How To Set Professional Learning Goals in Uncertain Times

Setting learning-based New Year’s resolutions is the best option for 2021.

By Eliana Ifill

Normally, the new year is an excellent time for eager goal-setting. It’s a chance to think about who we were, who we want to be, and what kinds of changes need to happen to get there.

But we’re all entering this new year more carefully than in the past. We’ve all learned that the best plans can change radically, and we’ve learned to be more flexible about modified plans, both at work and home.

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This year is still full of uncertainty, but making a learning plan might be one of the most solid kinds of resolutions you can make right now. A professional development plan for you or your team at the least requires only reflection, and at the most, taking some online courses just as easily taken from home as at work. Plus, there are more online training options now than ever before.

Motivate Yourself for a New Year Training Plan

You might be tempted to say, “Why bother?” but remember this boon in training resources and your own ability to reflect as you think about where you or your team should be by time the next year rolls around.

Aspects like bureaucracy, unclear scopes of practice, and the complicated nature of healthcare–especially for marginalized communities–leave many healthcare agencies feeling overloaded and like it’s hard too to set professional development and learning goals.

That kind of attitude is understandable, but these activities haven’t been canceled. Your career or your team’s career will keep going on. Setting professional goals is the best way to build skills for the job you have or you want your team to have and start to gain experience for advancing on a career path.

Research Required Training

The first step in setting a training goal for yourself as a supervisor or manager is to find out what’s required. You might need to complete regular training in topics like sexual harassment or unconscious bias.

If you have your own eye on a job along the career ladder, find out what you need before you can climb it.

When you’re planning training for your staff, also find out what’s required for their position and make sure you make it easy for them to complete.

Then, build on to that solid base with specialized training that fits the needs of your community or what you want to do. Set meetings with your staff regularly to review these goals, maybe every three months or twice a year, to discuss these options and offer support.

Continuous education and training will help you benefit your career and also help the people who work with you. Read on for more ideas about setting defining training goals for your employees, and also review what a training needs analysis requires.

5 Things To Keep in Mind When Helping Your Staff Set Learning Goals

1. Identify what areas in your community need the most support.

2. Find out certificates or training your state requires for staff positions.

3. Work with each team member to find out their professional goals.

4. Set a system for measuring learning goals.

5. Provide constructive feedback and support. 

1.     Identify what areas in your community need the most support.

Many public health departments work closely with underserved communities and families with little to no access to basic health care. Your agency has the opportunity to address the unique challenges your community is facing and help people living there to overcome these barriers.

When setting staff learning goals regarding community needs, keep in mind:

  • medical conditions of clients who most need it, such as those who access the ER often
  • requirements of your employer or certifying bodies
  • specific needs of those in your community, such as through a community health needs assessment.

This will tell you something about needs surrounding chronic illnesses that’s are problem where you live, such as diabetes or heart disease. Or it might reveal a need for more general skills such as advocacy, help navigating health insurance, transportation, or language services.

2.     Find out certificates or training your state requires for staff positions.

Your agency’s HR department likely has information about specific certification required in an employee’s job. Start there. But also look at requirements that would empower your staff to do more and make it easier to hire from within.

3.    Work with each team member to find out their professional goals.

Some good employees never consider their job as a long-term career or a steppingstone within your organization. If you find out what your staff’s professional goals are early on, you can help them, build loyalty, and improve engagement along the way.

4.     Set a system for measuring learning goals.

Once you’ve worked with your staff to more or less define their career aspirations, it’s time to clearly outline those goals and create an action plan.

For goal setting, you can use a system like SMART goals, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based (or time-bound).

An example of a SMART learning goal is:

Contact my local authority to request the certification requirements before registration for the Core Competencies course closes for this quarter.

5. Provide constructive feedback and support.

Many workforce members complete training successfully, but then they are at a loss about using their new skills. This requires opportunity and feedback from you. Create a culture in your staff that encourages honest and open feedback. This can feel awkward, but it’s essential to build in this kind of feedback regularly to earn a solid ROI on your training and staff investment.

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