Visual Basic

Personal development plans

The PDP is a contract between the employee and the company that identifies and agrees on specific developmental needs for the employee over a given period of time, the idea being that performance can be improved through these additional skills and experiences.

To facilitate the PDP, companies need to define a training and development policy. We would suggest something similar to ours, which is: "We will develop the skills of our employees at all levels, to meet the needs of our customers, both internal and external as well as the requirements of our business, taking into account the personal goals of our employees wherever appropriate."

First let's examine how training and development fits in with the PDP.

What is the difference between training and development? All training is development but not all development is training. Development is the bigger picture, within which there are formal elements of training. All learning experiences, including the formal elements, are called development. A PDP doesn't just concentrate on formal training courses, but includes any experience where the individual learns something.

How do I define the development needs of my staff? You should use and refer to a number of different sources. These include:

  • The job description
  • The performance review (both the Individual Preparation Form and the review form itself). The Individual Preparation Form is a form containing a set of performance and goal-related questions, which are answered by the person being reviewed and then read by the reviewer prior to the meeting. This form forces some pre-thought and pre-planning.
  • Individual goals and targets for the year
  • Company goals and targets for the year

Call these the "tools" if you like. Your PDP is pulling together all these development needs into one plan of action, linked to which should be an agreed upon set of objectives and outcomes that you and the employee expect to get from the development experience. In this way, you are able to justify the cost of any development against your development budget.

How can we ensure continuity of approach? Here are a few things we do at TMS to ensure continuity:

  1. Everyone should use the same tools. All managers with direct responsibility for staff should use the same tools, and all staff should have the same opportunity to prepare their PDP. The PDP is last in line after:

    If any of the tools are missing or incomplete, then there is little point in attempting a PDP.

  2. Everyone should use the same language. For companies with large development budgets and/or a large number of staff, it is useful to categorize the development needs as follows:
    • Soft skills: time management, stress management, assertiveness skills, presentation skills
    • Management development: management of supervisory skills, team building, leadership skills, finance for non-financial managers
    • Technical: Windows NT, Java, SQL programming, Object Oriented Design, NetWare courses
    • Commercial: marketing, finance, human resources
    • Quality: courses relating specifically to ISO 9001 procedures and processes
    • Professional qualifications: Certified Novell Engineer (CNE), MCSE, advanced degree, MBA, etc.

    If you break down your development budget into fields, it becomes easier to track and analyze your development spend against a particular category of development.

  3. Everyone should categorize the development in the same way. For example, your categories should include mentoring/coaching, on-the-job training, training temporary replacements to fill in while staff is away, cross-departmental training, internal/external training, conferences/seminars, professional accreditations, industry-specific readings, writing for magazines and books, and orientation for new employees.

10 essential points for managers We would like to give credit here to Training and Development: Analysing the Need, Developing the Plan, and Implementing the Strategy by Sue Mathews. She suggests these 10 key objectives and strategies that managers should be sure to follow:

  1. Keep everyone informed. When you introduce the idea of a PDP use a method that delivers the information quickly, accurately, and to everyone in the same way. Sound and effective communication is essential.
  2. Clarify the overall and specific objectives. Overall objectives refer to the company's development strategy and objectives and specific objectives refer the individual's objectives, both job related and personal. Make sure that any development need identified can be linked to the achievement of company objectives, otherwise the development will not be cost effective. The individuals can see what the company is doing and how, and how their own development requirements fit in with the overall strategy and achievement of goals.
  3. Make sure that everyone understands the expected outcomes. Communicate to staff that every development activity carries outcomes with it; that is, make sure the staff knows what is expected to be different as a result of the development experience, and that staff will be measured in relation to how well those outcomes have been met.
  4. Realize that all problems cannot be resolved by training or development. Realize that some problems are not development issues but might be linked to other things, such as inadequate resources or inappropriate systems or structures. Lack of knowledge might contribute to these problems, but training and development will only deal with the symptom-not the cause-in such circumstances.
  5. Set clear and measurable performance criteria. Make sure that all development activities perform to agreed upon standards and criteria before they are implemented and the cost is incurred.
  6. Recognize that training and development are corporate issues. Bring training and development off the sidelines and into centerfield. Don't merely pay lip service to it or to PDPs: make sure that a senior manager or a director owns it, and put it on the agenda for management and board meetings and for one-on-one (1:1) meetings.
  7. Development should not just be for the "stars" in the company. Development opportunities should be genuinely available for everyone; not just a few favored staff members. PDPs and the development budget must ensure that all staff have fair and equal access to development. If they don't, the PDP isn't working.
  8. Don't make training and development an additional organizational "stressor." If you want staff to get the most out of their development opportunities, make sure that they are supported in managing their workload. If you don't ensure this, staff will not want to attend because of the sheer volume of work waiting for them upon their return-a major development demotivator!
  9. Be prepared to sell your development ideas. Everyone should be prepared to sell the benefits of their development needs, because not everyone else will share their enthusiasm. Be prepared to think laterally about the best way of learning (this need not be just through formal training courses). All development ideas should be justified, because there will always be a cost attached.
  10. Correlate the development activities with the bottom line. If you can clearly demonstrate how closely the development need or plan is to profit and other corporate issues, the more likely it is to be accepted. Always be prepared to argue the business case.

Other PDP notes

This section contains a step-by-step guide to identifying a development need for a principal accountability in the job description. The aim is to give the employee every opportunity to achieve individual goals and enhance performance in the job.

  1. Write and jointly agree upon a job description for each role. Both the manager and the employee should sign to show that both parties agree to the content. The job description defines the job regardless of who fills the position, and as such, should remain relatively unchanged unless the needs of the business change.
  2. Within the job description there will be a number of primary responsibilities. These are the key duties of the job (note that these do not cover every duty, just the main ones). Normally you would expect to see between five and eight duties depending on the seniority of the position.
  3. Look at each primary responsibility in turn. Consider what goals or objectives should fall out of each primary responsibility. There might only be a few goals for some primary responsibilities, but others might have numerous goals. The goals are linked specifically to the person doing the job, and will therefore reflect their abilities and length of time in the position. Achievement of the goals should be linked to the performance review period whenever possible. Employees should have 12 months in which to achieve their goals, or as many months as possible within the performance review period. Obviously, if this exercise is not carried out until halfway through the review period, the goals must reflect the time the employee has to achieve them. Then decide how far in advance you are looking at development needs-a quarter, six months, or maybe the full year.
  4. Transfer the goals to the PDP sheet.
  5. For each goal, agree what development need or needs fall out of this. You're looking for any additional support or knowledge the employee feels they must have in order to achieve the goal. In other words, you're committing to this development (whatever it may be) so that the employee will be confident that he or she can achieve this goal within the time indicated. Development does not need to be a formal training course. Think laterally and look for the best way of satisfying the need.
  6. Agree on a date by when this development should take place. Be realistic and link this date to the date by which the goal must be achieved. Obviously, the development process needs to take place well before the goal is to be achieved.
  7. Decide who owns the action for ensuring that the development process is organized and takes place. If it's written down, there will be no confusion, and the person owning the action will make sure that the process takes place because they are accountable for it.
  8. Agree with the employee what outcome is expected from the development experience. All development (even mentoring) will have a cost to the company and, so look at what return on investment can be expected from the cost incurred. Clarify the reasons why the development is necessary and double-check that the development decided upon is actually the most appropriate one to help the jobholder achieve the goal. Both parties now have something concrete to focus on now and at the post-evaluation stage.
  9. The PDP should be on the agenda for review at every 1:1 meeting, just to see if any updates or changes need to be made. If a development process has been completed in between meetings, you need to complete the post-evaluation section and jointly agree how well the original objectives have been met. There will be occasions where the development process has not delivered what was expected, in which case you and the employee must agree what should be done. Don't hold the post-valuation meeting too soon after the development process-give the employee time to put their newly acquired knowledge into practice.
  10. The employee owns the PDP, not the manager. The employees are the ones who should drive the process in conjunction with the manager, not the other way around.
  11. When you get to the performance review itself, this form, along with your notes from every 1:1 meeting, will be invaluable. If this form has been completed properly, most of your preparation work for the performance review will be contained here. The ideal scenario is one in which every development process has taken place and every process has had the desired outcome, so every goal has been achieved or even over-achieved. If any goal has not been met, this form should give you a record of the reasons why. Whatever the reason, the circumstances should be contained in some way in this form.
  12. You might want to modify this form for your customer. Agree with them what the primary responsibilities and the goals relating to the project are, and agree on development needs with them, if appropriate (you might even get them to share the cost). This form could serve as an excellent record of performance per project, and if the employee completes more than one project in a year, all the forms must be considered at performance review time.
  13. This system will be of value only if regular meetings are held to review progress and if the preparation work is carried out in the first place, meaning that current and accurate job descriptions are prepared, primary responsibilities are agreed upon with the employee and reviewed regularly, and the goals are reviewed to ensure that they reflect the business needs as well as the needs of the individual.

Here's an example of a PDP within the six-month period between January and July 1998 and for goals that were set before January 1998.

Sample PDP


PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITY: Improve company recruitment process and recruit all new heads per Plan '98.

Development needed By when Owner Outcome expected
Goal: Ensure that all new heads are recruited in time, at the right quality and cost.
Project management training (external) End Jan '98 LA Ability to project manage the whole company's recruitment process (100+ heads per year)
Advanced Interviewing Skills course (external) End Feb '98 LA To participate in and make decisions on at least 50 percent of all second interviews by the end of March '98; 70 percent by the end of July '98.
One-hour sessions with each departmental manager to understand and assess company's Headcount Plan End Feb'98 LA To be able to recommend to the Board the proposed recruitment strategy for each quarter in advance and to make recommendations for change to the Headcount Plan.
Goal: Introduce psychometric testing to the company's recruitment process by Aug '98
Research an appropriate battery of psychometric tests and present recommendations to the MD Research complete by end May '98. LA To gain MD's approval for tests to be introduced at first presentation.
Presentation to MD by end June '98 To have a working battery of tests in the company that adds value to the recruitment process.
Presentation to all Dept Managers by end July '98.


Actioned Objectives met? yes/no If no, next step Actioned
Development need: Project management training external) by end Jan'98
YES Will not be known until end of Plan year, but initial signs are good (Project Plan has been prepared).
Development need: Advanced Interviewing Skills course (external)
YES Les is participating in 50 percent of all second interviews and is on course to exceed the 70 percent target by end July '98.
Two 1-hour sessions with the Finance Director on Profit & Loss and Budgeting & Forecasting Completed by 15 March '98
Development need: One-hour sessions with each department manager to understand and assess company's Headcount Plan
YES Les requires more detailed financial training in order to understand departmental recruitment budgets
Research to be complete by end June '98. YES
Development need: Research an appropriate battery of psychometric tests and present recommendations to the MD
NO Research is unlikely to be complete by end May '98
Presentation to MD by mid June '98 YES

Performance reviews

The performance review is intended to summarize the development meeting (which can occur annually or more frequently) between the manager and each of his or her direct reports, during which each jointly reviews training and development activity and work achievements during the past review period and agrees to action plans for training, development, and work-related goals for the coming review period.

The review meeting itself should be seen as a two-way process: as a tool that enables you to assess past performance while also looking ahead at future goals. It helps to guide everyone towards optimizing their abilities so that the end result is that both company and individual goals are met.

The only way company goals can be met is if everyone carries out their own role properly, and so it follows that efficiency and effectiveness must be monitored on a regular basis. The manager and the company should provide every assistance to the employees to enable and allow for optimum performance.

There are many different ways of measuring performance, but the one used most frequently in performance reviews concentrates on measuring achievements against specific goals (or performance indicators). Within the job description are a number of primary responsibilities. From those, the employee and the manager agree to certain performance objectives, or goals, with the intention that shared goals result in a commitment to those goals. The performance of the employee is assessed against these goals over a specific period of time. The overall performance level for the period under review is summarized in one performance rating. Any percentage increase to salaries is directly linked to the performance rating as well as to the company's ability to pay (this is where the company's revenue and profit come in).

In general terms, the main purpose of a performance review system is summarized below, although not in any particular order:

  • To review past performance
  • To set performance objectives for the future
  • To help improve current performance
  • To set and agree on future goals
  • To assess increases or new levels in salaries (salary levels can go down as well as up, or even stay the same, depending on performance)
  • To assess training and development needs
  • To assist in career planning decisions

It is another aspect of communication and an opportunity for you to build a closer relationship with your staff, and as such should be seen as a positive step forward.

The review meeting The following are guidelines for conducting the performance review meeting:

  • The review should be a two-way discussion, controlled by the manager
  • The meeting should be conducted with tact, diplomacy, sensitivity, and above all, in a professional manner
  • The manager should never talk "off the record" during the meeting
  • The manager should never make promises during this meeting unless they have been discussed and agreed upon beforehand
  • The manager should not get drawn into discussing salary reviews during the main part of the review; rather, the manager should have an authorized percentage increase to give to the employee when they receive their performance rating. (After all, that's really what they're waiting to hear!)
  • At the start of the meeting, the manager should briefly outline the format and structure of the meeting and give the employee an idea of the duration. (It's a good idea to schedule at least an hour per review meeting if the review period is six months; otherwise, schedule two hours if the review period is one year.)
  • The manager should let the staff member know that he or she has reviewed all the 1:1 notes, as well as all client feedback, and their own individual comments in reaching the conclusions contained in the review form itself. Have these forms available during the meeting for reference purposes.
  • The manager should work through each section of the review form in turn. The employee should be given the opportunity to comment on what the manager has said and make notes of their comments for the manager to consider before finalizing the wording of the review form.
  • The manager should finish the review meeting with details of the overall performance rating and the percentage increase to be assigned to the employee's salary.
  • The manager should let the employee know that he or she will write up the form and get it to them within two working days of the review meeting for them to sign. Once the manager has the review form back, he or she signs it and makes copies as appropriate.

Follow Up The manager is responsible for these action items after the review meeting with the employee:

  • The manager should review his or her own handling of the review meeting as soon as possible, while things are still fresh in his or her mind.
  • The manager should review those points where follow-up action has been agreed upon and ensure that the action happens.
  • The manager should ensure that any follow-up action that he or she commits to during the review is documented and the individual informed.

The Individual Preparation Form and the review form don't cross-reference each other or follow the same lines in the questions they ask. This might make it more difficult to use any information from the individual preparation form in preparing for the review meeting.

1:1 meetings The objectives of regular meetings between managers and their direct reports are to provide a regular and focused opportunity for mutual communication, feedback, and exchange of information in the following ways:

  • Goal setting, clarification, review, and update
  • Performance feedback
  • Review of training and development needs
  • Communication of information to allow both the manager and the employee to improve their performance
  • The upward flow through management of concerns, information, or requests for improvement
  • Maintaining and improving the relationship between the manager and the employee

The frequency of the 1:1 meetings depends on the preference of the employee and the manager, but as a guideline, these meetings should be held a minimum of every six weeks, preferably every four weeks. More frequent meetings might be necessary for new employees or for staff undergoing difficulties or tackling steep learning curves. Each meeting should be long enough (usually an hour; no more than two) to cover difficult issues and build enough rapport for open and honest feedback (top down and bottom up). The meeting should be held where there are no interruptions, preferably on neutral territory. The style of the meeting depends on the individual concerned and the areas to be covered in each 1:1. The meeting can be semiformal, very formal, or informal. You might need to use different styles depending on the performance of the employee and the areas that you need to address. Most important is that the style is an effective one.

Try to keep to the same framework (per the template) so that a certain discipline is instilled into the meeting, and so the employee has a chance to prepare beforehand. The actual content of each meeting will vary depending on performance issues. Always agree on any follow-up actions arising from each 1:1. Give the employee a copy of any notes immediately after the meeting for his or her records and as a reference for the next meeting.

The 1:1 process is absolutely key. You should capture any PDP issues within the agenda for any 1:1 meeting. If you hold regular meetings and follow the agenda, your preparation for any performance review will be relatively simple. Similarly, you will give yourself an opportunity to address any problems before they become big issues. Managers who implement regular 1:1 meetings with their direct reports and conduct them properly can ensure an almost 100 percent zero-defect rate in appeals, performance review surprises, grievances, and disciplinary matters.