HR Leads Business

Jan 17, 2020 | Clare Chiappetta

3 Tips for Creating a Professional Development Plan

HR transformation has been ongoing for years, but we’re still at the beginning of our journey. According to new research from Sage People, 94% of HR leaders anticipate shifting their focus from the traditional HR role to a more people-oriented function within five years.

To keep up with the sweeping changes occurring in HR, you need a plan: a professional development plan (PDP). Creating a well-thought out PDP that achieves the goal of helping you take your HR practice to the next level can be a daunting task though. 

Here are three tips for keeping your professional development on track.

Do Some Deep Thinking

A good PDP isn’t reactive. It requires honest consideration of where you are in your practice and anticipates where you want to go, says Michele Mavi, director of coaching services at Atrium Staffing. “A PDP outlines clear goals, expectations and outcomes,” she says. “To do that effectively, it's important to evaluate the situation with a SWOT analysis and then put the information learned from that into an actionable plan that includes a timeline.”

Using a SWOT analysis — a strategic planning technique used to help identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats related to business competition or project planning — as a self-assessment helps you determine what you do extremely well in your HR practice and where you need to improve. In some cases, you may not have to look outside of your practice for opportunities to grow. Mavi suggests asking, “Are there projects you can initiate that will help you develop yourself?” 

Be honest about the threats to your PDP, too. “A threat can be anything from a software that you must learn and don’t already know to not having enough time to commit to doing what is necessary for you to advance,” Mavi says. A PDP should anticipate these threats so you don’t fall off track and lose momentum.

Be Ready to Pivot 

As the industry changes, so do best practices. But, you can build flexibility into even the most structured PDPs. “A great PDP weaves in a mechanism for self-awareness,” says Kerrian Fournier, CEO at Vybrante Ventures. The ability to stop and reflect on where your PDP is taking you is critical for maintaining your learning goals while still accounting for potential changes. 

“You want to be clear about your development goals or else the PDP can become task-oriented and fragmented,” Fournier says. A customizable plan can help. It’s important to consider your learning style, too, Fournier suggests. You may begin your plan without being certain which learning style is most effective for you. Allow for flexibility to discover your style and modify your plan.

Make it Meaningful

Each stop along your learning journey is critical to meeting your goals. This means integrating your learning into your practice wherever possible. “Best practices show that presentation of theory is simply not enough,” Mavi says. “Real impact comes when you're given an opportunity to put things into practice and get feedback.” A learning coach, whether an internal mentor or an external tutor, can help you achieve deeper learning outcomes.

Finally, whether a PDP is successful depends on where it’s coming from. If learning is motivated by fear of becoming outdated or the desire to make more money, the focus tends to be less about learning and more about checking boxes. “When things are challenging, or there are other competing priorities, being clear about your deepest-level motivation will help you stay the course,” Fournier says. Before beginning, consider why you are engaging in professional development and what you hope to gain.