Always select one important professional development skill or competence that your staff member needs to develop or improve. To identify that goal, look at the work that needs to be done. Perhaps the person needs to sharpen a technical skill, develop a strategic skill, handle conflict better or communicate more effectively. Talk with your staff member and have them create a short write-up of what the goal is, why it's valuable and what steps they can take to achieve it.
Then - and here is the part that makes a big difference but that most people skip - look for work opportunities where the person can apply this goal. To cap the effort, check in every other month for the next several months to discuss progress toward the goal.
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