Creating Professional Development Plans: A Guide for Employers and Employees (2024)

Professional development is the backbone of talent management. It allows employers to expand their employees’ abilities by helping them learn new skills and focus on their career goals, all of which make them better at their jobs. Like with any type of management strategy, you need to have a plan. A professional development plan keeps both your employees and your company focused on high performance and enhanced productivity.

What is a Professional Development Plan?

For employees, a professional development plan can guide them from where they currently are in their careers to where they want to be. Interested in getting into management? Create a professional development plan that includes learning management strategies that will get you towards that goal. Employees can also use professional development plans when interviewing for a new position. A comprehensive plan allows potential employers to understand your short-term and long-term goals.

An employee professional development plan is different from a performance review. The goal of managing performance is for the company to be more successful while a personal professional development plan is about the employee’s career and even may involve switching careers.

How to Create a Professional Development Plan

According to Indeed, there are five steps for creating a professional development plan.


Self-assessment is an evaluation of professional interests, knowledge and skills. It allows an employee to examine his or her current position and how their skills and knowledge fit into the position. The self-assessment shines a light on the areas where an employee needs to improve and grow. It also helps an employee identify their transferable skills. Transferable skills are marketable personal skills or assets that employers seek in candidates like communication, teamwork or leadership.


The clearer the goals, the more likely an employee will be able to accomplish them. When setting goals, make sure they are challenging, rewarding, enthusiastic and daring. An effective goal-setting technique is using SMART goals. SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, results-based and time-bound. Include dates, resources needed, tracking metrics and a completion date. Make sure the goals are challenging but attainable and align with a company’s overall strategy.


Strategies are how you will specifically achieve these goals. Strategies can include mentoring, coaching, attending webinars or conferences, job shadowing and online training. Companies that create a learning and development strategy give employees the tools they need to achieve their goals and improve their skills. When creating a strategy, remember to consider all of the requirements of your workers as each generation learns differently. A mobile-friendly, customizable LMS helps make the process simple. It allows employers to upload training materials, certification requirements and automatically updates.


Resources are the available methods that help employees bring their professional development plans to fruition. Resources can include joining a professional association to make connections, taking courses at a local college or university, attending a conference or sitting in on a webinar. If a current or even desired position requires certification, most likely those can be attained through a continuing education course.

Timelines. A professional development plan should be a flexible framework that grows and adapts to your professional aspirations. Employees should set short, medium and long-term goals but be willing to update when strategies and goals change.

Professional Development Plan Examples

A sample professional plan looks like this:


  • Current position is as a team member but would like to move into a leadership role
  • Have good personal skills with people, ability to prioritize tasks and communication skills
  • Areas of improvement include problem-solving


  • Increase salary by $10,000
  • Be promoted to a leadership position managing other crews


  • Find a mentor
  • Get career coaching by a manager
  • Attend training on problem-solving
  • Complete a leadership course each quarter


  • Access uploaded training videos in LMS
  • Join professional association
  • Take classes at local community college


  • Schedule a coaching session with a manager within a month, sign up for leadership courses
  • Find a mentor within two months
  • Complete training videos and join professional association within six months
  • Complete leadership courses within a year and ask for a promotion

This is just one example of what a professional development plan might look like. There are other ways to improve professional growth and development. Professional development examples include:

  • Attend continuing education by enrolling in courses, workshops and acquiring certificates and accreditations
  • Join professional organizations and attend meetings, conferences and workshops and serve as a board or committee member
  • Improve job performance by keeping up with technology and learning about new developments in your field
  • Use skills-based training to improve current skills, learn new information and receive feedback

Why Every Employer Needs a Professional Development Plan

Professional development plans (PDPs) are great for employees because they map out career progression, but they also benefit employers. An employee with access to learning and development has increased job satisfaction, improved performance and enhanced employee experience. SHRM outlines that employee development is almost universally recognized as a strategic tool for an organization’s continuing growth, productivity and ability to retain valuable employees.

Connect Business Objectives to PDPs

PDPs can help businesses meet their goals and objectives.

Staying Competitive

Companies not only have to compete for market share but also to keep their employees from heading to the competition. Employees want to work for companies that will upgrade their skills which not only benefits them but also affects the company’s productivity.

Reducing Skills Shortages

SHRM research shows 83% of HR professionals have difficulty with recruiting and 75% said they face a skills shortage in candidates. PDPs help identify which hard skills a candidate can bring to an open position or where training can internally fill a need.

Readjusting Business Strategies

As businesses evolve into leaner and more efficient entities, employee development not only ensures your workers can keep up but keeps them engaged, according to SHRM. When executives invest in employees, they let them know they value their abilities.

Increasing Business Output

Employees who are properly trained and receive educational opportunities are better at their job. When they are better at their jobs, they are more productive and companies benefit.

Aligning with Strategic Goals

A company’s strategic goals are typically tied to its core competencies. Core competencies are the abilities and advantages of a company that separates it from the competition. Developing these skills within your employees allows you to stand out from the competition by creating new technology or products or offering excellent customer service.

Get Your Employees’ Feedback

The best way to take the temperature of your workforce, and learn how they feel about their future with your company, is to ask. Employee surveys and ongoing conversations with managers can help companies understand their employees’ career goals. Give employees the opportunity to assess their own skills and abilities. Ask them if there are areas where they’d like to improve and what they need from their manager to make those improvements. Companies can provide educational opportunities and other training options.

Talking with your employees about their future career plans also lets them know you’re invested in them. Establishing a succession plan not only helps to review employee performance but guides your employees along their chosen career path (ideally with your company). Because succession planning offers career advancement opportunities, like training and advancement, not only will you close any skills gaps, but your employees will stay longer.

Review Performance to Assess Potential

Regular performance reviews are indispensable to determine which employees have the potential to move up to fill your company’s managerial positions. According to the Association for Talent Development, it can take three to five years for an employee’s potential to impact her or his career trajectory. On the other hand, performance reviews can also identify readiness in an employee, which could occur tomorrow, next week or next year. Keep in mind that readiness doesn’t equal desire. Just because an employee is ready to advance in her or his career, doesn’t mean they want to or that the timing is right. And also consider that even if an employee has a desire and the readiness to step into a managerial role, doesn’t mean they should.

Being a manager requires a completely different skill set than just being well trained in the position. According to SHRM, a good manager needs to be able to build good working relationships with people, prioritize tasks, consider all factors in decision making, know the key principles of good communication and bring people together to solve problems. A good performance management system can help identify these soft skills in employees and create a staff development plan to move them up the ladder.

Choose Easy-to-Use Performance and Learning Management Systems

Having a professional development plan in place gets everyone on the same page and working toward a specific outcome. Putting that plan to work can be tricky, but there are Performance Management Systems, like Arcoro’s, designed to make it simple, intuitive and effective. A top-line platform will be:

  • Cloud-based for easy on-the-go access on mobile devices
  • Not dependent on special tech
  • Two-way, so team members can give input on their own performance and future
  • Centralized, so each employee’s performance history is together
  • Analytical, so performances can be compared across time and roles
  • Future-focused, with things like career paths and training clear for all parties

A performance management system will also allow you to develop a professional development plan template in order to streamline the process.

Learning management systems take recommendations from performance management and put them into practice. Investing in a good LMS is paramount. Arcoro’s Learning management System features a centralized location for all training through its employee portal which can be used for other core HR functions like performance reviews and onboarding, allowing the entire employee journey to be managed from hire to resignation. The dashboard allows employees to see their learning plan, progress and history. Automatic emails alert employees when they have new assignments or when a deadline is approaching. And the system is entirely cloud-based, so your employees can access it at any time, anywhere, on almost any tech device. No special technology is required, and no special apps need to be downloaded.

Performance and learning management systems help develop professional development plans, set goals and manage your employees’ progress. But more importantly, they put those plans into motion. They allow employees to track their performance and learn new skills, directly from the employee portal. These systems keep the lines of communication open so managers can provide assistance to help their employees achieve their goals.

Creating Professional Development Plans: A Guide for Employers and Employees (1)

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Creating Professional Development Plans: A Guide for Employers and Employees (2024)


How do I create a professional development plan? ›

There are 9 steps to completing a PDP:
  1. Assess where you are now.
  2. Identify your specific career goals.
  3. Gather information.
  4. Identify what professional skills you already have and which you need to work on.
  5. Choose how you will accomplish your goals.
  6. Develop a timeline for accomplishing your specific targets and goals.
20 Sept 2017

What are the five steps in creating a simple thorough professional development plan? ›

  • Step One: Request a self-assessment from the staff member. ...
  • Step Two: Develop your assessment of the individual's skill level. ...
  • Step Three: Assess the department and organization's needs. ...
  • Step Four: Explore development opportunities with the staff member. ...
  • Step Five: Record and analyze the staff member's progress.

What are four 4 Features of a good professional development plan? ›

Regardless, there are always 5 elements that every professional development plan should include. They are assessment, goals, resources, strategy, and evaluation.

What is a professional development plan and why is it important? ›

A personal professional development plan (PDP) is a plan that documents your career goals, both short-term and long-term. On top of documenting goals, your career development plan documents the skills and qualifications you need to reach these goals. For it to be effective, break down your plan into simple steps.

What are the 5 areas of professional development? ›

One such tactic is offering professional development opportunities.
Below are the top five.
  • Management and leadership training. ...
  • Professional certifications. ...
  • Technical skills training. ...
  • Teamwork and interpersonal skills training.

What are the 5 models of professional development? ›

In this article, we will explore five ways for educators to participate in professional learning.
  • 1) Classroom & School Visitations. ...
  • 2) Education Conferences. ...
  • 3) Reading. ...
  • 4) Twitter Chats. ...
  • 5) Online/Asynchronous Professional Learning. ...
  • Conclusion.
13 Jan 2022

What are 3 main ideas around professional development? ›

Improve job performance
  • Keeping up with technology, systems, processes.
  • Learning about new developments in your field.
  • Improving existing skills.

What are the 6 core steps in making a personal development plan? ›

There are six core steps in this template that will help you take action and measure your progress.
  • Step 1: Set Your Goals. ...
  • Step 2: Prioritize Your Goals. ...
  • Step 3: Create a Timeline for Achieving Your Goals. ...
  • Step 4: Analyze Your Strengths and Weaknesses. ...
  • Step 5: Write an Action Plan. ...
  • Step 6: Measure Your Progress.

What is a professional development plan template? ›

About the professional development plan template

Use our professional development template to list goals for your employee's skills and knowledge development over their career with you. In your performance review meeting, rate their progress in the plan and discuss further opportunities that might help them upskill.

What are eight essential professional development tips? ›

These eight strategies can help you to prioritize your professional development, even when you're busy:
  • Focus on objectives.
  • Manage obstacles and distractions.
  • Set boundaries.
  • Make learning a habit.
  • Make every minute count.
  • Learn at your best.
  • Find your own learning style.
  • Collaborate with others.

What are some examples of professional development goals? ›

10 examples of professional development goals
  • Develop a new skill set. ...
  • Develop your workplace skills. ...
  • Take up leadership responsibilities. ...
  • Expand your professional network. ...
  • Level-up your credentials. ...
  • Consume media in your field. ...
  • Find other ways to deepen job satisfaction. ...
  • Take a relevant course.
4 Nov 2022

What are the benefits of professional development to both employers and employees? ›

Offering professional development training programs allows employees to perform better and prepares them for positions of greater responsibility. But it can also help employers attract top job candidates, retain their best workers and identify future leaders.

What is the aim of a professional development plan? ›

A professional development plan (PDP) helps you gain specific insight into how you can reach your career aspirations, such as earning a new certification or finding a mentor who can advise you - and they can especially be helpful during a job search.

What is the most important part of professional development? ›

The Most Important Part of Development

Employee development inspires workers to be loyal and produce innovative ideas. When you give employees a chance to sharpen their skills and expand what they know, they can give their new ideas back to the organization.

What are the 7 categories of professionalism? ›

The eight core characteristics of professionalism are: Competence, Knowledge, Conscientiousness, Integrity, Respect, Emotional Intelligence, Appropriateness, and Confidence.

What are the four stages of professional development? ›

Understanding the process

Career development is an ongoing process consisting of four main recurring steps: self knowledge, exploration, decision-making, and action.

What are the 7 areas of development? ›

We'll now take a brief look at each of these 7 areas and why they are important.
  • Communication and language development. ...
  • Physical development. ...
  • Personal, social, and emotional development. ...
  • Literacy development. ...
  • Mathematics. ...
  • Understanding the world. ...
  • Expressive arts and design.
3 Sept 2016

What is an effective professional development? ›

Ensure that professional development effectively builds knowledge, motivates staff, develops teaching techniques, and embeds practice. The mechanisms that make up effective PD can be split into 4 groups, each of which fulfils a different role.

What are the principles of professional development? ›

Principles for CPD
  • be each person's responsibility and be made possible and supported by your employer.
  • benefit the service users.
  • improve the quality of service delivery.
  • be balanced and relevant to each person's area of practice or employment.
  • be recorded and show the effect on each person's area of practice.

What are the 7 stages of the planning process? ›

How to Strategic Plan in 7 Steps
  • Step 1: Environmental Scan. ...
  • Step 2: Internal Analysis. ...
  • Step 3: Strategic Direction. ...
  • Step 4: Develop Goals and Objectives. ...
  • Step 5: Define Metrics, Set Timelines, and Track Progress. ...
  • Step 6: Write and Publish a Strategic Plan. ...
  • Step 7: Plan for Implementation and the Future.
26 Apr 2022

What are the 5 planning process? ›

Strategic planning process steps

Determine your strategic position. Prioritize your objectives. Develop a strategic plan. Execute and manage your plan.

What are the 8 steps in the planning process? ›

Planning Process
  1. 2.1 1] Recognizing Need for Action.
  2. 2.2 2] Setting Objectives.
  3. 2.3 3] Developing Premises.
  4. 2.4 4] Identifying Alternatives.
  5. 2.5 5] Examining Alternate Course of Action.
  6. 2.6 6] Selecting the Alternative.
  7. 2.7 7] Formulating Supporting Plan.
  8. 2.8 8] Implementation of the Plan.

What is professional development in the workplace examples? ›

There are many ways that an employee can work on their professional development, such as taking classes, going to workshops or teaching themselves new skills. Professional development can also refer to staying up to date on new trends within your field and applying new practices to your current methods.

How do you promote professional development in the workplace? ›

Employee professional development ideas
  1. Consult employees about their developmental needs. ...
  2. Form partnerships with other companies and industry speakers. ...
  3. Use technology to your advantage. ...
  4. Create an internal mentorship program. ...
  5. Start an ongoing lunch-and-learn program. ...
  6. Encourage active participation.

What are the 12 ways you can develop and practice professionalism? ›

Here are 12 ways you can develop and practice professionalism:
  • Be productive. Use your time productively at work. ...
  • Develop a professional image. ...
  • Take the initiative. ...
  • Maintain effective work habits. ...
  • Manage your time efficiently. ...
  • Demonstrate integrity. ...
  • Provide excellence. ...
  • Be a problem-solver.

Why is professional development important for employers? ›

Benefits of Professional Development for Employers

Professional development can be instrumental in growing a stronger team. Employers who encourage their employees to seek out professional development opportunities are in turn encouraging higher productivity and job satisfaction.

Why is training and development important for both employers and employees? ›

Training and development helps companies gain and retain top talent, increase job satisfaction and morale, improve productivity and earn more profit. Additionally, businesses that have actively interested and dedicated employees see 41 percent lower absenteeism rates, and 17 percent higher productivity.

Why is professional development so important? ›

Professional development increases earning potential and hireability. Professional development and continuing education offers both young and experienced professionals opportunities to boost their earning potential and future hireability by increasing their knowledge and updating their skill sets.

How does professional development improve performance? ›

When employees are provided with the right training and development, they'll be given all the skills and knowledge they need to do their job well. As they learn new skills, procedures, and ways of working, when these are put into practice they'll have higher levels of efficiency.

How do you maintain professional development? ›

Ensure that your skills and knowledge are up to date by undertaking continuing professional development (CPD) and educational activities in all aspects of your work. These activities must be relevant to your practice and support your current skills, knowledge and career development.

What are examples of professional development? ›

Professional Development Examples
  • Continuing Education.
  • Participation in professional organizations.
  • Research.
  • Improve job performance.
  • Increased duties and responsibilities.
  • Approaches to professional development:
  • Skill Based Training.
  • Job Assignments.

What is an example of a professional development goal? ›

Learning new abilities, earning certifications, gaining more experience in a specific field, moving forward in your company, and pursuing any other career aspirations are all examples of professional development goals.

How do you write a development plan example? ›

How to create a professional development plan
  • Self-assessment. A self-assessment is an evaluation of your professional interests, knowledge and skills. ...
  • Goals. The goals you set in your professional development plan should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely). ...
  • Strategies. ...
  • Resources. ...
  • Timelines.

How do I write a development plan for myself? ›

Creating a Personal Development Plan
  1. STEP 1: Define Results and Motivation. ...
  2. STEP 2: Determine Required Skills. ...
  3. STEP 3: Perform a Skills Self-Assessment. ...
  4. STEP 4: Isolate One Skill. ...
  5. STEP 5: Develop an Action Plan.

What are the 3 most important areas of development for you professionally? ›

7 Key employee development areas
  • Flexibility.
  • Communication skills.
  • Bonus: Conflict Resolution, Tactfulness, Work ethic.
  • Leadership Skills.
  • Organizational Skills.
  • Creativity Skills.
  • Bonus: Stress Management.
30 Dec 2021

What are three types of professional development? ›

The top three types of teacher professional development are periodic workshops, in-class observation, and single-session seminars.

What are good components of a professional development program? ›

7 Elements of Effective Professional Development
  • Content-focused. ...
  • Incorporates active learning. ...
  • Supports collaboration. ...
  • Uses models of effective practices. ...
  • Provides coaching and expert support. ...
  • Offers feedback and reflection. ...
  • Is of sustained duration.
18 Sept 2017

Why are professional development goals important? ›

Professional development improves your confidence and adds to your credibility by learning new skills and attaining professional designations. Continued professional development allows you to make more meaningful contributions to your team and to become more effective at your workplace.

What is your professional development plan best answer? ›

Mention what you hope to do in the immediate future to grow professionally and advance your skill set, which can include working in the position for which you're interviewing. From here, detail your long-term aspirations and motivations for achieving such objectives.

How do you write an individual development plan for employees? ›

Components of an Individual Development Plan
  • Employee profile.
  • Goals and aspirations.
  • Objectives.
  • Strengths, talents, and skills.
  • Resources Required.
  • Costs.
  • Training & Development Opportunities.
  • Action Plan.
21 Feb 2022

What is a personal development plan and how is it created? ›

A personal development plan, which is also known as a PDP, is an action plan that you can use to identify: Your individual goals and what you want to achieve. Your strengths and weaknesses. The areas you need to improve and develop to meet your goals.

What is a development plan template? ›

A personal development plan template is what your employees need to make their development personal. We've built our own Personal Development Plan template to help you and your people find and achieve the goals they want, the way they want to.

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