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How do you set professional development goals?

I'm interested in how you do this for yourself and also for your team? Is it a formal process and what do you try to keep in mind?


Topic Expert
Patrick Dunne
Title: Chief Financial Officer
Company: Milk Source
(Chief Financial Officer, Milk Source) |

For those that are new to a position and could use some extra seasoning, I have established goals to obtain a CPA certificate. I add the extra incentive that I raise their pay $2-$3K per year on the day they pass. I have wanted to use a BS/BA degree as an incentive for someone I see as extremely talented, but may be limited for future roles without a degree. I may implement that incentive this year. For annual reviews, we like many others try to put in at least 1-2 professional development goals in each review, which is in writing.

Carrie Roesner
Title: Controller and VP
Company: Centro
(Controller and VP, Centro) |

I think it depends if you're talking about personal professional development (e.g. education, CPA certification,etc.) or work goals (e.g. completing a project this year, implementing a new system, etc.).

For the personal professional development, we encourage it by making sure our incentives align with the desired behavior (reimburse for CPA review classes and exam fees as well as CPEs, tuition reimbursement). We also talk about the individual's desired career path and what requirements are necessary for the next level so they know if a degree or CPA is expected. Finally, we make sure we are flexible so that people can accomplish these goals; perhaps someone has to leave at 3:30 on Thursday to attend class. We do not count these towards work goals as the individual benefits through the reimbursement and the skill set they acquire.

For work goals, we tie these to an annual bonus program. Each year, every person, along with their manager and team, establishes 3-5 goals that are written down at the beginning of the year. These may be metrics driven (decrease DSO by x days) or project driven (implement a fixed asset system by x date) and should align with what the team wants and needs to accomplish during the year as well as align with company objectives as much as possible. It's important to help everyone understand why these goals are important and how they tie into the company's success so you have buy-in and alignment. Finally, make them SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound. Make sure everyone knows the deliverable expected, what the measure of success will be and what the deadline is. Make sure that people believe they can achieve the goal within the time frame (e.g. reducing your close by 1/2 within 6 months may not be attainable, but reducing it by 2 days by the end of the year and an additional 4 days the following year may be) and again, that they understand why they're important to the team and company.

Renee Jaenicke
Title: Director of Internal Audit
Company: Renown Health
(Director of Internal Audit, Renown Health) |

It's also important to dialogue with them as to their internal motivation. For example, a community project may help them develop leadership skills. This type of activity can address their "passion" and develop them at the same time.

Tarun Joshi
Title: Manager
Company: Deutsche Bank
(Manager, Deutsche Bank) |

We have a very nice system of roadmaps meetings in which we ask the employees to list down his goals and then we see how we can align the same with the organisation's goals. We also have a periodic (say monthly for a senior employee and quarterly for others) catch meetings to monitor the progress.

Topic Expert
Christie Jahn
Title: CFO
Company: Prime Investments & Development
(CFO, Prime Investments & Development) |

Love the SMART goals as Carrie mentions; we use that same method for achieving results. I am reading a lot about how you handle this for the team; but what about for yourself?

Kundan Lal
Title: Accounting & Finance Consultant
Company: Real Time Cloud Services, LLC
(Accounting & Finance Consultant, Real Time Cloud Services, LLC) |

Hi Christie, great question. Here are few things, I always keep in mind while selecting professional development goal (I also suggest the same to my team members) -
1. It should be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound). I think this is already explained by @Patrick Dunne
2. Always break down your goals into small, achievable sub-goals so that you can feel motivated to take on other goals.
3. Most important, set realistic goals that you can achieve and are in your own control.
4. Always set priorities while making and achieving goals or sub-goals.

Before making goals don’t forget to ask yourself,
- How do you define career success?
- Is this your right job?
- Are you going to set goals with your current job?
- Is there someone you most admire? Is there something that you want for your career vision?
- Where would you like to be in your career in 3, 5 or 10 years?

Having a clear vision of the end goals your’e trying to achieve before you take action is the right way to develop yourself professionally.
What are your thoughts about this?


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