3 Professional Development Plan Templates

3 Professional Development Templates for Your One-on-Ones Cover Image

If reducing employee turnover and increasing engagement are a concern for your company, then you need to have professional development plans. Research shows that a lack of advancement opportunities is one of the primary reasons people quit their jobs. Conversely, companies that emphasize career development rank much higher for employee engagement.

What is a professional development plan?
A professional development plan (or PDP) is a personalized document that plots how team members can reach their career goals. It breaks those goals into milestones and sets out a timeframe for completion.

Who is responsible for designing a professional development plan?
In most organizations, managers work with their team members during one-on-ones to come up with a plan by first identifying the employee’s long-term goals, then creating an action plan to achieve them, and checking in on progress periodically.

Human resources may have a hand in designing development programs and in giving managers the resources they need, but the close working relationship between managers and team members puts them in the best position to work on these goals.

If you’ve never worked on a PDP before, or you’d like to try a more structured approach, we’re giving you three professional development plan examples, along with downloadable templates to bring to your next one-on-one meetings. They’re designed for the three main phases of the process:

  • Identifying goals
  • Setting milestones
  • Tracking goals

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach for every team member’s career development, these professional development plan templates can help managers and team members get the ball rolling and then keep the momentum going.

Professional Development Plan Template for Goal Setting

The first step to designing a professional development plan for a team member is to find out what that person actually wants. This should happen relatively early in your relationship, whether you’re talking to a new team member or you’re just starting as a new manager.

In the case of new hires, wait until after onboarding to start discussing professional development. Give them a chance to get the lay of the land and find their areas of interest within the company. Meanwhile, you can spend those first few months observing their strengths and weaknesses and coming up with a road map you think will be a good fit for them. If you are just starting as their manager, see if your predecessor left behind any resources about this person’s career goals, so you don’t have to start from scratch.

Maybe you’ve noticed this person has excellent organization skills, and you think they’d be a great fit for project management. Or perhaps their interpersonal skills make them a natural leader. These are career paths that might not ever have occurred to your team member, and this meeting is a good chance for you to suggest them.

But while it’s important to do your own research into each team member’s strengths and weaknesses, don’t come into the meeting with too many preconceived notions. Seasoned managers agree that your primary role during this meeting is to prompt your team member to take charge of their own career path.

How to use this template

Let your team member know prior to the meeting that you’ll be discussing their long-term goals. That’ll give them time to mentally prepare for the conversation. But even so, don’t expect them to give you a detailed description of their hopes and dreams during this initial one-on-one.

Some team members might immediately list all of their aspirations for the next year. But most will need time to start thinking beyond their current to-do list. Your job is to present them with options, connect them to resources, and then follow up when they’ve had some time to consider their path forward.

Why you need this template

It’s important to introduce professional development goals in a structured, organized way so your team members know you’re taking it seriously. Show your team members that you have a step-by-step process in place, and they’ll feel more confident that this isn’t a one-off conversation that won’t lead to real learning and development opportunities.

Ask about each person’s goals and passions, and let that inform your development plan. You should also come to the meeting with your own suggestions for how you’d like to see this employee grow. Even if you and your team member have different ideas, they’ll be happy knowing their manager sees their potential.

This template will help you find a goal that fits each individual, whether they’re a highly motivated self-starter or someone who is comfortable in their current position. In either case, this is the one-on-one where you establish that setting professional development goals is not optional—it’s mandatory.

The template

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Want to get all 3 templates as fillable PDFs? Download them here.

Professional Development Template for Creating an Action Plan

The next step after introducing a professional development plan is to set concrete goals that get your employee where they want to be. If they want a promotion, you map out how to get there from their current job. If they want to learn a new skill, you set up the mentoring and development opportunities that they need.

You can also reuse this template when your team member has accomplished one goal and is ready to set their sights on the next one. After all, professional development is an ongoing process that should continue as long as you’re their manager.

How to use this template

In this meeting, you and your team member will commit to measurable goals and design a step-by-step plan to achieve them. The length of the plan will vary, depending on each employee’s personal goals. Still, a good rule of thumb is that if a goal takes less than a month, you’re thinking too small. Conversely, if a goal will take more than a few months to complete, break it down into smaller, short-term goals. That way, your team members don’t get discouraged and lose steam.

Also, don’t wait too long between your first professional development meeting and this one. Two weeks should be enough time for team members to consider your ideas and contribute their own.

Why you need this template

This template helps you and your team member take a dream and turn it into a plan. In all likelihood, your team members already have professional aspirations! They just don’t know how to make time for them among their other responsibilities.

Your job is to help turn abstract goals into measurable achievements and to equip your team member with the tools they’ll need. This method works even if someone is working toward a “soft goal,” like being a better communicator. You can still break a goal like that into bite-sized chunks, like “answer emails on time,” so it’s concrete rather than abstract.

The template

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Want to get all 3 templates as fillable PDFs? Download them here.

Professional Development Plan Template for Tracking Goals

Setting goals is only half the battle; it’s equally important to track progress during one-on-one meetings. Some weeks, you might only have time for a quick check-in between talking about other things. But at least once a month, you should devote significant time to talking about professional development.

Weave these questions into your one-on-one agenda throughout the life span of each goal.

How to use this template

Check in on progress to make sure your team member is still sticking to the plan you agreed on. Make adjustments as needed. Don’t just ask a team member what they’ve done; ask how they felt about it.

Hold your team member accountable but don’t be too rigid. People fall behind, and their interests and priorities evolve. So don’t just cross incremental goals off the list and set new ones. Make sure your team member is still excited by their professional development goals. For example, maybe they thought they’d love graphic design but recently discovered they are color-blind! If that’s the case, don’t chain them to a goal that no longer makes sense.

Why you need this template

This template isn’t just about getting a status update. It’s about celebrating achievements, adjusting expectations, and checking your employee’s overall mindset.

Every time a team member completes an incremental goal, treat it as a win, so they feel good about their progress and motivated to keep pushing. If you don’t encourage your team, professional development will quickly fall by the wayside.

The template

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Want to get all 3 templates as fillable PDFs? Download them here.

Professional Development Means a Stronger Team

Everyone on your team needs long-term goals. Without them, even high performers start feeling unsupported, burned out, or just plain bored. But when people know that they’re making meaningful progress and have the support of their leaders, it boosts productivity, retention, and morale.

Managers have the power to get their team members off the hamster wheel and onto a rewarding path. You can use these professional development templates as a tool to make your team more engaged and committed. When you prioritize professional development, you’re investing in the strength of your team, your organization, and your own legacy as a leader.

3 Professional Development Plan Templates

Download our picks for the best professional development plan templates.

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