How to Create Professional Development Goals for Employees

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Developing goals to improve your staff’s skills can help retain talent and get the best work out of employees

Key takeaways:

  • Professional development goals help employees build skills, advance their careers and support their employer’s initiatives
  • Benefits of employee development goals include:
    • Employees are more productive
    • Retention rates may improve
    • Staff morale and engagement can increase
    • Staff work toward company goals, such as revenue or sales numbers
  • Common professional development goals include:
    • Learn a new specific skill related to job
    • Boost revenue by a certain amount
    • Increase sales by a specific number
    • Get to know another team for improved collaboration

Take a training in people management, accounting or other area related to job field

  • Employers can help their teams plan for their professional development by finding out where they see themselves in a few years as well as setting clear and measurable goals

Businesses often succeed or fail because of their employees’ skills and engagement. To get the best work from staff that benefits the company, improves retention and helps increase productivity, it’s important to create professional development goals. In fact, a recent study found that more than half of employees say professional development contributes to job satisfaction, which can help with overall retention. This article explores developmental goals, why they’re essential and how to help your employees plan for their professional development goals.

What are professional development goals?

Employees set development goals to improve their skills and capabilities and advance their careers. Importantly, these goals support an organization’s mission to create a productive and engaged workforce that drives revenue and other goals while reducing waste. Professional development goals should be based on employees’ current skill deficits, career ambitions and the organization’s needs.

The benefits of professional development goals

As mentioned, professional development goals can benefit staff, but they are also a boon for the bigger organizational picture. These goals can ladder up to leadership initiatives related to revenue, growth, overall performance and more. Having a team with clear, action-oriented goals can help the organization achieve its overarching mission while potentially saving money, time and other resources. Here are some of the main benefits of professional development goals in more detail:

Improved relationships

Committing to improving work skills often leads to improved work relationships. Once people begin to work on themselves and their career goals, they often find value in relationships with their coworkers and management and strive to strengthen them. One study found that almost three-quarters of workers surveyed would be willing to learn new skills to remain employable, which means the opportunity for improvement is likely already there. This, in turn, can lead to more collaboration, improved efficiency and increased engagement.

Enhanced work ethic

Professional development goals can often lead to improved work ethic. Staff who are committed to clear goals are often more motivated to work harder and to go above and beyond. When workers approach tasks with more commitment, it’s easier for them to understand the value of a job well done and see how they’re contributing to the organization. This synergy can help create a well-oiled machine of quality work and productivity.

Increased retention rates

When an employer sets clear and actionable goals with their team members to help them grow professionally, they often find staff are more loyal, have higher levels of engagement and remain in their jobs longer because they feel valued. Higher retention rates can save companies money on recruitment costs and can help preserve institutional knowledge that can lead to better work results.

Clearer focus

Setting understandable goals helps employees focus more on the work ahead. It is harder to be confused or disengaged when the path is defined with clear priorities, tasks, time limits and frequency, making it much easier to concentrate on the work and how to accomplish it best. This is another way professional development goals tend to ladder up to improved efficiency: A team that knows its expectations will have an easier time fulfilling them.

Improved productivity

When employees can clearly see their career path, they may feel empowered. Empowered employees are often better at their jobs and more productive for their company. This can also lead to staff being more efficient and having higher morale.

Companies that work with their employees to improve their skills may benefit from their loyalty as well as their increased abilities. Professional development goals are a win-win situation. Employees tend to feel better about their work, and employers tend to get better results from their teams.

Development goals and remote teams

If your organization works with remote or offshore teams, it’s important to remember their unique place in the company. Even though these workers aren’t in the building, they need leadership, management and clear goals to perform their jobs. It can be harder to build in a process for remote staff, but you may find it’s not as different from working with in-person teams. Here are a few pointers to get started with building goals for remote workers:

  • Set clear and measurable goals: This can help avoid ambiguity when staff are offsite and harder to track
  • Create structure: Make sure remote staff know their goals, schedules, meetings, deliverables and any other expectations unique to their roles
  • Assess regularly: Set up a schedule for assessment that works for your organization, whether annually, quarterly or more frequently, to check in on progress and course-correct if needed
  • Provide feedback: Even outside of formal reviews, it can be helpful to have informal conversations to help establish a trusting and comfortable rapport with staff
  • Offer praise: When someone does a great job or helps contribute to an important company goal, be sure to recognize them to help keep up morale

Use metrics to gauge success

An important part of goal setting is to make goals measurable. Ensure the organization has a method and system in place for the metrics it will use to track and measure employee performance. Some common metrics include tracking revenue, sales, completed projects, improvements to speed and efficiency or others that fit your unique needs. Professional development goals don’t always guarantee a raise or promotion, but if that is on the table, let staff know. Engaged staff who want to work toward senior or leadership roles can find motivation in their goals and knowing how they are measured.

Setting employee development goals

Work development goals must balance the employee’s needs with the organization’s goals. One easy way to determine what an employee is looking for is simply to ask. Find out where your employees see themselves in five years and what job titles and types of work they aspire to. This can be a great jumping-off point to determine how their professional aspirations fit into the organization’s goals and how staff can be most useful in achieving them in support of the company.

Use the information you find to design goals that give employees what they need to advance their careers while supporting company initiatives. Examples of professional development goals at work include:

  • Learn a new skill (such as a new software or public speaking) to improve work performance
  • Boost revenue by a certain amount
  • Increase sales by a specific number
  • Get to know another team for improved collaboration
  • Take a training in people management, accounting or other area related to job field

As you can see from the above professional development goals examples, it’s helpful to create specific and measurable plans. The SMART goal format, for example, is popular because of its simplicity and measurable nature. That said, the template for a professional development plan you use can be customized to fit your needs. It could be as simple as a written document or fillable form, a detailed spreadsheet or even part of a larger project management software.

StaffLink is the answer to your Human Resources questions

Hiring the right people and getting them the proper training are some of the most important components of Human Resources (HR). The correct policies and practices must be in place for your employees and your business to succeed. Professional goal development effectively prepares people to do their jobs well, fosters bonds between management and employees and improves business productivity.

StaffLink is here to help you along the way. Our national Professional Employer Organization can work alongside your internal team to uncover roadblocks and implement better HR solutions. Request a proposal or contact us at (954) 423-8262 for more information.