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.
Introducing a professional development plan (PDP) and creating PDP goals for your employees can help improve job satisfaction and retention rates.
In a 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.
LinkedIn’s 2022 Workplace Learning Report found that “companies that excel at internal mobility retain employees for an average of 5.4 years, nearly twice as long as companies that struggle with it, where the average retention span is 2.9 years”. This means that employees who want to grow will grow (and go) elsewhere.
The first step when creating training plans and setting PDP goals 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 objectives 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 you develop any training, the starting point is asking your employees open-ended questions about their goals. These questions will help you get a better understanding of how your employees measure their success and what’s important to them outside of work, enabling them to set PDP goals that reflect them.
A professional development plan should be an official document that is filled out by the employee and their respective manager.
A PDP should break down the employee’s PDP goals into short-term and long-term, prioritize them, and outline step-by-step how the employee can work toward each goal. 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 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 as well as an assessment of opportunities and potential threats to goals.
Training plans should be a realistic reflection of your organization's needs and budget.
Training can be done internally, or through a third-party organization. There’s a wide range of different types of training to consider.
LinkedIn Learning 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.
Using the example of someone who wants to move into management, effective training for them will vary for several reasons. If they’re 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 together with setting up access to online learning management systems such as Thinkific or Rippling for employees to use.
Additionally, it’s important to encourage employees to do as much as their learning as possible on-the-clock. Doing so shows that their development is a part of their job and 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 entirely. 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 potential job candidates and help bolster your overall appeal as an employer.