and what do you enjoy doing? What are your hopes for the future? Where do you want to end up, and what skills are required for you to get there?

Evaluating yourself is the first step to understanding where you want to go. 

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2. Set SMART Goals

We all know SMART goals: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. Keep that in mind as you set short-term goals for the next weeks and months; mid-term goals for the next quarter or two; and long-term goals for the next year or even longer.

It may help to think of it this way: create a long-term goal, and then break it down into manageable mid- and short-term goals. For example, if you want to become a creative director in five years, what can you do in the next year to move toward that goal? Or the next month?

Goals should stretch you without being too intimidating, and they should build into each other. Talk to your manager to find out how you can set goals that fit your responsibilities and help the team.

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3. Develop Your Strategies

What strategies do you have to accomplish the goals you’ve set? Some examples of strategies include:

  • Learning through experiences (doing things yourself)
  • Learning from others
  • Higher education

Hands-on experience is crucial, but don’t forget about other methods of learning. Research educational courses, try to find a mentor in your company, ask your manager for broader responsibilities; the possibilities are endless.

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4. Gather Necessary Resources

You have a plan in place, so now it’s time to get what you need to put it into action. Resources such as books, continuing education courses, professional network connections, webinars, workshops, peer mentors, and even social media platforms can be great sources of learning and development.

Do some research into what you need. Ask your manager to help you if you’re not sure how to obtain certain resources.

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5. Establish a Timeline

Now for the glue that holds everything together. Once you have long-term, mid-term, and short-term goals, along with strategies and resources to help you through each step of the way, it’s time to set up a timeline.

This is something only you can decide as you think about your goals and how much time and effort you plan to dedicate to accomplishing them. And don’t forget to schedule time for reflecting and adjusting your PDP as you develop.

Employee Professional Development Plan Example

Your professional development plan is personal and should fit your wants and goals, but Indeed does have a helpful article with some examples and a template to help you get started.

4 Ways Company Leaders Can Help Employees Create Professional Development Plans

Seeing the above 5-step strategy may be overwhelming for employees, but not if their company helps them through the whole thing. Helping employees develop personalized PDPs is the first step to building an amazingly effective professional development strategy that retains and engages your best talent.

Here are five steps for companies to help employees create professional development plans.

1. Provide Time, Space, and Resources for Self-Assessments

Have your employees complete a company-sponsored self-assessment. Create an assessment that helps them think about the skills, career opportunities, and interests that they have. Make sure managers have access to these surveys because they’re going to be working closely with employees throughout this process.

2. Assess Each Employees Skills Yourself

Managers should also complete an assessment of the employee, including things like technical skills, social skills, attitude, and aptitude. What are they good at? Where can they improve? Then, compare the results of each assessment to get a clear picture of where employees want and need to improve.

3. Assess the Team, Department, and Company Needs

Leaders need to assess the gaps in their teams, departments, and the company as a whole. This way, managers can help employees grow in ways that will benefit not just them, but the organization.

4. Work on Strategies and Provide Resources

Now leaders need to sit down with each employee individually to hash out the details of their PDP. What are their goals and how do those align with the company’s needs and goals? What strategies can the organization provide and what resources can the employee get?

Consider hosting webinars, seminars, or workshops if enough employees have similar goals and interests. Be open to spreading around new responsibilities and setting up mentorships.

Retain Your Talent—Empower Professional Development

Empowering professional development is more than just hosting the occasional workshop. It’s taking development to an individual level by working with employees to help them set personal goals, get the resources they need, and improve themselves.

As a company, you have resources and connections that your people don’t—show them that you care by investing those resources into employee growth.