No one disputes the value of lifelong learning. But the problem is mustering up the motivation and knowing where to start. A professional learning plan kickstarts the professional development journey for members and customers—and keeps them firmly in your educational ecosystem.
Benefits of a professional learning plan for members and customers
A professional learning plan (PLP) is a personalized plan for career development and lifelong learning that’s tailored to the needs, goals, and circumstances of the learner.
Make career aspirations come true. Serving as a roadmap for professional development, a PLP helps learners achieve career goals. Learners know what skills and knowledge they need to acquire, and where to spend their time and money.
Demonstrate a commitment to growth. Learners see their progress as they move through their PLP. They know what they’ve accomplished and what they still need to achieve. A PLP is evidence of their seriousness about lifelong learning. They don’t just talk about it. They have a plan in motion to achieve their goals.
Keep on track and motivated. A documented plan holds learners accountable to their goals. With each step they take, their motivation increases. They gain confidence as they check off accomplishments.
Benefits to associations that encourage professional learning plans
Earn loyalty as an education partner. When you help members and customers develop and stick to a professional learning plan, you gain their goodwill and loyalty.
Enhance your industry reputation. Your association becomes known as an advocate for lifelong learning. You help people figure out where to start their learning journey and provide support along the way.
Generate leads. PLPs give you an excuse to recommend association programs and courses that help people achieve their career goals.
Increase membership retention and recruitment. Offer PLPs as a free member benefit, but charge non-members for self-assessments and PLPs. Don’t worry, you’ll generate revenue from registration fees and credentialing application and renewal fees.
Improve relationships and business with employers. Offer team PLP packages for member companies. Include self-assessments, learning plans aligned with job performance requirements, and coaching in the package pricing.
NIGP’s Concierge service takes PLPs even further. It offers “a customized learning program that gives employees the tools and resources to excel in their roles now and in the future.” The service includes a “customized roadmap for identifying and implementing staff learning, growth, and promotion opportunities relevant to current and future staff positions.”
The professional learning plan process
When developing a PLP, the learner first clarifies and documents their career values and goals. A self-assessment helps them identify existing and desired competencies. They receive a learning plan based on the results of the assessment, goals and values, previously completed learning, and profile data. The plan includes educational programs, courses, credentials, and volunteer experience that help the learner acquire the technical (hard) and human (soft) skills they need to achieve career goals.
Encourage accountability by connecting the learner with others on the same or similar path. A community of peers is motivational.
Require learners to revisit and adjust their PLP at least once a year. Ask them to reflect on the challenges they encountered and the successes they achieved.
Introducing professional learning plans to your members
As with any new program, get very clear on the goals for your PLP program. Identify target audiences and their challenges and aspirations.
Create the PLP self-assessment, recommendation methodology, roadmap template, goal-setting guidelines, and sample templates.
Develop a marketing strategy and identify success metrics. In marketing campaigns, explain why your association encourages PLPs, why lifelong learning is critical for industry professionals, and how participants will benefit from a PLP.
Schedule PLP workshops throughout the year, including at conferences. In these workshops, guide members through the process of creating and implementing their learning plan.
Build PLPs into your association’s mentorship program. Assign PLP participants to accountability buddies or cohorts. Reward their progress with a discount on a future course or conference registration.
After a year, gather success stories from members who’ve achieved their goals or progressed in their career with help from their PLP. Make adjustments to the program based on participant feedback.
Examples of professional learning plans
Professional development. The College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) holds 90-minute workshops to help member physicians identify practice gaps and establish learning goals. The PLP is free for CFPC members. Members can choose a peer-supported or self-guided pathway. One month after the launch, 242 CFPC members were already participating.
Certification exam preparation. At the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, learning plans help people prepare for the Certified Professional in Healthcare Information and Management Systems (CPHIMS) exam.
Certification renewal. Learning plans support the recertification process at the Commission on Dietetic Registration.
Volunteer leadership training. Rotary International offers learning plans for volunteer leadership positions.
By supporting the lifelong learning journeys of members and customers, you strengthen your relationship and enhance the value your association brings to their lives.