Jan 15, 2024
7 min read

How to Create a Professional Development Plan (+template)

In this article:

Due to the upcoming economic recession, top companies cut their teams, with Spotify laying off 17% of its workforce being the most recent example.

How can you keep your operations up and running in this somewhat depressing scenario? Focus on keeping top talent and ensuring the productivity of the remaining workforce. Knowing that the lack of career development is the top reason employees quit their jobs globally, the best way to do this is to create professional development plans.

Let us show you how to create a professional development plan for your employees that will help keep them satisfied with their careers while performing at their best.

What is a professional development plan?

The employee development plan starts when a new team member walks through your company’s doors for the first time. It's a strategy for achieving career goals, learning new skills, improving competencies, and growing as a valuable addition to a group.

Employees and their supervisors should collaboratively create growth strategies and document them. With a document planning the career path, keeping those goals in sight and instilling accountability is easier.

As a leader, your job is to identify the necessary skills needed to reach those goals and provide the resources they need. These individual professional development plans should be reviewed regularly, e.g., at the end of each year.

What is the role of HR in the process?

Increasing employee retention and engagement, and filling the skills gap are definitely within HR's top priorities these days. But how to ensure leaders also focus on professional development, actually listen to their employees, and provide them with real opportunities for growth?

Of course, training managers in leadership skills can do a great deal but it's not enough. HR needs to provide a streamlined professional development process, an easy-to-use development plan template, and effortless tools to ensure all employees are given a career path and are measured with the same framework.

Let´s now dive into the perks of making a professional development plan.

How to create an employee professional development plan

“Employees expect opportunities to learn and grow without limitations,” says Senior People Science Consultant Gogi Anand. Follow our step-by-step plan to become a manager who understands that and puts it into action by creating professional development opportunities for your team.

Ask the employee to do a self-assessment

Have employees reflect on their current strengths, weaknesses, skills, personal and professional interests, values, hopes, and career aspirations. Ask them to assess their job satisfaction, performance, and improvement areas.

Professional Development Plan self assessment

Source: Helpful Professor

To make this easier, you can provide a self-assessment questionnaire, including questions like:

  • What specific career opportunities or technologies interest you?
  • What achievements are you most proud of in your current role?
  • How would you rate your current work-life balance?
  • What support or resources would help you achieve your goals more effectively?

A fun alternative is sending out a personality test. Plenty of free online options can give your team insight into what they want from their career.

Conduct a 360-degree review

Continue the initial research by gathering feedback from their peers, subordinates, and supervisors. Use a 360 feedback tool to assess the staff's technical and social skills without hassle. Remember to keep it objective by adding specific examples wherever possible.

Use an anonymous 360-degree survey to collect unbiased, honest feedback on the employee's performance from various perspectives. This gives a well-rounded view of strengths and weaknesses they can work on. It's a great way to spot possibilities the employee was unaware of.

Effy AI is one of the simplest and fastest performance management tools you can start with that offers:

  • Ready-to-use templates you can customize so you can start your first review in a few minutes
  • Automated regular reminders to achieve the highest response rate
  • Integration with Slack so the employees can fill out reviews where they communicate
  • Anonymization so that you can collect honest feedback
  • AI-generated summary reports to help you create an individual plan for all employees

Sign up for free!

Identify areas of improvement

Identify common themes and improvement areas from both assessment types. Look for skill gaps that need to be filled, e.g., in the technology sector, communication abilities, problem-solving, or teamwork.

Document everything as you go along to ensure no piece of information gets lost in the process. Performance review software could come in handy for this.

Set goals with the employee

It's time to schedule a goal-setting meeting. Collaboratively set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals. Ensure they align with the employee's career aspirations from their self-assessment.

Keep in mind that the individual's career path has to align with your organizational objectives. Find (or create) a place for their growth that pushes the company forward, too.

Create an action plan

Break down each of those aspirations into actionable steps. What can they do each day or week to work for their dreams continuously? This should naturally result in a set of long-, mid-, and more manageable short-term goals; think: by next year, next quarter, or next month.

Work together to outline the specific actions, resources, and timelines needed to achieve professional development goals. Discuss the potential obstacles they may encounter and strategies to overcome them.

Remember to include actionable items for each growth area and always document the agreements of your development plan meeting. 

Professional Development Plan Effy AI

Think about your resources

Consider the resources required for the employee's development, such as training programs, mentorship, coaching, or access to specific tools. Ensure the employee has the necessary support to succeed.

Here are some examples of ways you can help enrich their professional life:

  • Workshops, conferences, and seminars
  • New projects and responsibilities
  • Mentorship programs
  • Industry books, workbooks, or even podcasts
  • Courses and professional associations
  • Continuing education institutions that offer upskilling programs
  • Social media platforms for networking and dynamic sharing of educational content

Track progress

Set up regular check-in meetings to review progress, discuss challenges, and make any necessary adjustments to the action plan. Throw in your constructive feedback and motivational comments (keep them genuine!).

Use key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure everyone's success objectively. Consider setting up a performance log (digital or on paper) to track them. Have them record their progress towards objectives, unexpected challenges, and any other observations that can be useful for future development.

Circumstances change, and job responsibilities evolve, so keep coming back to the document and be flexible in adjusting the plan. It should remain relevant and aligned with both personal and organizational goals.

Professional development plan template

Below, you'll find a professional development plan template, which you can also download here.

It includes:

  • Employee information: Employee name, position, year, and date of the creation of the employee development plan.
  • Current situation: The leader should assess all workers´ strengths and areas of improvement, taking into consideration the inputs of the self-assessment
  • Development goals: Growth areas for the employee. There should be an alignment between the employee's and the company's expectations.
  • Skills to be acquired: Skills that need to be developed in order to achieve each development goal
  • Action plan: Actionable items that respond to how you intend to achieve each development goal
  • Resources needed: What the company or leader needs to provide the employee to enable the success of the action plan
  • Timeframe and evaluations: Time expectations and frequency for regular check-ups.

This is how your career development plan could look like:

Professional Development Plan Template

It's fully customizable, but it should always include the following:

  • Employee information
  • Year and date
  • Current situation
  • Development goals
  • Skills to be acquired
  • Action plan
  • Resources needed
  • Timeframe and evaluations

Employee professional development plan: Why create it?

Professional development plans provide several benefits that will push both your employees and your whole organization forward. Those include:

  • Increasing employee engagement: In 2021, the level of engagement at work saw its first drop in a decade – and the trend continues today. Experts place learning, clear expectations, and opportunities to do one's best as the top aspects that help to increase engagement.
  • Achieving employee retention: As we've already mentioned, research shows that the lack of career advancement is the main reason people quit their jobs. Now more than ever, employees value “The Human Deal”, which includes acknowledgment and growth opportunities.
Professional Development Plan Reasons To Create

Source: McKinsey

  • Filling the skills gap: An overwhelming 87% of companies have or expect to have skill gaps. The surveyed managers agree that building the professional skills of existing employees is a far better solution than hiring new talent or outsourcing tasks.
Professional Development Plan McKinsey

Source: McKinsey

  • Beating competition: Opportunities to learn and grow are currently the number one factor for facilitating a great company culture (a soaring rise from ninth place, as ranked in 2019). Happy and satisfied employees are more productive and energized to drive innovation.
  • Saving resources: Gallup studies show that the cost of replacing an employee can be as high as twice their yearly salary. That circles back to our point of how important it is to focus on talent retention during the Great Reshuffle.


Providing career development opportunities to your people is essential for employee retention, engagement, and skill development.

You can make a huge difference by defining a standardized process for development planning and ensuring regular conversations between leaders and their subordinates.

The good news is that making plans for career development goals doesn't have to add a lot of work to your already busy day. With our actionable tips and ready-to-use template, you'll have a personal development plan set up for all your team members in no time.

Create a free account and let Effy AI help you create effective development plans for your employees!


What is included in a professional development plan?

A professional development plan (PDP) should include sections like employee information, their current role and responsibilities, professional goals, and a clear action plan for achieving them. You should also add the resources necessary along the way and a realistic timeframe.

What are the 4 features of a good professional development plan?

Every good professional development plan should include:

  • Specific and measurable goals
  • Objectives tailored to individual needs
  • Actionable, precise, and realistic action steps
  • Regular assessment and feedback mechanisms

How do you write a personal professional development plan?

The simple checklist for creating a plan for professional growth is:

  • Ask the employee for a self-assessment
  • Conduct a 360-degree review
  • Identify areas of improvement
  • Set goals with the employee
  • Create an action plan
  • Consider your resources
  • Track progress and adjust

What is professional development with an example?

Professional development is improving and expanding the skills related to your profession. It can include formal education, training programs, workshops, conferences, networking, mentorship, etc. Some examples of professional development goals are:

  • Undertake new responsibilities that will challenge you
  • Lead a demanding project to practice your leadership skills
  • Participate in learning programs that will help you develop skills

What are examples of professional development?

In an employee development plan, examples of professional development goals are:

  • undertake new responsibilities in my current role
  • lead a new challenging project
  • participate in learning programs as training for a new future role

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

The five necessary steps to creating a professional development plan are:

  1. Evaluate the current situation
  2. Assess skill gaps
  3. Document employee's career goals
  4. Define growth areas and action items
  5. Ensure regular feedback

What’s Effy software?
Performance review
Easily launch review cycles in your way, track progress.
360 degree feedback
Collect feedback from peers and managers. Identify strength and improvements areas.
Choose templates that are right for you. Start review process in 15 min.
Collaborate effectively with team meeting agenda, action items and meeting notes
Personal development plan
Develop your people by providing them an explicit plan to the next level. Track goals progression.
AI generated insights & Analytics
AI will generate an extended summary for every employee, including top strength, areas to improve and action plan.
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