A professional development plan is a document that shows career goals and the skills required to get to those goals. In the context of team management, a professional development plan is created by a manager to identify skills that support team members to achieve their career goals within their organization’s requirements. Not every personal goal can be considered as a target for a professional development plan and vice versa; not every organizational requirement can be the professional development plan goal of a team member. As a team lead, I have been asked to put together a development plan that is specifically targeted for UI/UX design and development team members. In this article I am sharing my experience as UI/UX lead and present my experiences in creating the development plan for the team. I have used Miro templates to define a step by step process for a professional development plan which I present below.
Challenges in defining a professional development plan
The biggest challenge to define a development plan for a UI/UX team is constant changes in technology and the adaptability of chosen technologies or tools to achieve the goals within the development plan. While in some parts of application design and development, the choice of technology or infrastructure dictates a career path, a UI/UX designer or developer is presented with a wide variety of choices that are ever changing so defining a goal and a means of reaching that goal may be challenging.
A recurrent comment that I heard from team members I managed was that they have already learned everything in their special area in their current capacity. For example, a frontend developer in my team told me that they have reached their capacity as an Angular developer and they are eager to learn other stacks. This is a genuinely true feeling that someone might have after a couple of years in a position. I would make the argument that it will cost more to hire a new team member, onboard and train them for the job than it costs to retain and upskill team members and help them stay productive. The retention of team members based on opportunities that a professional plan presents can be considered as another challenge.
Organizational requirements vs personal goals is another challenge in defining a development plan that satisfies both the team members and the management’s expectation defined by the company’s requirements. In order for a professional development plan to be successful, team member’s areas of interest should be aligned to organizational objectives. Activities within a professional development plan are supported by the organization because they support strategic objectives of the organization. A team member’s goals and activities, and even broadly their career path should align with the organization’s requirements.
The organization’s strategic direction
A document that provides an overview of an organization’s strategic goals. It contains a set of activities, technologies and skills that the organization needs to have in order to achieve its goals and objectives. Defining this document ensures alignment between the organization’s directors, managers and employees. It also ensures that the business’s directions that are set for team members are concentrated around organizational objectives. I recommend the use of a strategic important vs contribution to operations matrix that outlines four areas of interest in the organization as follows:
Strategic: It contains skills or technologies that are aligned with long-term goals or initiatives across the board. A team member must be specialized in at least one of the skills or technologies in this group.
Important: skills or technologies that are complementary to the strategic category. Investment in this category will help create T-shaped skills.
Opportunistic: skills or technologies that with enough investment can help achieve strategic or important goals faster or easier.
Irrelevant: technologies or tools we deliberately choose to ignore because they are depreciated or not actively used.
Professional development planning steps
Step1: Self assessment with the direct manager
Begin with evaluating the team member’s skills and find challenges in their career. A manager will play a facilitator role and listen to the team member’s concerns and challenges. The aim at this step is to find out what problems are we solving for a given area of expertise. For example, a junior UI/UX designer might have basic knowledge about UX research and design but lack experience in specific domains such as e-commerce websites or apps. Since challenges reveal problems and needs, it is important to keep them broad but specific to a domain.
Step2: Develop aspirations and goals
Following the discovery of challenges, desired outcomes or aspirations are created. With aspirations we aim at finding the ideal outcomes for the team member. Use the SMART method (specific, measurable, assignable, realistic and time-related) to define goals.
Try to answer what skills or technologies interest the team member. Then check to see if those exist in the organization’s strategic, opportunistic or important areas of interest. The line between personal and professional growth can be blurry. Checking aspirations with an organization’s strategic direction will help define goals that are aligned with the organizational needs. Finally assess what we need to achieve based on the aspirations in both long term or short term. This will produce a set of goals that cover personal aspirations and are applied to address organizational objectives.
Step3: Define activities and key metrics
At this step the team member defines clear and tangible activities that are specific and measurable as well as realistic. Each activity should correspond to one or more defined goals. Try answering what capabilities achieve the desired goal(s)? An important thing is to set tangible goals within the time frame of the proposed development plan.
Key metrics are a good way to measure success of activities. They are used to gauge success in desired outcomes.
Step4: Summarize the outcome
Prioritize skills and then group them based on the company’s strategic direction.
Professional development plan template
I have created a Miro template that covers the above steps to create a development plan. It includes a blank template and an example of a professional development plan for a junior UI/UX designer.
Each sticker in the template comes with a tag that makes it easier to track challenges to aspirations, goals and activities.
Link to the professional development plan template: https://miro.com/app/board/uXjVPjDdJ1E=/?share_link_id=73862552426
A professional development plan is a document that captures the skills and objectives a team member needs to accomplish in order to support continuous growth of their professional career. This document is created in collaboration with the manager to make sure the identified skills and objectives match with the organization’s strategic direction. Planning happens at a specific time during the year and is reviewed regularly on an on-going basis.
In this article I presented the steps to create a professional development plan along with a template that makes it easier to revise defined goals as things change. It also clearly shows how personal aspirations and goals contribute to an organization’s objectives.