Developing a Personal Development Plan for Work
Do you have a Personal Development Plan for your current job? If not, you may want to think about creating one in order to better manage your career and your relationship with your current employer. This article will discuss the importance of a development plan, the benefits you can realize from this activity and how to go about creating the plan and presenting it to your employer.
I was reminded of the importance of having a personal development plan when I was contacted by a friend whose current employer found out that he was searching for another job. He was pulled into the office to discuss why he was looking for another position and they suggested that maybe he was due for a change. It was obvious the employer liked him and want to make sure he’d stay, but recognize that he was looking for more responsibility and better compensation. They asked him what it would take for him to remain with their company.
I recommended he put together a Personal Development Plan. This would be his road map for how he’d manage his career with his current and future employers. It’s relatively easy and should take less than 2 hours. This is different from a career planning process your company may already have. This plan is a pro-active initiative on your part to demonstrate that you’re interested in advancing in the organization and have some ideas about how to go about this. You may be asked to eventually incorporate your ideas into the formal company process.
Below are the steps to create the plan.
Start by making 2 lists: One is everything you do on the job now and a list of skills needed to do this. The other is a list of what you’d like to do if you could design your own position and the skills needed for this. Be creative and don’t just think about existing jobs (e.g., Manager, Project Lead, Senior (fill in your title here,) etc… ) If your second list describes a new position, make sure it does one of the following for your company:
• Make Money
• Save Money
• Save Time
• Improve a Process
You should also be prepared to discuss the specific financial impact of the new position to the company in terms of one or several of the categories above. This sounds hard, but once you get going it’s not too bad. Use your best estimates for the financial savings. The organization reviewing this will validate or adjust these numbers if they feel they need to.
Be prepared to discuss the duties of the new position and what a typical day on the job will look like. The new position may combine some of the duties you’re currently doing with new ones which compliment them. The position may also combine duties from several other ones thereby eliminating the need for the other position(s). Note; If you’re proposing combining the duties from other positions, make sure they’re from positions not currently filled or which are being proposed as new.
Next, look at the gap in skill sets between what you do now and what you’d like to do. Develop a plan with a timeline as to how you will acquire the necessary skills. This will help your employer commit to you now, even if it’s for some lesser position than you originally had in mind. If you reach an agreement with them, stick to the development plan and provide them with regular updates as to your progress. This will ensure that they keep their commitment to advance you as you acquire new skills. They may also be willing to pay for some of the training if it involves a formal class or travel to a seminar or trade show.
Once you’ve done all the above, create some documents that you can use for the conversation. These don’t have to be formal or detailed, just bullets of the points discussed above and a summary of the cost impact and development plan. 4-5 pages max.
Set up at time to meet with your employer and allow for at least an hour. Inform them of the reason for the meeting and how it will benefit them. Make sure everyone understands that there won’t be any interruptions and that you’ll finish on time.
Your objective for the outcome of this meeting is to create a development plan for you at the company. This will define your desired career path and what both you and your employer need to do in order to execute the plan.
The plan should include your personal development schedule with date specific milestones. There should be an agreement between you and your employer regarding specific increases in compensation and/or responsibility once the milestones are achieved. You should also use this opportunity to negotiate the employer’s contribution to your development plan in terms of tuition reimbursement, travel budgets for conferences and memberships in professional organizations.
In some cases the plan may include an immediate increase in compensation and, if possible position or responsibility. The compensation can include a raise or a bonus plan. You should have a dollar amount in mind and be prepared to discuss it in terms of the financial impact you’ll have on the company. Also be prepared to compromise on this or accept a proposal with incremental increases.
Treat the meeting as any other. Even though you’re discussing your future with the company, it’s the same as discussing an upcoming project or reviewing a current one. Thank your employer for the opportunity to discuss your career road map and summarize the process you used to create it, which was:
• Review of current responsibilities and skills
• Development of a role which will benefit the company
• Analysis of financial impact of the position
• Personal Development Plan
Go through each section of the plan with your employer explaining your thoughts and how you reached the conclusions. Answer any questions they have. If you can create a dialog it will go a lot smoother. People tend to agree with decisions they participated in and contributed to. Ask for their input to improve your ideas and consider everything they suggest. You don’t have to accept all their ideas, but your employer probably knows more about their company and how your proposal will impact them and can provide creative input.
Once the discussion has run its course, turn to the topic of next steps. These should be specific and include target dates. If you don’t hear from your employer or something you agreed to isn’t completed on time contact them and remind them of your agreement. Get them to commit to a new deadline for the item. Continue this until you’re satisfied that you’ve achieved your objectives and have better defined your role at the company for the next several years.
A final thought. If your company requested that you do this they have indicated their interest in retaining you. This provides you with a definite edge in the negotiations. Be polite, but firm and stick to your plan. Only compromise on an issue if there’s a strong business rationale and make sure you ask for a concession on another item to offset the impact of not getting agreement on this one. You can use these same tactics if you decide to be proactive about your development plan. However you’ll need to be more flexible with regard to the compensation and promotions and follow the company guidelines for these. If you’re not satisfied with the outcome, you can always decide to implement your plan anyway but with the goal of leaving the employer for another opportunity that meets your objectives.