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.


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