Being an employee in a factory 50 years ago often meant that you worked that same job and had the same skills for 15 to 20 years. Because day-to-day activities didn’t change a lot over the years, most employees didn’t actively invest in developing new skills.
Today’s market is quite different. According to IBM, the average lifespan of a skill in the workplace is around five years. This means that employees have to be self-motivated and invest in growing their skill sets if they want to stay relevant and employable in the job market.
In this article, we’ll describe how to create professional development plans for your employees to keep their skills up to date. On top of that, we will go over seven concrete examples of professional development plans.
Table of contents
- How to create professional development plans
- 7 examples of professional development plans
- Use professional development plans to grow your employees
- ✅ Assess your employees’ baseline skills with skills testing
How to create professional development plans
You shouldn’t create professional development plans on your own; it’s important to co-create them with your employees in one-on-one sessions. During those sessions, you should find out about the employee’s interests and professional ambitions.
After you pinpoint their interests and goals, you’ll need to create an easy-to-follow framework with objectives that the employee can accomplish.
It’s not about creating a complex goal-setting framework that looks good on paper but rather building a plan that works in practice. In this case, simpler is better, which is why you should lead your employees through the SMART goal-setting framework.
SMART goal-setting framework
SMART is an acronym that stands for:
- Specific. The goal needs to be as specific and concrete as possible. The more specific it is, the easier it will be for the employee to understand exactly what they need to do to achieve it.
- Measurable. If the goal isn’t measurable, the employee will have a hard time knowing when they’ve reached it. Becoming a better public speaker isn’t measurable, but holding 50 speeches in front of more than 100 people is a measurable action.
- Achievable. It needs to be possible for the individual to accomplish the goal. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the employee must already have the skills needed to complete that goal, but they should be able to acquire the necessary skills and achieve the objective in a realistic time frame.
- Relevant. The goal needs to be relevant for the employee for them to have the motivation to pursue it.
- Time-bound. There needs to be a clear deadline for accomplishing the goal; otherwise, employees may procrastinate because they won’t feel any urgency to pursue it.
Guide your employees through this framework, and make sure that they use it for every professional development objective they want to achieve.
7 examples of professional development plans
Here are seven examples of professional development plans you can use for your employees:
1. Develop new workplace skills
It’s vital to talk about learning new workplace skills with your employees. You should nudge employees to become great in those areas where they’re just good.
It’s not about fixing employees’ weaknesses but rather capitalizing on their strengths and maximizing the skills they can gain from those strengths.
2. Improve soft skills
No matter how good an employee’s hard skills are, they won’t be able to advance their professional careers if they don’t have soft skills.
According to LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Talent Trends report, 92% of talent professionals believed that soft skills matter as much or more than hard skills. Therefore, it’s critical to discuss with your employees the soft skills they should learn for the workplace.
Some soft skills all employees should learn are teamwork skills, communication skills, stress management, and conflict resolution. Hold one-on-one sessions with your employees to find out which soft skills are most interesting for them, and then encourage them to develop those skills through the SMART framework.
3. Take on a leadership role
Nothing pushes employees to grow more than giving them new responsibilities in the workplace. Putting them in a role in which they are responsible for projects and other workers will push them to develop their leadership skills quickly.
They will face situations they haven’t encountered before, so they’ll need to grow fast to accomplish them successfully.
Be careful here – there’s a thin line between putting your employees in the learning and growth zone, where they need to push themselves to solve problems and challenges, and forcing them into “the fire” completely unprepared. The learning zone will help them to become better leaders, whereas the “fire zone” will simply overwhelm them.
4. Follow thought leaders in your industry
One great way employees can develop themselves professionally is by following thought leaders in their field. Reading books by industry leaders or listening to podcasts that host them will provide a lot of information employees can use for their development.
On top of that, employees will stay up to date with the most recent innovations in the industry, which will enable them to better prepare for them and take advantage of new opportunities.
5. Find a mentor
Nobody does everything alone, and even the best chief executive officers of today had great mentors along the way who helped them reach new heights. So one of the things you can do to help bolster your employees’ professional development is to help them find a mentor.
This needs to be an experienced employee, manager, or former executive who can grow and nurture employees to become better professionals.
6. Attend workshops and seminars
Workshops and seminars can also be useful for professional development. They provide not only training and information your employees can use in the workplace but also opportunities for networking with other professionals in their field.
An employee who attends several workshops and seminars will learn a lot about the industry and possibly even find a mentor during one of these sessions.
7. Volunteer or take on a mentee
One last thing an employee can do for their professional development is to volunteer or take on a mentee. This isn’t just about them giving back to the community or assisting coworkers. It also pushes them to figure out the process of how they learned a specific skill and then transfer that knowledge to someone else.
This is an underrated ability that can be a major asset to employees’ future careers.
Taking on a mentee involves creating a process based on how the employee learned a specific skill and then teaching it to someone else. On top of that, they will be able to onboard new employees for their teams more easily since they will better understand how to integrate them into the organization.
Use professional development plans to grow your employees
The more developed your employees are, the more successful your organization will be. The first thing you should do when helping your employees create professional development goals is to find out their baseline skills.
To figure out their “point A,” you should assess the skills of your employees to determine whether they have gaps in their skill sets.
Don’t worry – you don’t have to create your own skills assessments from scratch. We have more than 260 scientifically created skills tests divided into seven categories in our test library.
Sign up for a free demo to find out more about how we can help you assess your employees’ skills.
- Malik, Sonia. (December 7, 2020). “Skills Transformation For The 2021 Workplace”. Retrieved November 21, 2022. https://www.ibm.com/blogs/ibm-training/skills-transformation-2021-workplace/