Professional Learning Plans
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Professional Learning Plans

Lab Notes is a blog series dedicated to sharing our experiments in the space where the future of work and the future of learning converge. In this issue, we look at a multi-purpose tool that puts humans at the center of our strategy for operational resilience.

Lab Notes

Hi, it’s Francine here, Chief of Staff at Eskwelabs. I love recreational activities that don’t involve a screen—like painting and jigsaw puzzles—and I am an avid birdwatcher. One thing I admire about birds is their effortless flight, working with the wind whenever they break free from stillness. Their strong wings give them the confidence to fly. To me, this is a perfect metaphor of how teams can flourish and thrive in the future of work when we provide them with the tools to succeed. Lab Notes is a joy to write because it’s ultimately a scrapbook of our efforts to be the wind beneath our team members’ wings, propelling them into success in the 21st century and beyond.

You can connect with me via LinkedIn here.

Professional Learning Plans

The PLP as a tool for professional growth

A Professional Learning Plan or PLP is a tool that allows us to intentionally invest in the development of our team members. PLPs are common in the L&D and education space, and depending on the institution, their format and content will vary. 

The PLP as a noun (the document itself) and a verb (the act of answering and updating said document) is a manifestation of our core essence—a lifelong learning spirit—as an education institution. But it’s not just about nurturing an authentic company culture. Having PLPs deeply ingrained in our team development initiatives also reflects our alignment to the future of work.

The PLP as a tool for company resilience

In the aftermath of the pandemic, according to LinkedIn Learning’s “2023 Workplace Learning Report,” what concerns organizations the most—at least, 93% of them—is employee retention.

Their biggest bet to improve and ensure this? “Providing learning opportunities.”

This is why the PLP is more relevant than ever.

Our version of the PLP is a fill in the blank questionnaire in a document that team members bring with them throughout their entire stay at the company. The prompts in the PLP help us continuously acquire knowledge and mindsets we need in order to thrive at Eskwelabs and beyond. How? Clarity. Conversation. Convergence.


Team members who are thoughtful in filling out their PLP end up benefiting from it the most. The document serves as a compass, giving people clarity on their direction. This allows managers to curate learning opportunities that best align with their direct reports’ PLPs.


PLP-focused 1on1 sessions are something sacred and special in Eskwelabs. It’s an opportunity to see deeper into the motivations of team members and to see deeper into their futures in the organization. These PLP sessions are learning opportunities in themselves for both parties to reach epiphanies together.


When you pair “Clarity” and “Conversation” together, you get “Convergence.” It’s about the coming together of two or more things. For example, finding harmony and opportunities for growth for team members transitioning into new roles, in alignment with the organization’s goals.

In this way, the PLP is a powerful tool in the future of work. The landscape is increasingly becoming pressure-filled—expectations on one’s learning agility are high. Everyone, everywhere, expects all people to be fast and effective learners.

  • McKinsey & Company has declared in an article just this March 2023 that having “rapid-learning cycles” is one of the hallmarks of an agile organization today. This is what PLPs help facilitate.
  • Forbes released an article about cross-skilling as the training recommendation for 2022 to make one’s workforce resilient. PLPs can help map out both personalized learning paths and identify shared gaps for cross-skilling.
  • Harvard Business Review made a bold statement in 2021 when they suggested that we prioritize identifying and hiring lifelong learners. People who actively identify as lifelong learners are among the top users of PLPs, based on our experience.

So what’s inside a PLP?

There are three main components. And because we care for your calendar, we’re going to break it down for you in under 5 minutes.

Drivers & goals

We get deep and personal with questions like:

  • Where do you find sources of meaning in your life? 
  • What is your overriding objective in life? 
  • Who are the stakeholders in your life?
  • What are your 3/6/12 month goals in this company?

The first two questions alone are enough to inspire conversation for a 1-hour PLP session. It’s important to get to the root and heart of the matter—when we know and appreciate the context of where our team members come from, the better we can establish a partnership that benefits their own goals and the company’s.

We also aim to develop self-awareness in our team members with fill-in-the-blank statements like:

  • “I know I’m growing when ____” 
  • “I know I’m stagnating when ____” 
  • “I know I’m declining when ____”

For managers and their direct reports:

These questions pave the way for honest conversation, and oftentimes a lot of epiphanies. We can remove a lot of mindreading and guesswork when both parties (managers and direct reports) have reference points for one another.

For the entire team in general:

These questions help identify how team members can grow within the organization, including which roles to target, staffing on projects, and how to transfer between teams when that is aligned to members’ PLPs.

Learning assessment

Here we ask team members about their learning style. While different learning styles—and the idea of there being multiple learning styles—have been debated over the years, what we want to emphasize in this section of the PLP is our understanding that each team member is unique and brings a set of skills and experiences that cannot be 100% duplicated by another. 

We also provide self-assessment questions for core skills needed by their team within the organization. 

We end this section of the PLP with the following:

  • Which skills did you develop fastest? Why or how?
  • Which skills have been the most useful to you at work?
  • Which skills have been the least useful to you at work?
  • What skills do you need most to grow in your intended direction?

It is true to Eskwelabs culture to punctuate each PLP section with self-awareness questions like these ones. Progress on these questions is a key attribute of both our culture, as well as preparing team members for roles with more advanced responsibilities. 

These questions open team members’ minds to what else they can possibly learn. We want them to feel like empowered agents in their learning journeys, too.

Personal theory of change

A tool within a tool. A PLP containing a personal theory of change is a powerful combo. A theory of change (TOC) is a tool that helps one systematically describe their current reality as well as their desired future. 

As a social enterprise, Eskwelabs focuses on driving change in the world, and also seeks team members who are similarly motivated to create their own personal impact on society. The TOC is a common tool used by NGOs and impact professionals.

This tool documents the bridge in between (aka the path and plan to get from one state to another).

  • The highest level question in this section of the PLP is “What is the long-term impact that you want to see in society as a result of your actions?”
  • We challenge team members to move easily from visionary thinking to practical planning with another question: “What are the things that you must do in order to reach your intended outcomes?”
  • We tie it all together with questions like “What are the additional skills, knowledge, or attitudes that you lack in order to be effective as an actor for social change in your direct and catalytic activities?” and “What are the actions you can take to increase your capacity to be an actor for social impact?”

Your free download

You and your company can also have a touch of Eskwelabs’ people-first L&D strategy with our free Professional Learning Plan (PLP) template. Download it today and we hope you enjoy:

  • The clarity that results from being explicit about one’s goals
  • The conversations that stem from being honest about one’s theory of change
  • The opportunities that open up when there is a convergence between a team member’s PLP and their company’s goals

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  • “The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything...Fast” Book Club pick