8 examples for setting professional development goals at work

April 8, 2022 - 11 min read

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1. Do an audit of your performance reviews and assess feedback 

2. Complete a leadership training course

3. Align with company goals 

4. Gain upward feedback

5. Improve presentation skills

6. Gain a more in-depth perspective of how departments within the company are run

7. Improve the ability to manage the team remotely

8. Learn how to give and receive effective feedback

Goals are important to keep productivity levels up at work. But setting goals shouldn’t stop at things to accomplish on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis.

You should be setting goals that revolve around your development in the workplace, allowing you to progress professionally — and if you're a manager — supporting your team's development.

Great goal-setting means you can take steps towards improving any aspect of work that’s relevant and specific to you, building on professional knowledge, skills, and effective working practices. 

Goal-setting may be supported at the company level, depending on the current priorities and your HR maturity level, but is also something you can take control of yourself.

While your goals should be tailored to your personal aims and needs, we’ve put together seven examples to give you an idea of some great, SMART development goals which will help push you towards success and the professional accomplishments you’re striving for.

1. Do an audit of your performance reviews and assess feedback 

Part of making the performance review process effective is turning the feedback you receive into goals, so you can be more focused on your work, advance your career, and develop professionally.

As you look through feedback you’ve previously received, try to identify patterns that point to potential areas for growth. These can include areas where you’re struggling (such as time management), or skills you’re regularly praised for that you’d like to master. It can be anything from specific skills, behaviors, or processes.

If you’re still struggling after going through past feedback and team goals, look at the bigger picture. If not already clear, talk to your manager to understand what your organization’s goals are, and how you can contribute. If you’re really keen, you could even talk to someone in HR to see if there are any extra-curricular initiatives you can get involved in. 

2. Complete a leadership training course before the end of the quarter

Part of professional development is continuing to learn new skills and practices, at any stage in your career. Sometimes enrolling in courses or training programs is an invaluable way to gain the skills or knowledge you need to develop in your role and improve in specific practices.

Learning new things doesn’t necessarily have to be a formal process though. Development goals can be as easy as gaining more knowledge about something. 

3. Align with company goals 

If you’re still struggling after going through past feedback and team goals, look at the bigger picture. If not already clear, talk to your manager to understand what your organization’s goals are, and how you can contribute.

If you’re really keen, you could even talk to someone in HR to see if there are any extra-curricular initiatives you can get involved in. Here's one example of creating a goal laddered up to a larger company goal: 

Company goal: Increase revenue from recurring customers by 15% for the financial year.

Personal goal: Create new onboarding material for existing customers, to increase their satisfaction and support a positive onboarding experience.

Milestones: Develop two concepts and test them with small focus groups. Pick and develop the winning concept. Roll out new material to all new customers.

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4. Gain upward feedback before the end of the quarter to establish what can be improved

Receiving honest, constructive feedback shouldn’t just be a top-down process, especially with such tools available to facilitate this these days. Gathering your team's perspective is a great way to see how your behaviors and practices impact those around you.

You can provide great insight when it comes to what works and what doesn’t. When things get busy, it’s easy to forget to check in with your team and get upward feedback on how you're doing. Having a goal in place means things won’t get overlooked in favor of other tasks or projects.

5. Improve presentation skills by enlisting help, in order to make things more engaging for the team

Improving presentation skills is always valuable. It can have an impact on so many aspects of work: from presenting better in weekly meetings to improving skills for large company-wide or public presentations.

Great presentation skills allow you to engage and communicate with, motivate, and inspire your team.

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6. Gain a more in-depth perspective of how departments within the company are run

By taking a couple of days to work with or shadow each department over the next two quarters, you can build a wider understanding of what goes into each department's daily practices.

This means you can better understand the challenges and obstacles other team members experience on a daily basis, making you a more effective manager.

7. Improve the ability to manage the team remotely

It’s good to have guidelines in place to ensure that when working remotely, everything is still running efficiently and team members have support available when they need it.

Having clear channels for communication and building a team culture of open feedback plays a large part in success here. 

Inclusive leadership plays an important role in fostering belonging, especially among remote and hybrid teams. At BetterUp, our managers all complete inclusive leadership coaching circles and training to help ensure inclusivity across our workforce. With inclusive leaders, teams are more engaged, productive, and creative. 

8. Learn how to give and receive effective feedback from team members

Part of successfully managing a team is providing useful insight into each member’s performance. This not only helps people to improve but will also improve your standing as a manager because people respect someone who provides honest and actionable feedback.

This can be as a regular part of the way you work, part of a more structured performance review, but preferably both. Regardless of the method, learn how to give and receive feedback effectively.

This doesn't always have to be constructive feedback. It's important to also learn when to use positive feedback — and what types of feedback you should avoid (like the feedback sandwich). 

If you're struggling with creating a culture of feedback, consider BetterUp. With personalized support, you can unlock the power of feedback within your workforce. A coach can help guide your employees through the art of feedback (the good, the bad, and everything in between). 

Next steps

Now it's time to decide on your goals, so you can get out there and begin developing both personally and professionally. Make sure you write your goals down (so you can hold yourself accountable), and even make them visible in some way. It might be scary, but it can help increase the chances of success.

Are you a manager? Using a goal-setting tool with your team members can help establish focus and even drive employee engagement, as you work on reaching these together. Selecting a tool that is designed to help you integrate these into your day-to-day interactions such as 1:1s, can help make these even more effective at driving performance and engagement.

No matter your goals, feedback is the key to improving further over time — especially when you create a culture where feedback is regularly shared amongst team members. 

And consider the role of BetterUp in your workforce's professional development. With access to virtual coaching, you can unlock new professional development goals to help your workforce thrive

See how BetterUp works - Watch Demo

Published April 8, 2022

Maggie Wooll

Managing Editor

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