Nov 30, 2022
14 min read

Professional Development Plan Template and How to Make It

In this article:

As an HR manager, you probably know how important a professional development plan template is when it comes to employee growth and performance. After all, better performance means you’ll boost your business revenue, right?

One way to achieve this is to standardize a process to ensure every manager has ongoing conversations with their people about their expectations for the future.

Specifying individual professional goals can increase employee satisfaction, reduce churn rate, and promote sustainably-growing overall performance

And do you want to hear the best part? If you keep reading, you will actually get your own customizable career development plan template!

Why is a professional development plan important for employees?

It is no secret that COVID-19 has changed the way we understand work. The Great Resignation – the fact that workers have massively quit their jobs in the past few years and are still thinking about it – has made talent retention and acquisition critical for every company. But, how to attract more and more demanding talent? How to fill the new roles needed for a changing work environment?

A study by McKinsey shows that the lack of career development and advancement is the top reason why employees are quitting their jobs globally.

professional development plan template study by McKinsey


Professional development plans can help tackle the problems the new talent game brings to the table. These are three of the reasons why a development plan can benefit your employees – and, as a result, your organization.

  1. Increase employee engagement

Did you know that, according to Gartner, more than half of employees say that COVID-19 has made them question their purpose at their day-to-day job?

Without a doubt, providing a sense of purpose is critical if you want to increase employee engagement.

  1. Achieve employee retention

With people seeking purpose at work and companies struggling to adjust to the new demands, retention is probably one of the greatest challenges for HR. In fact, two out of five employees in McKinsey's 2022 global research said that they were thinking about leaving their jobs in the next three to six months.

Addressing employees´ demands for purpose and professional development can reduce turnover and re-engage those undecided workers.

  1. Fill the skills gap

In 2021, a survey by McKinsey found that 87% of companies had skill gaps or thought they would have them in a few years.

In the same study, one in two executives said that reskilling was the best way to close the capability gap. As a result, most companies are creating career development plans for their existing employees rather than hiring new ones. It seems like the smart thing to do.

professional development plan template survey by McKinsey


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 make a professional development plan – step by step

Professional Development Plans should be a co-creation between each employee and his or her immediate supervisor. This is the only way they will work.

In order to ensure a smooth process there are certain steps that need to take place:

  1. Evaluate the current situation

The first thing a boss needs to understand is the resources available within the team. And a great place to start is with a self-assessment

professional development plan template effy software

Gathering employee input with self-assessment review

In this kind of review, managers can gather valuable insights of their people such as:

  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of each team member?
  • What motivations does each employee have? Who is lacking motivation?
  • Who wants to grow in the company or move horizontally?

  1. Assess skill gaps

Secondly, a manager should be able to understand the skills of each individual employee and identify skill gaps in the team. The skills needed, of course, will vary depending on the goals but can include aspects as varied as:

  • technical skills
  • communications skills
  • teamwork skills
  • problem-solving skills

It is a good idea to create a skill matrix to identify those skills that are lacking within the team.

  1. Document employee's career goals

Each employee should put in writing their professional development goals as a starting point for a conversation. In this development goals meeting, both the employee and the employer should analyze:

  • the new skills the employee will need 
  • the career progression that needs to take place 
  • a realistic timeline for the set goals

  1. Define growth areas and action items

Once you have a clear picture of what employees desire and the skill gaps within the team, it is possible to understand which abilities could be developed within your people.

Of course, you must take into consideration people's aspirations as much as their capabilities. In the intersection between natural skills and people's desires – shared in a productive one-to-one meeting – is where growth areas can be defined.

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

professional development plan template effy software growth area

Documenting growth areas and action items with

  1. Ensure regular feedback

Professional Development Plans are not made once and forever. People can change their minds and companies can change their needs.

Using a software such as can help set regular check-ups and reviews to guarantee every person has a discussion with his or her boss about the progress in the plan and makes corrections in real-time.

We recommend having an annual development plan meeting and quarterly follow-ups.

Setting a review meeting flow on


Professional development plan template

Below you will find a professional development plan template that you can customize.

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

Download professional development plan template

Wrap up

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

Defining a standardized process for development planning, and ensuring regular conversations between leaders and their reports take place, can make all the difference in a highly competitive talent game.

The good news is development plans don't need to add a lot of work. With you can easily automate HR flows, schedule conversations, customize your templates, and track progress. Sign up for free now!

FAQ: Professional Development Plan Template

How do you write a professional development plan?

To write a professional development plan you should:

  • ensure your career goals are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound)
  • understand your skills gap
  • document the resources you will need

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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