A personal development plan (PDP) is a way of enabling employees to take responsibility for their own education and training. On-the-job or external learning is usually of great benefit to both employees and employers as the onus is placed on the individual to secure their own, necessary development, both proactively and reactively.

A PDP will help employees to identify their key areas of development. It will allow them to both acquire new skills, or to hone existing skills and behaviours. It will also mean they are better placed to realise long-term ambitions.


PDPs help employees to:

  • become better performers in their current roles
  • be better prepared for changes in their current roles
  • be better placed to meet their career aspirations

The first step in developing a PDP for an individual is for them to undertake a skills analysis. This will identify any gaps in their current competencies which need to be examined. The individual should also be encouraged to identify any learning opportunities they are interested in.

A PDP should be split into tasks, or development objectives as they are also known. Each objective is a skill that the individual has identified – or has had identified for them – as a candidate for development.

Each objective should be identified in terms of priority. Some objectives will be critical to the individual’s current role – these objectives of course take priority. Other objectives could be beneficial rather than critical, and may apply to a possible future role as opposed to a current role. Such objectives are the lowest priority and should only be pursued if they have no impact upon higher priority tasks.

For every objective support and resources will need to be identified. A PDP is not simply a task list of things that need to be done – a PDP will also need to identify the hows and whys behind each objective so that the employee understands what exactly needs to be achieved, and how to achieve it. This may involve training, self-learning or even external education.

Timeframes also need to be established for each objective. Again, the worst example of PDPs are those that simply list tasks with the idea that each task will be reviewed in a year or so. Such an approach encourages the individual to not take their objectives seriously, or to rush them when the time for the annual review approaches. By setting deadlines, an employee will understand that these are ‘must have’ and not ‘nice to have’ initiatives. You may leave low priority tasks as open when it comes to timeframes, as they should only really come into play once high priority tasks have been completed.

Learning is an on-going process, so PDPs should be reviewed on a regular basis to monitor progress. They should be completely re-examined and even re-written at least on an annual basis. That way, an employer can be assured they are doing all they can to help their employees reach their potential, and to contribute fully towards the business.

If you’re interested in finding how Recruit & Retain is able to help you with this process, then please give us a call on 020 3633 3756 or drop us an email at