Personal Development Plans

    A Personal Development Plan (PDP) is one of the most powerful tools that can be used to help individuals commit to a personalised development approach that enables them to reach their goals.

    It can be about further developing skills or personal goals to reach within a set time that help progress a person’s career or overall life quality.

    This tool helps people reflect on their development targets and, more importantly, concrete approaches that will optimise their strengths and improve their weaknesses.

    Some employers are introducing personal development plans. These are prepared either during or soon after a performance review and set out the personal learning agenda for the individual concerned, linked to the results of their performance assessment.

    Personnel and HR managers inform that PDPs offer benefits to their organisations by indicating to employees that they are valued and that there is a willingness to invest in them through training and development provisions.

    And the individualised nature of the plan helps foster the employees’ motivation to participate willingly in the learning.

    A personal development plan is part of the employee performance evaluation process. While the evaluation determines in what areas an employee could improve, a development plan lays out a plan by which that improvement can be achieved.

    A good employee personal development plan should include the improvement needs that have been identified, schedule any training that may be necessary, and account for the specific actions to be taken to reach the improvement goal.

    Tasks should be laid out for both the employee and the employer to ensure success.

    A personal development plan is essential as it identifies a worker’s training and development needs.

    Because the plan is updated when the worker has taken part in training and development, it also provides a participation record.

    Developmental plans can be created for every job, ranging from entry-level to the executive suite.

    No matter how high up the position within the organisation and how simple or complex the nature of the job in question is, there is always room for improvement.

    Information to be used in designing developmental plans comes from the appraisal form. Specifically, a developmental program can be designed based on each of the performance dimensions evaluated.

    For example, if the performance dimension “communication” is rated as sub-standard, this area would be targeted by the developmental plan.

    In addition, however, developmental plans focus on the knowledge and skills needed for more long-term career aspirations.

    In addition to improved performance, including development plans and, in more general terms, identifying employee strengths and weaknesses as part of the performance management system has another significant benefit: employees are more likely to be satisfied with the system.

    Content of Personal Development Plans

    It is not an easy task for either line manager or employee to draw up a development plan that simultaneously takes account of the employee’s current training needs, those likely to arise in the future in their current role, and those linked to a possible move to another job, and training needs associated with broader skills of general application.

    Thus, the personal development plan will include general statements regarding goals and objectives and specific behaviours to achieve those objectives.

    Generally, the content of PDP includes:


    These are those capabilities that either the team member or management or both have determined appropriate and critical to personal and professional growth.

    The appropriate competencies may be determined by extended I study or analysis (as in the Defence Systems Management College’s Programme Manager Competency Model, created in 1989) or by virtue of organisational need or individual professional curiosity and zeal.


    These developmental activities (training, crosstraining, research, and so on) guide the competencies. The specific objectives of the activities should reflect the previously set goals.


    Either a window of time or a “no-later-than” date is documented for each activity. This ensures a common understanding of the relative urgency of the competency or objective and a sense of the development’s relative value to other activities.


    Some organisations need to have a cost structure for individual development programmes to determine if they are getting a sufficient return for their investment. The costs may be documented in monetary values, individual resource hours or both.

    Course of Action

    Examples of courses of action that could be included in a personal development plan are – a secondment to a different team or business unit; perhaps being involved in a project or a particular part of the line manager’s role, or the work of a colleague; attending an internal or external training course; attending a college course; undertaking some research or wider reading.

    Activities Involved in Personal Development Plans

    Various activities through which employees can reach the objectives stated in their developmental plans are as follows:

    On-the-job Training

    An employee is placed in a new job and told how it would be performed. It aims at developing skills and habits consistent with an organisation’s existing practices and by orienting him to his immediate problems.

    Coaching and instructing are done by skilled workers, supervisors, or by special training instructors. A variety of training aids and techniques are used, such as procedure charts, lecture manuals, sample problems, demonstrations, oral and written explanations, tape recorders, etc.

    On-the-job training methods are very popular and are used widely by most organisations.


    There are some organisations which provide training for their employees through in-house courses. These courses can range from a few hours to two-three days.

    Nowadays, these courses are becoming very popular since they provide a better understanding of j the organisations to the employees and the trainers are also from within the organisations themselves.

    Self-Guided Reading

    A well-guided reading session by the employee himself can lead to development. But the employee should be aware of the objects for which the reading is being done, the time frame and the feedback that will be taken from him.

    A self-guided reading is a more straightforward and independent process for the employee. The organisation also benefited since, without much pain and investment, the employees are undergoing development.


    Long-term coaching is often referred to as mentoring. Mentoring is a long-term development process.

    At the heart of mentoring is the tutorial relationship between mentor and learner, in which the mentor guides the learner through a process of self-development.

    Mentoring is about teaching and learning. It plays an essential role in learning new knowledge and skills for all human beings. This is as true of our learning experiences on a day-to-day basis as it is of workplace learning.

    Attending a Conference

    A conference is held in accordance with an organised plan. Mutual problems are discussed, and participants pool their ideas and experience in attempting to arrive at better methods of dealing with these problems.

    The group members come to teach each other and learn together. Conferences may include buzz sessions which divide conferences into small groups of four or five for intensive discussions.

    These small groups report back to the whole group with their conclusions or questions. This method is ideally suited for analysing problems and issues and examining them from different viewpoints.

    It helps in developing conceptual knowledge, reducing dogmatism and modifying attitudes.

    Getting a Degree

    Many organisations send their employees to different universities to study job-related degree programmes such as MBA, leadership skills-building programmes etc. these executive programmes may be given only to managers or employees with management potential.

    Therefore, to encourage the employees, the organisations are providing them with tuition reimbursement. Tuition reimbursement is the practice of reimbursing employees’ costs of college or university programmes.

    Organisations spend millions of dollars on reimbursement for college and university fees.

    Job Rotation

    Job rotation refers to the movement of an employee from one job to another. Jobs themselves are not actually changed. Only the employees are rotated among various jobs.

    An employee who works on a routing/respective job moves to and works on another job for some hours/days/months and backs up to the first job.

    This measure relieves the employee from boredom and monotony, improves employee’s skills regarding various jobs and prepares competent employees to meet the contingencies.

    These measures also improve workers’ self-image and provide personal growth. However, frequent job rotations are not advisable in view of their negative impact on the organisation and the employee.

    Temporary Assignments

    Employees are given temporary assignments so they can learn different challenging job roles and develop specific skills in a limited time frame.

    These assignments can be within the organisation but in different departments, or the employees can also be sent on foreign tours. It also provides an opportunity for the employees to learn technical and cultural differences in different countries.

    Membership or Leadership Role in Professional or Trade Organisations

    Some employers sponsor membership in professional or trade organisations.

    Such an organisation distributes publications to its members. Also, it holds informal and formal meetings in which employees have an opportunity to learn about best practices and other useful information for their jobs.

    For example, this could include the Society for Human Resource Management or the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development for Human Resources (HR) professionals.

    Also, presentation, communication, planning, and other skills can be learned while serving in a leadership role in a volunteer organisation outside of work.

    Preparing a Personal Development Plan

    The development planning process is applicable in any organisation, followed by a description of what should happen in each step.

    This is a continuation and elaboration of the work done. Organisations or work units can modify this process to accommodate specific requirements regarding formal meetings, procedures, and required documents.

    The steps involved in preparing a personal development clan are shown in the figure given below:

    Preparing a Personal Development Plan scaled - Personal Development Plans

    Step 1. Individual Preparation

    Using and consolidating the work done, employees, as well as managers individually, should prepare for the initial development planning meeting by:

    1. Review all available information about the job description, responsibilities, and competencies required for the job.
    2. Assessing employee performance and identifying areas for improvement in the job responsibilities or specific job tasks.
    3. Preparing specific, measurable job goals for the next 6-12 months, such as – Developing and implementing ways to reduce order preparation time from 24 hours to 4 hours or developing and providing safety training to unit employees.
    4. Thinking about the next desired job for the employees and the competencies required for this job
    5. Reviewing the competencies and thinking about ones to target for development.

    Step 2. Initial Planning Meeting

    At an initial development planning meeting, employees and managers should together discuss the following points:

    1. Discuss and, if necessary, clarify the main job responsibilities and the performance outcome measures for these responsibilities.
    2. Discuss how well these Responsibilities are being carried-out; identify areas for improvement.
    3. Agree on specific job or business goals for the next 6-12 months.
    4. If appropriate, discuss career development and the next possible job for this employee.
    5. Review the competencies for the job.
    6. Discuss which competencies are needed to improve performance and achieve the job or business goals.
    7. Select three competencies for the employee to target for development over the next year and one competency to focus on for the first 3-4 months.
    8. Develop ideas for developing these competencies.
    9. Set a date within 2 weeks to review the draft development plan to be prepared by the employee.
    10. Set a date to review progress in about 3 months.

    Step 3. Preparation of a Draft Development Plan

    The employee drafts separate lists of three to ten goals for developing each competency. Focusing on the goals for one competency at a time is most effective.

    Step 4. Review and Modification of the Draft Development Plan

    The manager reviews the draft development plan and may suggest revisions. The employee then prepares a revised development plan.

    Step 5. Signing and Filing the Development Plan

    The employee and manager both sign the development plan. Each retains a copy, and a third copy may be sent to the organisation’s human resource department.

    The human resource department can review all plans and help coordinate developmental activities that cross department boundaries.

    Step 6. Implementing the Plan

    The employee implements the plan by:

    1. Setting aside 3-6 hours per week for development activities.
    2. Carrying out the planned activities.
    3. Keeping a weekly log of activities and results.
    4. Seeking assistance and resources from the manager and others, as needed. –

    Step 7. Periodic Progress Review Meeting

    The employee and manager meet at least every 3-4 months to review progress and discuss any revisions needed in the development plan.

    Step 8. Preparation of New Development Plans

    Once a year, the employee and manager start the process again. The employee should target new competencies for development, if:

    1. Previously targeted competencies have been developed.
    2. New job responsibilities or goals require the development of additional competencies.
    3. The employee is preparing for a job requiring new competencies.

    Benefits of Personal Development Plans

    The benefits of personal development plans are as follows:

    Helps in Achieving Optimal Results

    It helps integrate internal and external facilitating and inhibiting factors with individual efforts for optimal results.

    Makes Performance Management Process Objective and Accountable

    It helps make the entire performance management process more objective and accountable.

    Facilitates Organisational Success

    It facilitates organisational success through a strategic and seamless combination of employee efforts, managerial insight, and utilisation of resources optimally.

    Improves Performance in Current Job

    A good performance and development plan helps employees to meet performance standards. Thus, a performance and development plan includes suggested courses of action to address the deficient performance dimensions.

    Sustains Performance in Current Job

    A good performance and development plan provides tools so employees can continue to meet and exceed expectations regarding their current job.

    Thus, the plan includes suggestions about how to continue to meet and exceed expectations for each of the performance dimensions included in the appraisal form.

    Prepares Employees for Advancement

    A good performance and development plan includes advice and courses of action that should be taken so that employees can take advantage of future opportunities and career advancement.

    Specifically, a good plan indicates which new competencies and behaviours should be learned to help with career advancement.

    Enriches the Employee’s Work Experience

    Even if career opportunities within the organisation are not readily available, a good plan provides employees with growth opportunities and opportunities to learn new skills.

    These opportunities provide employees with intrinsic rewards and a more challenging work experience, even if the new skills learned are not a formal part of their jobs.

    Such opportunities can make jobs more attractive and serve as a powerful employee retention tool. In addition, new skills can be useful in the case of lateral transfers within the organisation.

    Provides Clear Understanding of Project Lifecycle

    The individual development plan is generally applied at a career landmark, either an annual review or the beginning of a new set of roles and responsibilities.

    At the beginning of a project, the individual development plan provides insight into how the project will benefit the team member rather than the other way around.

    The plan is normally used at the beginning of the team member’s participation in the project and is reviewed on a regular schedule.

    It reflects the goals or competencies to be achieved, the means to achieve them, and the timeframe in which they will be achieved.

    Depending upon the organisation, the costs associated with any professional development may also be documented here.

    Thus, it gives both team members and managers a clear understanding of what specific competencies will evolve during the project lifecycle.

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