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What Are Personal Development Objectives?

Portrait of a girl in the office workplace.

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.

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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.

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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.