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How to Create a Personal Development Plan for performance reviews

Mohan is a family physician and a postgraduate associate dean working in the UK. He has a keen interest in self-regulated learning.


Personnel Development in Organisations

Any high performing organisation depends on continually identifying, developing and improving skills, knowledge and behaviours necessary for the individual and organisational success.

An ideal performance appraisal or a review should not only consist of an objective evaluation of the individuals performance to date but also a suitable professional development plan for the next cycle.

In ideal circumstances if the individual takes ownership of their own development, sufficient guided by the appraiser/manager/mentor this is bound to succeed.

This hub intends give an overview of the principle and practice of creating a personal professional development plan both for use by individuals in an organisation and for managers/mentors to sufficiently guide their employees in doing so. If you are a solo performer, you can still take cues and plans to create a PDP by following the steps in creating a PDP.

As organisational development is closely tied to the development of its constituent individuals, such plans are vital to successful outcomes. The positive outcomes for an organisation can sometimes arrive at the expense of employee morale.

By individualising and tailoring development plans to each employee through the performance review interview, one can still keep a common goal but can individualise the method by which they arrive at the destination.


What is a PDP?

A Personal/Professional Development Plan is a plan of action, referring specifically to the person's reasonable aspirations regarding personal development. A plan that allows one to set own goals and a method of achieving them.

In an organisational perspective there will be a considerable overlap between the organisational aspirations and the skill set development needed in order to achieve them.

Samuel Johnson

Samuel Johnson

Exert your talents, and distinguish yourself, and don't think of retiring from the world, until the world will be sorry that you retire.

— Samuel Johnson


Why Personnel Development Plans?

  • A PDP allows the individual to take ownership and feel responsible for their own development and gives them an opportunity to feedback on the methodology utilised by the organisation to train them. As individual learning style vary considerably the one stop training shop may not always reap benefits an may waste resources. While there may be considerable input into this plan by the Organisation through the appraiser/manager/mentor, the plan is still owned by the individual who is responsible for its completion and demonstrate this at the next appraisal.

  • A PDP allows a person to develop career resilience and enables them to adapt to a changing work environment
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  • PDP enables individuals to benchmark their job skills on a regular basis and avoids diminishing returns

  • PDP helps improve the triad of Knowledge, Skills and Attitudes by taking advantage of a continuum of learning and training opportunities. By having a say in their own development the individual is motivated to participate in the spiral of learning.

  • PDP creates a partnership between the Appraiser and the Appraisee in developing and implementing plans for the individual's development.

  • A PDP will foster a constructive and proactive dialogue between the performance appraiser and the individual. The morale and dignity are maintained and an atmosphere of mutual trust and ownership will be generated.

Setting the Scene

If they haven't already got a culture of Personnel Development Planning, organisations may have to consider a few questions prior to its implementation. Although there is a lot of evidence on how successful this exercise could be for the individual and the organisation, merely paying lip service to this or making it a paper exercise will not help reap dividends. It needs to be thought through and appraisers and reviewers should be skilled/ trained in negotiating a mutually agreeable plan with the employee.

Employees also need to understand the value of reflection, benchmarking and personal planning. If they are used to following instructions and demand didactic input, empowering them to take more ownership in their development could be an uphill but ultimately rewarding task.

These need to be discussed and brainstormed upfront. There should be a mutual contract between the organisation and the employee in fulfilling their respective roles and responsibilities in this exercise.

If you are creating your own PDP, you need to commit to its content and a personal contract to yourself that you will abide by its strategy.


The 6 Steps in Personnel Development Planning

Personnel development planning will involve the following 5 Steps:

  • Identifying job skills/competencies and behaviours
  • Subjective Self assessment against standards and criteria
  • Objective assessment by Line Manager/ Appraiser
  • Developing Performance Goals and objective setting
  • Matching Learning/Training Activities to individual learning styles
  • Assessing/Recording Impact

Six Steps in Personnel development

6 Steps to PDP

6 Steps to PDP

The searching-out and thorough investigation of truth ought to be the primary study of man.

— Cicero

Identifying Job Skills and Performance Objectives

This will involves areas such as :

•Knowledge, Skills & Performance

•Safety & Quality

•Communication, partnership & Teamwork

•Maintaining Trust

There must a clear understanding that whatever the individual aspirations maybe they must also be matched to the organisational overview within reason.

Equally the organisation needs to look at overall skill sets needed to achieve tasks and overall performance. However, this exercise allows one to spot talent that maybe previously untapped. Equally there may be others who have an inflated opinion of their own abilities. By defining specific criteria and standards, this allows us to move to the next step of assessment.


Men soon the faults of others learn

A few their virtues, too, find out;

But is there one—I have a doubt—

Who can his own defects discern?

— Sanskrit Proverb

Assessment : Subjective and Objective

This could involve using the following tools and activities:

  • Personal logs of learning needs
  • Self assessment Questionnaires
  • Multi-Source Feedback / 360 degree appraisals
  • Customer/Consumer feedback
  • Audit of performance
  • Activity and Outcome Reports
  • Critical incident analysis

It is better to use standardised assessment formats for all, in the interest of equal opportunities and avoiding observer bias. However the tools used should be evaluated in order to eliminate blind spots and subversion.

Insist on yourself. Never imitate.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

SMART objectives

SMART objectives

Developing a Learning/Training Plan

After a mutual discussion around the organisational objectives and individual objectives, the performance review would progress to evaluating the results of the assessment exercise. The assessment should identify gaps in knowledge, skills or behaviours pertinent to the individual.

This is the Key step in creating a personalised plan. There is a dialogue between individual and the appraiser mentor and an act of negotiation that may take place in order to create a palatable plan for both parties.

This step will also involve setting SMART objectives.

•Specific objectives

•Based on Personal / Team / Organisational needs

•Small steps

•Shared objectives

•A Measurable change/ impact

•Achievable within set Time Scales

The key step here is to match the employees learning style to the activity or training planned.

Matching Learning Activities

Matching Learning Activities

Analysing/ Recording Impact

After every learning activity or a training opportunity the individual could fill in structured personal reflection on the summary of what was learnt and how it could be applied in daily work.

They can then apply the said knowledge, skill or behviour and assess its impact objectively. Equally the team/ supevsior can also assess imapct through the previosu assessment methodologies and record any perfromance improvemen.

Some improvements like morale and sense of well being, easy working within teams can be perceived as intangible but can be assessed via narrative strategies and qualitative methods.

The overall impact in terms of performance improvement would be measured through whatever methodology that best suits the scenario : improved customer satisfaction, improved output/outcomes, improved problem solving and profits etc..

Cycle of PDP

Reflective cycle

Reflective cycle

Cycle is Complete

This leads to the completion of learning cycle and will lead neatly into the next review wherein the cycle can continue. I personally feel this is more a spiral or a ladder of performance improvement,

Each step needs to be considered at length as best befits the organisation or the individual.

In personal circumstances if your doing your own development planning , you could still follow the same steps but seek external objectivity via other resources or individuals.

I have certainly found this systematic approach to development planning highly useful personally and for those I mentor and appraise.

There has been a general sense of camaraderie but an understanding that if there is a marked deviation from the set standards for an individual ( as in case of outliers and under-performers) if there is no clear progression made after taking ownership to their development, they would abide by whatever method the organisation would employ in order to improve overall performance.

This may not completely eliminate poor performance but helps to have an objective and fair method of development planning that can yield surprisingly excellent results.

I think it is because it abides by the adult learning principle of taking control of your own destiny and being accountable for it.



Lissa Clason from Fayetteville, NC on June 27, 2018:

This is really helpful. I've only been working in my first job out of school for about 9 months, so I haven't really had a performance review yet, but having a plan for going forward and trying to improve as much as possible will help me out a lot in my career. When I do my first annual review with my boss I can definitely use some of these tips.

Eman Abdallah Kamel from Egypt on February 08, 2018:

Good work, informative article... thank you.

Johnd49 on June 05, 2015:

I've read some excellent stuff here. Definitely price bookmarking for revisiting. I surprise how much effort you place to create this type of great informative site. deedaeaeaebb

Daniel Malave on March 29, 2015:

Thanks very much.... quiet interesting PDD and PC

SupervisorT Reed on December 09, 2013:

I am a new supervisor. I am doing my year end PDP and this article is really helpful. Thanks a bunch...

AE Williams from Atlanta, GA on March 12, 2013:

Very informative, Docmo. Good Work! :)

Christy Birmingham from British Columbia, Canada on August 30, 2012:

I like the way you have put quotes in between the pieces of information here.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on August 30, 2012:

Very useful article. I am sure this is going to benefit a lot of professionals. Thanks for all your efforts and sharing.

forexnews44 on August 12, 2012:

Good work.Ill book mark this page for future reference,Thanks for sharing

Michelle Liew from Singapore on July 29, 2012:

A useful article, Docmo! Actually, what you've shared is very similar to the performance review systems used in Singapore. We use the SMART system here for governmental performance reviews - teachers are reviewed this way every year! Thanks for sharing!

Linda Bilyeu from Orlando, FL on July 29, 2012:

Here's yet another comment for this very useful article. I'm sure many people could benefit from this information. Thank you Docmo for sharing!

polly on June 08, 2011:

Thank you Domco, I found your article really useful! I am doing a work based training course and have to write a personal appraisal and a professional development report, ao your advice has really helped!

SummerSurf on May 12, 2011:

I'll write one :) Just going through our mid year reviews in work at the minute. We set our SMART goals at the start of the year and now we see how far we have come in reaching them. Useful article. Will keep it in mind for future performance reviews and goal setting.

Mohan Kumar (author) from UK on May 10, 2011:

Cant believe after nearly 500 views there are no comments on this one- let me try to post my own!

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