This article explains why professional development plans are critical, offers a five-step framework for creating one, and outlines five development plan examples you can start leveraging immediately.

But first, let’s define what a professional development plan is.

What is a Professional Development Plan (PDP)?

A professional development plan (PDP) is a strategic document that outlines an individual’s goals for career advancement and the steps necessary to achieve them. It documents the goals, required skill and competency development, and career objectives an employee will need to accomplish to support continuous improvement and career development. The human resource manager creates a professional development plan by working closely with the employee to identify the necessary skills and resources to support their career goals and the organization’s business needs.

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Professional development begins when a new employee joins your team. In addition, all employees should have an existing professional development plan in place. Professional development plans should be reviewed throughout the year, with at least one interim feedback discussion between the employee and supervisor before the yearly performance review period ends.

Why are critical for employees and organizations?

Professional development plans help employees boost their knowledge/skills and competencies while also benefiting overall business goals. Here are a few benefits:

  1. Enhanced motivation: They elevate employee motivation and engagement, leading to increased job satisfaction and a more contented workplace. The aspiration for personal growth is prevalent, though it varies among generations.
  2. Transparent progression: These programs bolster transparency within the organization. Outlining the development plan and providing support is crucial. A consistent professional development plan for all levels of employees fosters a transparent culture.
  3. Economical mobility: Investing in development is a cost-effective alternative to external hiring, promoting internal mobility. It’s particularly beneficial during economic challenges, as it addresses skill gaps more efficiently than the external job market.
  4. Resilient teams: Upskilling employees strengthens team resilience and adaptability, aiding in succession planning and enhancing business returns.
  5. Retention through clarity: A well-defined career path within the company is key to retaining employees. Career development and certifications help reduce turnover and the costs associated with new hires.

Next up? Let’s dig into the steps to create a professional development plan for your employees.

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Steps for creating a professional development plan

Implementing employee training programs at your organization is critical to supporting your team’s continuous improvement and career development. You can use the following steps to create a professional development plan for your employees.

Step 1: Conduct a self-assessment

First, employees should consider their current roles and objectives as well as their career interests and the challenges they face. It will help them recognize their strengths and weaknesses and also define their ultimate career goals. The self-assessment stage of creating a professional development plan includes answering questions such as:

  1. What are their current job role and responsibilities?
  2. What aspects of their job do they enjoy the most?
  3. What are their professional strengths, weaknesses, skill sets, and competencies?
  4. What other transferable skills do they already have?
  5. What are some of their weaknesses and areas they need improvement?
  6. Do their interests/goals support the organization’s needs and goals?
  7. What are their short and long-term steps to get there?

With this information in hand, you can guide and support your employees in their self-assessment.

Step 2: Assess the department and organization’s needs

In order for a professional development plan to be successful, the employee’s needs and interests must be applied to address organizational objectives. Employees’ career aspirations should complement the company’s long-term goals. To do so, identify the skills currently lacking within the department and tailor the development plan to bridge these gaps, thereby enhancing the overall competency of the team. Anticipate future industry trends and organizational changes. Prepare employees to adapt to new technologies, methodologies, or market conditions. Moreover, establish clear performance indicators that can measure the success of the professional development initiatives and their impact on the organization.

Step 3: Set clear development goals

The next step is for your team members to set short-term and long-term professional development goals. You should encourage your employees to set SMART goals to make the objectives realistic, measurable, and timely. Here’s a breakdown of the SMART framework tailored to professional development:

  1. Specific: Goals should detail what needs to be accomplished and outline the steps required to achieve them.
  2. Measurable: Each goal should have specific criteria for measuring progress and success. This could include benchmarks, deadlines, or key performance indicators (KPIs) that allow the employee and the organization to track advancement.
  3. Achievable: The goals set should be realistic and attainable. They should challenge the employee but also consider their current skills, available resources, and time constraints.
  4. Relevant: Goals must align with the employee’s career aspirations and passions and the organization’s strategic needs.
  5. Timely: There should be a clearly defined timeline for achieving the goals. This includes setting reasonable deadlines and creating a sense of urgency to motivate progress.

By adhering to the SMART criteria, professional development plans can guide employees toward meaningful growth that benefits themselves and their organization.

Step 4: Create an action plan

The third step of developing a professional development plan is to set the strategies employees will use to achieve their initiatives. At this stage, people need to consider the following questions:

  1. Does the employee know how they will attain the objectives, or do they need to analyze them in detail or talk to a professional?
  2. Do they need any prior qualifications to reach the objectives?
  3. Which skills and experiences do they require to reach the next level?

Step 5: Record and analyze the progress

Collect feedback from the employees about their development progress to assist in identifying what the employees are doing well, build on their skills (hard and soft), correct any problems that may arise, and assist them in developing new capabilities that will improve employee’s personal performance as well as organizational development. Use an employee performance log to track, record, and provide feedback from staff members. Record important dates, events, job roles, expectations, and the effect of steps taken for their development. Make sure to document:

  1. Observations of enhanced skills/knowledge and how they were applied later.
  2. Progress towards overall objectives.
  3. Observations where knowledge/skills could be applied – use for future discussion.

So, are you ready to invest in employee training at your organization? Get in touch with us today.


5 Professional Development Plan Examples to Help Your Teams Grow

5 Professional Development Plan Examples to Help Your Teams Grow

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: What is a professional development plan?

A: A professional development plan (PDP) is a strategic document that outlines an individual’s career advancement goals and the steps necessary to achieve them.

Q: What are the benefits of a development plan?

A: Professional development plans elevate employee motivation and engagement, leading to increased job satisfaction and a more contented workplace. The aspiration for personal growth is prevalent, though it varies among generations.

Q: What do you write in a professional development plan?

A: Employees should consider their current roles, objectives, interests, and challenges. This will help them identify their actual strengths and weaknesses and define their career goals.

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