Table of contents
- Main trends in engineering management
- What is a professional development plan?
- Why should a company implement a development plan?
- Key ideas
In the age of digital transformation and information-based economy, knowledge workers have become the most valuable and versatile asset for any business. A knowledge worker, in the most basic sense, is someone whose employment requires them to apply their knowledge of a specific subject to the tasks and problems they’re facing at work, as opposed to simply producing goods and services.
Software developers are perhaps the best examples of highly sought-after and valuable knowledge workers. These professions also come with the additional challenge of the knowledge becoming outdated, fast. Meaning, for software developers, the learning never stops and this is something both the manager and the employee should always account for.
So, in regards to these knowledge-based professions, acquiring the talent is just the first step. Experienced managers know that developing the talent, allowing their knowledge workers to hone their skills, and providing opportunities for them to improve can make a difference between a failed start-up and a successful multi-billion-dollar enterprise.
This is why professional development plans (PDPs) are the best tool in any manager’s toolbox, when it comes to dealing with knowledge workers.
In this article, we will discuss the most important management trends and look at how you can use professional development plans to tackle these challenges.
Main trends in engineering management
In his 2021 keynote speech at the HR Technology Conference, Josh Bersin, the president and founder of a leading industry research and advisory firm in enterprise learning and talent management, highlighted the following trends in management:
- Transitioning from standard HR practices towards the new employee-based approach. In today’s corporate world, employee experience takes over and should be placed at the center of everything a manager does. So, companies tend to invest in the professional development of their employees and growing their skills, rather than hiring new talent.
- Learning in the flow of work. Modern employees are doing a lot of learning in the workplace, and it’s in the company’s interest to allow their knowledge workers the opportunity to stay on top of the most recent industry trends, tools, and methods. Plus, the learning process starts being a part of the workflow.
- Skills development platforms are the “next big thing”. The services which allow managers to accelerate and monitor their employees’ professional development are becoming more and more important. So, it’s only natural that skills engines, skills inference, and talent intelligence systems are taking over.
These trends further emphasize the importance of a scalable, robust, and thorough professional development routine. It’s not just in the company’s interest to provide their knowledge workers with growing opportunities, but it’s also their responsibility. This is where professional development plans come in.
What is a professional development plan?
We've just established that to maintain a competitive advantage, all companies need to devote a huge amount of time and resources to the development of their employees. Let's take a look at what tools the managers can use to develop the skills of their employees and, at the same time, seamlessly integrate this training into the work process.
Software development is a dynamic and ever-changing industry, with new programming languages and technologies appearing every day. There is no other option but to stay up-to-date on trends and look for ways to develop and expand your developers’ skill set, in order to avoid becoming obsolete and remain competitive in your sector. Although it’s impossible to keep up with everything in the quickly changing world of IT, your organization should select a few areas of interest and prioritize those.
This is where a professional development plan can become your most powerful and valuable tool. Without a strict plan and a well-thought development strategy, any professional growth that occurs will be sporadic and might not benefit the company that much, at the end of the day.
Professional development plan as a tool
A professional development plan is designed to outline the goals, required skills and competency development, and objectives that a staff member must meet, to promote ongoing improvement and career advancement. This is usually presented as a list of meaningful steps, complete with points of action and a strict timeline.
In a nutshell, a professional development plan is a simple instrument that will help you stimulate and provide guidance for your employees' professional growth. Think of it as a road map that defines the skills, strategy, and education needed for your employees to advance in their careers and meet their professional objectives. While a PDP will be inherently focused on a particular employee’s situation, it will also account for where the company itself is going; its priorities, goals, and targets.
What should be included in a professional development plan?
The key ingredient for a successful PDP is its sustainability and a focus on long-term goals. A manager should closely monitor the progress of his team along their development plans and make adjustments or set new goals, when necessary.
As you can see from the chart below, it all starts with a review and assessment stage before the plan is made and then another review after the plan has been carried out. This means that the process is cyclical and continuous.
Before defining a PDP for each employee, the manager conducts a review to determine the most important and urgent areas of growth. And then, after the development plan is already drawn up, they continue to monitor and reevaluate its implementation.
Then, after some time (ideally once a quarter), the second round of reviews is conducted. That allows a manager to make a decision about either adjusting the existing growth plan or compiling a new one, taking into account the results of the new review and employee’s progress over the last quarter.
Here are the main stages of a high-quality professional development plan:
Step 1. Holding a Review
At this stage, a manager assesses the employee’s skills and identifies the skill gaps of each employee. This helps to see the whole picture of what skills the team lacks.
Step 2. Creating a Growth Plan for every employee
This is when areas of growth are being identified, as well as the focus on what to develop.
Step 3. Carrying out a Growth Plan
Activities, both learning and working tasks, are being added to Growth Plans of each employee to develop certain skills.
Step 4. Monitoring a Growth Plan
The manager holds regular 1-on-1 meetings with team members to track the progress and adjust their Growth Plans.
Step 5. Holding a repeated Review (once a quarter)
To create a new Growth Plan (if completed) or amend the current Growth Plan.
Read more on how to implement these steps of a professional development plan into the workflow of your team in our blog post.
Why should a company implement a development plan?
A properly implemented system of PDPs will allow your company to:
- Fill the team's skill gaps and increase employees’ performance
As previously mentioned, a high-quality PDP doesn't simply focus on individual employees. At its core are the current goals and priorities of the company at large, a certain strategic vision provided by executives and managers. One of the most common pitfalls in this regard are major skill gaps in knowledge workers and this is what a PDP process can help prevent.
- Make promotion decisions transparent, ensuring that everyone knows what they need to do and what skills to develop to get promoted
A PDP can also provide a feedback channel, allowing you to create a hierarchy of skills that your employees will then use to navigate the corporate space, ensuring high levels of vertical and horizontal mobility within the company.
- Increase employee retention and loyalty
More transparency within the company and clearly outlined professional development roadmaps and the goals of the company can improve employee satisfaction, increase retention rates, and loyalty.
- Protect developers from burnout
A clear professional development plan can also help protect your employees from burnout. After all, there is nothing worse than uncertainty, and many corporate environments fail in that regard, often keeping their employees in the dark in terms of where they currently stand and which way they are moving in the corporate hierarchy.
Also, a development plan helps developers to deal with unmanageable workloads and to understand the goals of the company.
Read our blog post - Developer Burnout Can Be a Serious Issue. Here Is How to Spot It
- Developing talent, allowing your knowledge workers to hone their skills, and providing opportunities for professional growth are highly important for any hi-tech company.
- Current management trends highlight this employee-based approach, centered around developing their skills and knowledge.
- The professional development plan is the best instrument to stimulate and provide guidance for your employees’ professional growth.
- While a PDP will be inherently focused on a particular employee’s situation, it will also account for where the company itself is going; its priorities, goals, and targets.
- The key ingredient for a successful PDP is its sustainability and a focus on long-term goals.