About 15 years ago, it seemed that every organization was extolling the merits of a professional development plan. Although you don’t hear about this topic very much today, its premise is still important-it’s even more valuable in light of the increasing demands that professional life places on us.
The concept is simple: everyone in the office needs to have a plan that details what they will learn during the year and how that might be accomplished. The components are focused on helping the team member maintain and improve their professional competencies as well as related skills such as written and verbal communications and customer service.
The disappointing reality is that many optical offices don’t have a professional development plan. Even a good number of optical manufacturing companies don’t have one. That’s unfortunate because without a structured approach, three things will happen: 1) Team members will not learn anything new; 2) They will learn only what they randomly encounter reading professional journals and attending seminars; or 3) They will learn whatever it is they want to learn, not what the owner or manager needs them to learn. None of these potential outcomes is what your office really needs, and yet it’s what many of them experience.
Having a first-class plan takes some effort. Using the results of the team member’s yearly performance review, the manager suggests some areas of improvement and ways of accomplishing them. The team member makes suggestions and between the two of them, an individualized plan is created.
A good plan is a clear road map of what needs to be done and how it should be accomplished so it should include tasks, timelines for completing them and an assessment measure .
Allocating resources is another aspect of a good plan. If it costs money, you should provide it. Also consider paid time for educational activities outside the scope of the work day such as a vendor presentation in your office after hours.
Incidentally, most of the information that team members can learn don’t cost money. In fact, much of what you’ll want them to learn is probably online free or at little cost. Team members can also learn from each other, which won’t cost a penny.
If you don’t have a professional development program, consider adding one. It’s one of the most effective human resource development tools.
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