Employees are the most important ‘asset’ of any organization—and people want to work for an organization that works to support them too. One way to show your support for employees is by creating an effective professional development plan.
According to a recent PayScale survey, 2 of 3 employees list a lack of employee training and development as a large contributing factor in deciding to quit. Introducing a professional development plan (PDP) and creating PDP goals for your employees can help improve job satisfaction and your retention rate.
A good learning and development program is not just about setting a generic, arbitrary list of goals. Instead, it’s a way to keep employees motivated and accountable. PDP goals can be small in scope but they should all serve the employee and in turn, serve you (the employer) by creating happier and more engaged employees.
In LinkedIn’s 2019 Workplace Learning Report, 75% of employees stated that they would take a course assigned by their manager, and conversely, in another study by The Learning Wave, 74% of employees said that they felt they were not achieving their full potential at work and, as a result, desired more in-depth training sessions.
Organizations that don’t emphasize professional development are likely to see higher rates of turnover, meaning that employees who want to grow, will grow (and go) elsewhere.
The first step when creating training plans is to examine the goals of your organization as a whole, then at the departmental level, and finally at the individual level.
Your first goal is to create goals that feed into each other and help your employees, and your organization, to grow. At this initial stage, it’s vital that employees are included in the conversation, as learning objectives will vary from person to person and will be highly individualized. Employees should set goals for themselves, through a variety of means and methods, to create training and development programs that suit their needs.
Before developing training, the starting point should be to ask employees questions about their goals. These questions should be open ended, and help you to get a better understanding of how your employees measure their success and what is important to them outside of work, enabling them to set PDP goals that reflect that.
As for how to create a professional development plan, it should be an official document that is filled out by the employee and their respective manager.
It should break down the employee’s PDP goals into short-term and long-term goals, prioritize them, and outline step-by-step how the employee can work toward their goals. For example, if one of your employee’s goals is to move into a management position, then a breakdown of their step-by-step PDP goals may look something like this:
- Research management courses
- Get approval from HR for courses (if applicable)
- Apply for courses
- Complete skill training
- Shadow current management
- Do a skill-gap analysis
- Determine how I (the employee) can fill the skill-gap
- Apply for management role(s)
A good plan will also feature deadlines and an assessment of opportunities and potential threats to goals.
Choosing a training plan should reflect your organization's needs and budget, and what will benefit the majority of your staff.
Training can be done internally, or through a third-party organization. There’s a wide range of different types of training to consider.
The LinkedIn Learning Report highlights the importance of knowing your learner in order to effectively train employees, emphasizing “that social, mobile, manager involvement, and self-directed learning opportunities will increase engagement.” Training content should be available in a variety of ways, to meet the needs of all employees.
For the example of someone who wants to move into management, effective training for them will vary for several reasons. If they are one of the few employees interested in management roles, their employee training program may be one that’s more one-on-one and mentorship based. However, if there are multiple people interested in leadership, then workshop-style training may be appropriate, as well as setting up access to learning management systems online for employee use.
Additionally, it’s important to encourage employees, as much as possible, to be doing their learning on-the-clock. It shows that their development is as important to you as it is to them.
It’s crucial to set your employees up for success by keeping them accountable, but also keep in mind that goals and priorities can often shift or change. Schedule regular check-ins with employees to determine how they’re progressing with meeting their PDP goals, and whether their goals need to be shifted or revised entirely.
Employees who feel supported in meeting their goals are more likely to stay with your organization long-term. While PDPs are vital for employee retention, they’re also valuable to candidates and help bolster your overall appeal to potential employees. Offering training and advancement opportunities is a desirable job perk, particularly to anyone new to the workforce or looking to shift careers.