The most powerful and versatile tool to stimulate and support such growth on a large scale is creating professional development plans (PDPs) for your employees.
In our recent article, we have discussed why tech companies need professional development plans for software engineers.
Now, we’ll lead you through each step of creating a successful professional development plan for your employees and cover the most important aspects of a robust and scalable PDP routine for a high-tech business.
What is a professional development plan?
A PDP is one of the best tools a company can use to ensure its knowledge workers never stall or stagnate and always keep growing and expanding their skills and expertise. Any professional growth that occurs without a precise development plan will be erratic and may not help the organization that much at the end of the day. This is especially true for high-tech industries, such as software development, where new programming languages, tools and technologies appear every day.
A professional development plan outlines the goals, required skills and competency development, and objectives that a staff member must fulfill, in order to continue to progress and advance in their career. This is often provided as a list of important stages, with action points and a rigid timetable.
While a PDP is essentially focused on a specific employee's circumstances, it will also take into consideration the company's overall direction, priorities, goals, and targets.
How to create a professional development plan?
To help engineering managers create development plans for their tech teams, we have created a framework that they can use to make it effective. Let’s take a look at the graph below, which shows the logic and the timeline behind a high-quality PDP. Careful planning is the key here.
Step #1. Holding a Review
In order to develop an effective development plan and determine the most important areas for growth, it is first necessary to assess the skills of your entire team and also each employee individually. This will help identify skill gaps and show you how those can be filled, thereby improving the performance of the company as a whole.
The most important goals at this stage are:
Evaluating employees’ skills
Defining skill gaps for the whole team
One of the best ways to achieve these goals is through a round of well-structured performance reviews.
To hold a review for your team, check out our step-by-step guide on software developer performance reviews here.
Step #2. Creating a Growth Plan
Once you’ve figured out the most crucial skill gaps within your team and analyzed where each individual employee is lagging behind, the next step is determining the most important growth areas and focus skills.
Focus skills are the main areas of potential development for your employees, which will cover any existing skill gaps the team might be currently struggling with. This is part of the reason why you should first review your team as a whole and only then focus on what each individual employee can do to cover the potential blank spots in the team’s expertise.
When creating the Growth Plan, a manager should focus on:
Finding growth areas for every team member
Choosing focus skills for your entire team
Step #3. Adding activities to a Growth Plan
After outlining the Growth Plan, the next step is to come up with an actionable list of tasks, designed to help you cover the skill gaps and develop the focus skills within your team.
These tasks have to be added to each employee’s to-do list and include both working tasks that will help to develop and improve focus skills, and learning activities (courses, training, books, mentoring, etc).
The tasks in a growth plan should include:
Working tasks in Jira, Asana, Gitlab, etc, for the employee to develop their focus skills
Training and learning activities, aimed at structured professional development
Vectorly analyzes the working activity of your team members and offers learning activities from the knowledge base, integrated with the service. All you need to do is choose between the offered recommendations and add the task to a to-do list.
Step #4. Monitoring the Growth Plan
Once an employee has received their tasks and embarked on their development journey, according to the plan, the manager needs to constantly monitor their progress and adjust the PDP, if necessary.
In essence, this is a never-ending process. If your employees successfully complete their PDPs, they need to be provided with a new plan, and if you find some of them struggling with certain aspects of their PDPs, the manager needs to make adjustments and add to or change the tasks of the employees lagging behind.
The best tool to monitor the development process is holding 1-on-1 meetings with developers. Schedule special meetings with your team members, during which you’ll discuss their activities.
To save time on preparation for your 1-on-1s, you can use a ready-made template with a set of questions, from Vectorly.
Thus, at this stage, a manager should:
Update growth plans
Hold regular 1:1 meetings to review personal development and working tasks
Key factors for a successful development plan
Now you understand how to create a professional development plan and integrate learning into the working processes of your team. However, there are strategies which are important to consider, in order to make the tool really work.
Here are the main factors of a successful professional development plan:
Factor #1.Mix working tasks and learning activities.
The tasks contained within the growth plan should offer a diverse and varied mix of educational and practical assignments. This will allow you to easily integrate this training process into your workflow, increasing the effectiveness of the learning process and saving time for development.
Factor #2. Hold regular reviews and make adjustments.
Professional development needs to be seen as a continuous process. A manager should regularly review and update the development plans. If an employee has successfully accomplished his/her development plan, you should create a new one. And if the process is underway, you can amend the existing tasks and add new ones. It should not be a one-time meeting; make it regular and schedule these discussions in your calendar.
Factor #3.Don’t be afraid to rely on external tools.
Using services, such as Vectorly, will help you keep all employee development and training processes on one platform, thus streamlining and optimizing this process.
High-tech companies and startups should invest in the talent development of their employees on a regular basis, in order to increase their team productivity and stay relevant to the market.
A professional development plan outlines the goals, required skills and competency development, and objectives that a staff member must fulfill, in order to continue to progress and advance in their career.
The stages of an effective development plan are: review, creating a Growth Plan, adding activities to a Growth Plan, monitoring the Growth Plan.
Engineers’ development should be a continuous process meaning a manager holds reviews once a quarter and creates new development plans or makes adjustments to the existing plan.