How to Set Professional Development Goals + Template

How to Set Professional Development Goals | Pingboard

Professional development goals are objectives that employees set in order to learn and improve in the workplace—and they’re extremely important for engaging and retaining talent. In fact, career goals are so important that a survey of the current job market revealed 86 percent of professionals said they would change jobs if they were offered more opportunities for professional development. 

Setting goals and measuring their progress helps employees grow both personally and professionally. And rather than just watching them jump ship for the land of more opportunity, it will always benefit your organization to help employees grow personally and professionally—but how can you show that you’re invested in their growth? 

Below, we break down how to set professional development goals, with templates and examples to help you get started. 

How to Set (and Achieve) Professional Development Goals

Of course, coming up with the right professional goals is a big part of the growth process. Before we dive into how to set them, let’s take a look at a few examples of professional development goals in the workplace.

Take a Course

Your employees can take a course to expand their skill sets and explore new fields. Skillshare and Udemy are two awesome resources for finding online classes on a number of different topics. Consider offering financial support to employees who are interested in taking a course that’s relevant to their role.

Attend an Industry Event

There are so many industry events every year—and employees can learn a lot just from being present and networking with others in the field. Whether it’s a conference out of town or an afternoon presentation down the street, employees can benefit greatly from attending industry events. Websites like and EventBrite are excellent resources for employees looking for networking events in the area.

Learn a New Skill or Tool

Another great development goal is learning a new skill or a new tool. (Or both!) Employees can grow professionally by developing new abilities and exploring emerging technology that can improve both your team’s productivity and its capabilities. For example, a graphic designer might be interested in learning about coding to gain a new skill set. Or maybe the same designer is already proficient in Adobe Photoshop, but would like to learn how to use Adobe Illustrator as well. 

Whatever professional skill or tool they’d like to use, employees can use Pingboard’s interactive company directory to locate potential mentors within the organization. The advanced search functionality and filtering capabilities enable employees to search the directory by skills, roles, software proficiency, and more.

Improve Presentation Skills

The struggle is very real when it comes to public speaking. That’s why many employees have a professional goal of improving their presentation skills. Challenging an employee to give a presentation during a team meeting is a great way to work toward a goal of improving those skills—and becoming more confident in the process! Organizations like Toastmasters are an excellent resource to help employees build on their communication and leadership skills.

Set Short- and Long-Term Goals

With a few professional goals in mind, it’s a good idea to establish a timeline for achieving them with milestones along the way. Having a plan for accomplishing both short- and long-term goals motivates employees to be proactive about learning and development. You can start by creating a timeline and assigning deadlines to each step, as well as final deadlines for reaching the ultimate career goals. Breaking goals up into small, achievable steps is less daunting and makes them easier to accomplish. 

Click here to get your own Professional Goal Setting Template!

A project management tool like Trello is a visual, interactive way to house specific tasks and then assign those tasks to dates. Using Trello, employees can create checklists and track progress toward meeting both short- and long-term goals over time. 

Measure the Progress

When setting professional development goals, it’s also wise to consider how you’ll measure them. Make it a point to set measurable goals and keep track of how often they’re met. For example, increasing monthly sales and taking specific courses are easy for you to track, and you can see real progress being made over time. When you recognize that employees have been successful, celebrate those wins (even the smaller ones!) so they remain engaged and inspired to continue growing with your organization.

Many people follow the SMART principle to ensure goals are appropriate and timely. SMART is an acronym that’s used as a guide for setting professional goals. To ensure goals are clear and realistic, they must be:

Setting SMART goals helps you clarify ideas, focus efforts, and use your time and resources wisely. Overall, working with employees to help them set and meet professional development goals is a great way to show them they’re valued while increasing engagement, closing skills gaps, and improving retention in the process. Employees can use a tool like to track their progress toward achieving SMART goals over time.

If you’re convinced that professional development goals are a good investment but unsure of how to get started at your organization, we’ve got you covered. Download our Professional Development Goals Templates to get started.

Click here to get your own Professional Goal Setting Template!

Cameron Nouri
by Cameron Nouri
I am the Director of Growth at Pingboard. I consider myself an entrepreneur at heart. I love trying new things and taking educated risks on new ventures, both professionally and in my personal life. I bring that passion to work everyday where I enjoy helping others discover the power that Pingboard can unlock.
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