Professional development plans are essential for growth and successful career progression, but you’ll need to nail them from the start to get the results you want.
We all have characteristics that make us good at what we do and influence the ways in which we work, impacting upon the progress we make. A combination of our strengths and weaknesses, our natural abilities and qualities that help us stand out and skills, experience and knowledge acquired along the way. Understanding how these individual elements come into play within our day-to-day work life and the achievement of our professional goals is the key to a successful and productive career, both for business leaders and employees.
Here we explore the benefits of professional development plans and how the use of professional development tools and resources can help you to more effectively motivate and support the people powering your business.
What is a professional development plan?
A professional development plan is a personalised roadmap set out to summarise goals you would like to achieve in relation to your career development. A solid professional development plan provides structure and support which enables you and your employees to improve existing skills and learn new ones, whilst developing within your role. When executing your plan, it’s likely that you’ll use a selection of personal development tools to boost your progress. These can include anything from professional development courses to OKR coaching.
Effective professional development plans take into account a holistic overview of your working life, which also includes external elements such as personal development and natural strengths and weaknesses. Some time and care are needed to ensure that your professional development plan is fit for purpose. You should also carry out regular reviews to ensure you’re staying on track and identify which areas may require additional support.
The benefits of professional development plans
There are numerous benefits to creating and developing a roadmap for your professional progression, either for yourself or for your employees and team members. These include:
Clearly identifying skills and strengths: Professional development plans provide an opportunity to reflect on what we’re good at and where we can improve, as well as behaviours and attitudes you want to develop in the future.
Realistic and informed planning: Being able to see where each person is right now and where they are headed should inform your overall approach when considering company objectives and how you’ll achieve them, through better understanding where each person fits in with the attainment of those wider goals.
Provides evidence of achievements and skills: A professional development plan also serves as a record of a person’s achievements and growth in their role, as well as any specific skills and qualifications gained along the way. This in itself also leads to our next point – as humans, we’re more motivated when we see progress, which a professional development plan sets out in black and white.
Enhanced motivation and productivity: Having a plan in place to support professional development often helps employees to feel safe to grow, with clear steps to help them achieve personal goals.
How to write a professional development plan for an employee
Knowing how to write a professional development plan for yourself is one thing – but understanding how to do that for employees requires a slightly different approach. Some key things to consider when determining how to write a professional development plan for an employee include:
Taking your time
Successfully writing a professional development plan takes some time. Revisions may need to be made, you may need several meetings with the employee to position it perfectly depending on their role within your business – it’s a process within itself. Rushing the creation of a professional development plan can really impact how effective and personalised it will be, in turn, impairing the positive influence it can have.
Make it specific
Many companies use a set template for every single employee which is filled in and reviewed periodically – but you won’t get the best out of the process this way. Professional development plans should be fully tailored to each individual, with templates used as a framework to apply detail to.
You should also tailor your personal development tools to each employee’s needs, as everyone has varying learning styles to accommodate for.
One purpose of professional development plans is to motivate and inspire – so if you aren’t realistic you’re likely to set the employee up to fail. Remember, as much as the plan relates back to the employee’s role within your business, it must also resonate with them and feel achievable to them. For this to happen it must be based on a mutual; understanding of what’s in their future, not solely on your idea of how things should be moving forward.
Ask for expert help
If you’re struggling to find the time and resources to effectively write and implement professional development plans for your team, or simply don’t know where to start, getting expert support could help to speed up and streamline the process – more on this below.
Use a professional development evaluation tool
There are a variety of professional development tools that can be used intelligently to enhance employee performance and facilitate personal growth. This includes targeted training in-person or online, webinars, blogs, TED Talks and even good old-fashioned self-development books.
Play to their strengths
It’s tempting (and common) for companies to use a professional development plan to communicate perceived weaknesses or areas for improvement, neglecting to play up the employee’s strengths. Whilst it’s helpful to identify where an employee needs development and support, be sure to build on and develop skills and qualities they already possess.
Using OKRs for professional development
The versatility and flexibility of OKRs make them a perfect fit when it comes to putting professional development plans in place. In fact, OKRs are amongst the most widely-used and effective professional development tools.
Breaking down the larger professional objective within your development plan and making it measurable and time-bound allows you to clearly see where progress is being made.
How can TBG help?
Our Giants know the benefits of professional development tools all too well – but we also understand that time and resources within businesses are often scarce, and navigating the many potential pitfalls of setting professional development plans can be daunting. That’s why we specialise in sensitive, personalised support for businesses, setting up successful, structured goal-setting and evaluation methods to enable employees to flourish and grow within your organisation, in turn facilitating multiple benefits for your business. Find out more about what we do here.