As organizations expand, they face the challenge of recruiting the talent needed to grow. And no matter the approach leadership takes, from recruitment firms to job fairs, finding suitable candidates is always time-consuming and expensive.

Thankfully, a simpler and more economical approach exists: hiring from within.

Internal hiring offers benefits like reduced onboarding times and increased employee satisfaction. But to truly leverage this approach, you must ensure employees develop the skills and qualifications necessary to meet your company’s future needs.

An employee development plan, created in consultation with your team members, is a roadmap that guides professional progress while cultivating the capabilities needed to meet short and long-term goals.

What’s an employee development plan?

Commonly referred to as a professional development plan (PDP), an employee development plan outlines a team member’s current skills, knowledge, and career goals. Managers use these documents to create and execute concrete action plans that help employees achieve their goals within the context of the company’s needs.

Most PDPs focus on one of three things:

  1. Current role skill development: These are excellent for employees wishing to perform better in their current role.
  2. Career development: For team members eyeing a promotion, you can establish a professional growth plan to help them acquire the necessary skills and qualifications.
  3. Role change preparation: Employees looking to switch departments or roles can work with their manager to achieve the required competency to reach their professional development goals.

The benefits of using employee development plans

Investing in your team’s growth and development by establishing a PDP for each member boasts significant benefits for the organization, like the following:

  • Better recruits: According to Gallup, 87% of millennials think career growth opportunities are a primary concern when accepting a job. Offering professional development as part of your benefits package attracts more candidates, improving the company’s hiring success rate.
  • Increased retention rates: Employees primarily quit to pursue new opportunities. And losing employees is costly, as you spend money recruiting and onboarding someone new and lose a source of organizational memory, a valuable resource. But you can invest in employee retention by establishing a PDP process that encourages staff to stay.
  • More employee engagement: Only 36% of U.S. employees are committed to their employer’s goals. But a PDP shows that an organization cares for its workers, increasing the chance they care back.
  • Overall business success: Using PDPs to ensure your company has a pool of skills, qualifications, and talent to draw on helps it reach its long-term goals.

How to create a PDP for employees: 6 steps

Most PDPs follow the same format, so consider starting with an online template or making one from the following six-step guide.

1. Research

Start with a two-pronged assessment of the company and employee. Refer to organizational documentation stating future goals and objectives to determine potential staffing needs, and encourage this team member to conduct a SWOT analysis to document their:

  • Current skills and knowledge, plus areas for development
  • Certifications and other official qualifications
  • Areas of interest
  • Career growth goals

2. Set goals

Working together, discuss the employee’s professional vision and how it aligns with company objectives. Then, use the SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely) goal-setting method to set objectives based on:

  • Short-term goals — objectives accomplished within a few days or weeks
  • Middle-term goals — targets the employee can complete in several weeks to a couple months
  • Long-term goals — objectives that take more than a year to attain

3. Strategize

Once you’ve identified your employee’s professional development goals, collaborate on an action plan to help them achieve these targets. Consider the best ways to develop the competencies and skills they need to advance their career, developing strategies based on the answers.

4. Gather resources

Now, support your action plan with valuable resources, like:

  • Continuing education: Learning via in-class and online courses lets workers independently train for new qualifications and certifications.
  • New projects and responsibilities: Perfect for employees who are happy in their role but don’t want their skills to get stale, novel opportunities within the company let them meet their stretch goals and take on new challenges.
  • Workshops and seminars: Provide employees with hands-on learning and exposure to new ideas.
  • Volunteer opportunities: Permit employees to put their skills to work and develop new capacities in their off-hours.
  • Mentors: Mentoring and job-shadowing programs allow employees to experience the roles they’re interested in to see if they’re a good fit.

As employees develop their new skill set, they need opportunities to put them to work within the organization. Ensure they have a chance to reinforce and refine what they’ve learned and provide actionable feedback to boost their motivation.

5. Establish timelines

Set an attainable timeline for the employee to meet their targets. The schedule should be demanding enough to challenge them but not so constrained that they feel overwhelmed. This process keeps your direct report accountable while also helping them easily track progress.

6. Review and re-evaluate

A professional development plan is a living document. Revisit it regularly with your teammate to evaluate their progress and adjust as they advance and company circumstances change.

2 professional development plan examples

Here are a couple examples to further illustrate the concept and offer outlines you can use as templates.

Example 1: New employee PDP


New employee working in entry-level sales


Overall goal: Move up to sales lead position within 12–18 months

  • Short-term: Improve product knowledge.
  • Medium-term: Develop leadership skills.
  • Long-term: Find a mentor to help develop sales skills and advance career.


  • Follow up the onboarding process by studying marketing materials and specs to build product authority
  • Read one professional development book and complete two online leadership courses in the first six months at work
  • Request feedback on sales techniques and ways to improve
  • Locate a sales mentor


  • Existing company marketing materials
  • Library
  • Online leadership development website
  • Manager one-on-one meetings
  • Networking events


  • By next week: Complete onboarding and request marketing materials from the manager.
  • By next month: Complete marketing materials studying and begin the first course.
  • By next quarter: Complete the first online leadership course and begin next. Plan regular one-on-one meetings with manager to receive feedback and advice on sales performance.
  • By end of year: Complete reading leadership book. Incorporate advice from manager into the sales process. Find a mentor to help with career development.

Example 2: Career change PDP


Website developer wishes to move into project management. The employee has the degree and most soft skills necessary for the transition but needs to develop PM hard skills.


Overall goal: Earn PMP certification and secure a position as a project manager

  • Short-term: Complete 35 professional development hours through PMP certification training.
  • Medium-term: Transition to a role allowing the employee to accrue 36 months of experience leading projects.
  • Long-term: Schedule PMP exam with The Project Management Institute.


  • Find a project manager mentor
  • Request additional project management responsibilities at work
  • Attend project management seminars
  • Brush up on presentation and communication skills
  • Complete 35 hours of professional development with PMI


  • Project Management Institute
  • Online training courses and materials
  • Project Manager Association networking events and seminars


  • By next week: Ask to lead a small project.
  • By next month: Sign up for and complete the first professional development course.
  • By next quarter: Meet a mentor and complete public speaking training.
  • By end of year: Complete 35 hours of training and regularly lead a cross-functional team developing websites.

Assist employee growth with Tempo

Once you’ve crafted your PDP, turn your action plan into an audience-friendly visual roadmap with Roadmunk by Tempo. From this central spot, you and your teammate can track goal progress and notice and address delays. Pair this with Timesheets by Tempo for a comprehensive toolkit that supports you and your team.