Table of contents
- What is a personal development plan?
- Why a personal development plan is important for your employees
- Personal development planning for employees
- Step 1: Help employees understand where they are and identify where they want to be
- Step 2: Identify employees’ long-term and short-term professional goals
- Step 3: Research and identify learning opportunities that address development goals
- Step 4: Measuring the effectiveness of personal development plans for employees
- A final word on personal development planning
“It’s frustrating to be forced to fill in this PDP form every year.”
“Why are they torturing us with PDP? It’s not that I don’t know what to do with my time.”
“PDP means personal degradation plan.”
These are common sentiments of employees when HR presents them with the yearly personal development plan activity.
A bad personal development plan (PDP) for employees often leaves out the “personal development” bit, turning a PDP into more of a more of a personal attack. What’s worse is that sometimes PDPs are introduced either when an employee is not doing their job well or as a barrier to a promotion. Completion of development goals is often rushed at the end of the year, and these goals often include things that don’t help employees develop in the way that they want.
Take a look at how employees react to personal development plans as per a survey by BreatheHR.
To create personal development plans for employees that motivate them to participate wholeheartedly, let’s first start with understanding what a PDP comprises. Is it a pathway for employees’ success or a Trojan horse full of hectic activities that make employees recoil at the very mention of it?
What is a personal development plan?
A personal development plan is a framework that allows an individual employee and their manager to identify learning needs, set objectives to meet them, and pinpoint the resources necessary to do so. The main focus is on employee development, which means that the goals for development must be agreed upon between the employee and manager.
As an effect of digital transformation, there is an increased need for overseeing employees’ continuing professional development to make their skills competitive for the future. Formally, the performance assessment cycle consists of a performance interview, a development interview, and an appraisal interview with managers. In the performance assessment process, the managers of respective teams and the employee can use a personal development plan (PDP).
Why a personal development plan is important for your employees?
A personal development plan lists the competencies employees still need to develop (looking forward) by evaluating their current strengths and weaknesses (looking back). A PDP form should ask the following questions of an employee:
- What are your weaknesses?
- What are your strengths?
- What do you want to accomplish?
- Which competencies do you still need to develop?
- How do you want to develop those competencies?
The employee’s answers to these questions can be used to nourish dialogues with the HR manager, in which the HR manager tries to stimulate the employee’s reflection on the PDP.
Reflection has several purposes. First, the employee gets better insights into what they want (e.g., getting a promotion or doing the same job and learning). Second, keeping in mind the employee’s goal, reflection leads to insights into the strengths and weaknesses that will help or hinder the employee in accomplishing that goal.
Most employees are unaware of their strengths and weaknesses since they were never explicitly encouraged to think about them during conversations with colleagues or managers. Third, reflection helps the employee keep track of learning activities, from the upcoming trainings to actively researching what they would like to build upon. It should also ensure employees consider what they learned during those activities and how.
A personal development plan for employees assists in tracking, structuring, and thinking about the learning activities undertaken and, consequently, consciously planning future learning activities if necessary. After executing a personal development plan, employees will have worked on their professional development and will be able to accomplish their set goals.
Personal development planning for employees
While a small group of employees may be enthusiastic and motivated to create a personal development plan, most managers and employees perceive doing interviews and using the PDP tools like SWOT analysis, etc. as a burden. They are skeptical about what the PDP tools can achieve.
In sum, while the HR department has high expectations from interviews about future development and personal development plans and a group of employees enjoy using PDPs, other employees and managers do not see the advantages.
Consequently, PDPs are not implemented correctly, resulting in perceived ineffectiveness, frustration, and window dressing. Below are the steps to develop and implement a personal development plan for employees that is beneficial for both sides.
Step 1: Help employees understand where they are and identify where they want to be
It’s important to understand what skills are necessary for employees to perform their job at their best capabilities. HR managers can review an employee’s last performance appraisal (if applicable), job standards, and current job description to identify gaps between current knowledge, skills, and abilities and those required to excel in the role.
Have employees conduct a self-assessment to determine their current skills, interests, and values. In addition to assessing current job strengths and areas for improvement, ask questions such as:
- What do you value?
- How satisfied are you with your current job?
- How well does your job meet your needs?
- How do others see you?
- How do you want to be seen?
- What kind of person do you want to be?
- What makes you happy?
The above assessment allows employees to think about where they want to be professionally in one to two years.
Step 2: Identify employees’ long-term and short-term professional goals
Now that employees have a better understanding of their current situation and future possibilities and aspirations, HR managers can help them to draft long-term and short-term professional goals.
A goal is an end state — the desired outcome. PDPs contain short-term and long-term goals. Short-term goals are outcomes an employee wants to achieve within the next three to six months, while long-term goals are outcomes an employee wants to achieve within the next one to two years. Goals beyond two years are not practical for PDP purposes.
An example of a short-term goal is getting certified in data analytics by the end of the year (which might be one of the requirements of the current position).
An example of a long-term goal might be assuming the role of a senior data analyst.
Once goals are identified, HR leaders are ready to identify development objectives.
Step 3: Research and identify learning opportunities that address development goals
Identifying developmental training, rotations, and other activities can help employees achieve their goals. Ensure that learning activities address employees’ development objectives and align with their long-term and short-term goals.
Describe the appropriate formal and developmental training needed for developing knowledge, skills, and competencies. Remember that learning activities should be:
- Reasonable and achievable, given the employee’s workload and other resource-related factors
- Specific and meet the developmental goals of the PDP
- Challenging to some degree but not so complex that they’re nearly impossible to complete
Achieving developmental goals does not necessarily require attending expensive courses and seminars. Nor does it have to entail embarking on an MBA program, for example. There is a range of developmental resources available.
Examples of personal development plan learning activities and resources include:
Mentoring or coaching
Mentoring or coaching is a form of on-the-job training that extends beyond learning specific skills or processes. Mentoring and coaching provide employees with ongoing feedback about progress in specific job requirements. This may occur through formal or informal discussions that give employees opportunities to learn and refine their knowledge by asking the mentor/coach questions, through observation, or by completing short tasks or assignments to try out a particular skill or task.
Shadowing allows an employee to follow someone throughout the workday, allowing the employee to get familiar with a particular job, career, style, and office by observing an individual’s duties, responsibilities, and work environment.
Through questions and observations of the shadowed colleague’s daily routine, the employee gains awareness of the colleague’s responsibilities, the educational background required for the position, the nature and pace of the job, the breadth of responsibilities, and the general focus of the office.
Match an employee’s personal development plan with a suitable training approach
Determine how to develop employees’ skills through suitable upskilling, cross-skilling, or reskilling activities. Download our guide to understand the key differences between these approaches and how to create a culture of continuous learning.
Step 4: Measuring the effectiveness of personal development plans for employees
HR leaders should collect employee feedback through performance reviews about their development progress. Measuring the effectiveness of a PDP requires recording:
- Observations of learned skills or knowledge and how they are applied
- Progress towards goals and objectives
Once the insights from the reviews are reported accurately, managers can figure out ways to remove any hindrance from the employee’s development plan or start mapping out how the employee can progress into a new role.
A final word on personal development planning
Personal development plans ensure employees receive recognition for their work through a process that acknowledges their achievements and provides feedback on their progress. This should increase employees’ motivation.
For example, giving employees positive feedback on their work, acknowledging their contributions at meetings, and allowing them to undertake more challenging and responsible tasks are ways of regularly recognizing and endorsing employees’ work.
It’s vital to remember that personal development plans for employees are not static documents. They may need to be altered from time to time to reflect changes in key responsibilities, which may occur in response to changing workforce trends.
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