Here we explore the meaning of Personal Development Objectives, why they are more effective than PDPs and how to agree on development needs
It is well recognised that personal development is a key driver of organisational performance and employee engagement. Emphasising personal development links to employee retention — a vital and ongoing concern for employers. For reasons such as these, Personal Development Plans (PDPs) form part of many organisations’ performance management systems. However, despite their many advantages, PDPs also have 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 managers and employees review and update 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 here at Clear Review, we encourage employees to set specific personal development objectives, alongside their performance objectives, which HR then collate to determine the training needs of the organisation.Take a Tour of our Performance Management Software
When implementing and creating personal development objectives within your organisation, be sure to follow the steps below for optimal impact:
Define personal Development Objectives to Employees
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.
So what is the meaning of personal objectives? In our 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 staff with a variety of accessible learning materials on objective setting. Videos are a particularly effective media when it comes to communicating HR concepts and should be incorporated when possible. Clear Review’s performance management software provides short animated videos for employees on various performance-related subjects, including writing effective objectives.
How to Agree on Development Needs
Before you draw up personal development objectives, you first need to assess an employee’s development needs. The first step is to meet with the employee to get his or her perspective. Where do they feel confident? Where do they think they are lacking? What strengths do they wish they had, but feel they have no time to explore or advance? Consider all ideas remotely tangential to the employee’s role and position at your company — or the position they are working towards.
Further to this, you can review the employee’s job description. From here, you can identify skills that require development and training. You should also have an honest and open discussion with your employee regarding their career aspirations at your company. If they are eager to advance along a particular career path, you should give them the tools, training and resources necessary to develop these skills — so they become a strong and valued contender for the position.
Finally, you can look over the notes from your past one-on-ones. What skills did they express an interest in? What areas did they struggle with? Take all of this into consideration and discuss the best course of action with your employee.
Encourage Employees to Take personal Ownership of Their Objectives
When we create our objectives, we are far more motivated to achieve them. With this in mind, it is important employees construct and arrive at their personal development objectives rather than having them dictated from above. This approach is much more efficient 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 an objective doesn’t always have to relate to something they need to improve. It could equally be about further developing an existing strength or developing an entirely new skill.
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, provide coaching, identify obstacles to success and agree on new objectives when current ones have been completed.
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Mind Gym recommends 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 believe you are too small to warrant an online system (we don’t agree — check out this post about how HR software can seriously benefit SMEs), you can 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 to determine whether people are more likely to perform well when working on challenging goals or easier deliverables. The research revealed that when goals and targets are stretching, they result in significantly higher performance. It also demonstrates that employees are generally much more engaged when challenged.
This information should be kept in mind when agreeing personal development objectives. Employees should be encouraged to create personal objectives that challenge them —but remember to keep things in perspective. Objectives that stretch an individual beyond the limit of their capabilities are not achievable and will leave the employee feeling disillusioned and unmotivated. During the goal-setting process, be extra cautious of perfectionists — they expect a lot from themselves and they aren’t always the best judge of what is reasonable.
If you keep the above points 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.