Personal Development Plans: An Employer’s Guide

Our employer's guide to personal development plans covers the benefits of PDPs and 5 steps to creating a PDP with your employee. Learn more.


As a business, your people are your most important resource, so it is essential that they’re able to perform to the best of their ability. Implementing a personal development plan scheme can help them do that, as well as keeping them feeling fulfilled and motivated in their roles.

Supporting employees in developing their competencies through personal development plans (PDPs) helps themto futureproof their skills and enhance their workplace performance – which of course benefits the business too. Using PDPs, you can engage your employee's abilities, commitment and knowledge to maximise their potential and that of the business. Personal development plans are also a good way for an employer to show that it cares about the development and long-term careers of its people.

What is a personal development plan?
Personal development plans are used to document an employee’s existing skills and development objectives and map out their path to career progression. Each plan should be completely tailored to the individual and is usually put together by the employee with input and support from their manager. PDPs set out to chart how an individual employee can grow professionally by recognising the skills which need developing in order to successfully reach their goals.

PDPs aim to:

  • - Clearly define employees’ short-and- long- term career goals
  • - Nurture and develop talent
  • - Identify skills gaps and set actionable processes to bridge them
  • - Align employee growth with the company’s long-term objectives


The business benefits of personal development plans

A 2019 survey of HR leaders found that finding and retaining qualified employees was one of the biggest challenges they faced. 85% of these leaders also stated that they would be willing to use unique approaches to upskill underqualified candidates, acknowledging the importance of an employer’s role in helping their employees grow. While PDPs can help to close skills gaps in the workplace, they offer employers several other benefits too.

  • - Employer-led PDPs motivate staff as they show that the company is invested in their development as individuals.
  • - PDPs promote a supportive work culture and teamwork when individuals help each other reach their respective goals.
  • - They can help to align employees with the company’s goals.
  • - They help retain valuable employees as they can see how their newly developed skills can create opportunities for progression within the company.

The key word to remember while creating a PDP is ‘personal’ - there is no one size fits all. However, when creating a PDP with your employee it’s a good idea to highlight any crossovers between their individual objectives and those of the company.

Five steps to create a personal development plan with your employees

  1. Review performance
    Ask the employee to put together a self-assessment of their performance over the period that you are tracking (the last quarter, for example). This should include a self-assessment of their skills, strengths, the areas that they feel need development, along with their interests and long- term goals. To help them with their assessment, you can provide them with a brief performance review summary beforehand, which includes the areas you’ve identified for improvement or growth. This gives them a good starting point and it also means you’re more likely to be on the same page when you meet to run through the review.

  2. Set improvement goals
    Next, the employee should create their goals based around the areas in which they want to improve. Long-term objectives are the foundation of each plan - these can then be broken down into short-term goals. Having employees define their own PDP objectives gets their buy-in from the start and helps to ensure their

    The SMART method is often used when creating a PDP, which means that the agreed objectives should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. Setting SMART goals will help them get the most out of the development process. As a manager, you can help them refine their objectives so that they make sense for the individual as well as the team or company as a whole.

  3. Add actionable steps and define milestones
    Against each goal, set specific, actionable steps that will help your employee achieve their goals, Work with them to agree realistic deadlines for each stage and, if necessary, break down complex tasks into smaller more manageable steps.

    Actionable steps can include:
    - Attending workshops or seminars
    - Volunteering for special projects
    - Working with a mentor
    - Participating in training (or re-training)

    At this stage of the planning process, employees should define the metrics and milestones that will be used to measure their progress. How you measure goals will depend on the objective, but it can include skills development or the completion of certain tasks. 

  4. Identify the resources needed
    The next step is to identify which support and resources the employee will need to be successful. This could include time away from their regular work commitments, additional tools such as software or equipment, or regular one-to-ones with you.

  5. Review and finalise the personal development plan
    It’s now time for the employee to present their PDP to their manager. Reviewing each step of the plan together will help to ensure that their goals are aligned with those of the company, and that the tools and resources they need to achieve their goals are available.

    As you are reviewing the plan, ask yourself the following questions:
    - Do their goals relate to the performance issues or development areas highlighted?
    - Are the steps specific and actionable?
    - Will they be able to clearly measure their goals?
    - Are you able to provide the resources needed for your employee to achieve their goals?

    Once the plan is finalised, be ready to check in regularly with your employee to ensure that they are on track and if they need any extra support.


Adecco can help put the right people on your team and give you the support and resources you need to keep them there. To learn more, contact us today.

Discover more employer resources here.

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