Why Personal Development Objectives are more effective than PDPs and why they are relevant to a performance management system.

It is well recognised that personal development is a key driver of organisational performance and employee engagement. Emphasising personal development has also been heavily linked to employee retention — a vital and ongoing concern for employers as we move into 2017. For reasons such as these, Personal Development Plans (PDPs) form part of many organisations’ performance management systems. However, despite their many advantages, PDPs have also invited criticism, which has caused HR professionals to re-examine them as a concept and to explore alternatives.

The main concern surrounding PDPs is they are commonly treated as something to pay lip service to and then set aside, forgotten. This results in nothing but a significant waste of time for employees and managers alike. As such, we generally recommend replacing PDPs with SMART Personal Development Objectives, which are reviewed and updated on a continuous basis.

The act of turning PDPs into measurable, attainable objectives lends them more weight, thereby encouraging employees to take accountability and deliver on them. That’s why in our Clear Review performance management software we encourage employees to set specific personal development objectives, alongside their performance objectives, and we enable HR to collate these development objectives in order to determine the training needs of the organisation.

When implementing and creating personal development objectives within your organisation, be sure to follow the steps below for optimal impact:

Explain to employees what personal development objectives are

HR professionals should bear in mind that employees are unlikely to be as familiar with the concepts of objective setting as you are. So as part of your communication or training for employees on objective setting, explain what personal development objectives are and why they are important. In our own communications, we describe personal development objectives as:

“Specific areas in which you need to develop in order to achieve your performance objectives, career goals or to improve an aspect of your performance. A personal development objective could be about developing a specific skill or behaviour, or increasing your knowledge in a particular area.”

Provide a variety of learning materials to staff on objective setting and make them easily accessible. Videos are a particularly effective media when it comes to communicating HR concepts and should be incorporated when possible. Clear Review’s own performance management software provides short animated videos for employees on various performance-related subjects, including writing effective objectives.

Encourage employees to take personal ownership of their objectives

When we create our own objectives, we are far more motivated to achieve them. With this in mind, it is important that employees construct and arrive at their own personal development objectives rather than having them dictated from above. This is much more efficient approach when it comes to driving productivity and performance. Managers should be on hand to help and advise when necessary, but employees should be in the driving seat at all times.

When asking employees to consider their personal development objectives, make it clear that an objective doesn’t always have to relate to something that they need to improve. It could equally be about further developing an existing strength.

Review personal development objectives regularly

Setting personal development objectives shouldn’t be a once-a-year activity. Employees and their managers should set aside regular time on an ongoing basis to review objectives. These ‘check-ins’ are an opportunity to discuss progress made, give feedback, identify obstacles to success and agree new objectives when current ones have been completed. Mind Gym recommends that feedback on objectives is given fortnightly, while Deloitte requires its staff to have weekly one-to-ones. Ensure employees have access to an online performance management system so they can keep track of their objectives and check-in meetings. If you are too small to warrant an online system, make use of offline performance management tools such as a one-to-one meeting template.

Make personal development objectives stretching

Research has been conducted on goal setting in an effort to determine whether people are more likely to perform well when working on challenging goals or easier deliverables. The research revealed that when goals are stretching, they result in significantly higher performance. This should be kept in mind when agreeing personal development objectives, but remember to keep things in perspective. Objectives that stretch an individual beyond the limit of their capabilities will not be achieved and you will be left with an employee feeling disillusioned and unmotivated.

If the above points are kept in mind, your organisation can expect to boost performance and embrace a productive working environment. If your company has not made full use of personal development objectives in the past and you would like to know more, get in touch with the Clear Review team to see how we can help.

Next Steps

Empower your staff to take control of their own personal development. Book a personal demo of Clear Review’s performance management system and find out how.