A Personal Development Plan can prove to be a very useful tool for managers at every level of the organisation, whether you are just starting out or you’re a management veteran. Here Tricia Cunningham outlines what a personal development plan looks like, how it helps you as well as your boss and why measuring the plan is vital.
What is a Personal Development Plan?
A personal development plan is a document that captures agreed actions and areas of focus to help the individual with an existing role or a potential role and to be able to deliver on that role. The personal development plan generally speaking includes a number of areas of focus the person is going to take on board. Specific actions that they can take on board relate to those areas of focus.
For example, to attend a training programme or it might be to read up on some specific area of the business, or it could be to work in a different area of the business for a period of time. That may be one day a week continuously or for a temporary period of several weeks working in a particular area of the organisation. It outlines some action the individual will take that they need to develop to enhance their existing role or to grow into a new role.
Is the plan time-based?
There has to be time-frames associated with it otherwise it will drag on indefinitely. We know from studies and from experience that what gets measured gets managed. So if the time frames have deadlines included in them, people are more likely to feel accountable and therefore more likely to deliver on the plan.
What would a typical personal development plan look like for a manager?
Well for example, we have front line managers starting on our programmes and one of the key areas they would list in their personal development plan would be communication. So an action might be attending a training programme on developing communication skills. Or it may be simply watching a set of videos or TedTV clips on how to give constructive feedback effectively. Another step would be the individual, within a defined period of time, would provide some kind of feedback to each employee within their team, then assess the impact that it had and evaluate whether or not the individual handled the process effectively in terms of changes in behaviour.
In addition to communication skills, a frontline manager could also have some technical aspect to their role. For example, project management skills. So the individual may include completing a certified course in project management in their development plan, by a particular date. There may be an upcoming project that they will be working on where knowledge of project management tools will be required. They could be partnered with a mentor in the company who will work with them using those project management tools.
Essentially the personal development plan recognises the areas where the employee needs to improve or some new aspect of the job that they have never worked in before. So the plan may be written in order to address deficiencies in a particular area, or it may be used to develop the ambitions of the employee who wants to be in a stronger position to take on new opportunities within the organisation.
What should be done with the Personal Development Plan once it’s written?
A personal development plan usually comes about as a result of an appraisal of an employee. So the senior manager and employee sit down and they talk about the areas of focus and then from that they write a development plan. They may get input from another area, for example HR, or it may be just between themselves. Or the manager may suggest to the employee that they come up with the development plan themselves and then review it together.
However once written, it’s vital there is always somebody driving this process. Ideally it should be the employee driving it but the employee must provide feedback to their manager to show that real progress is being made. Senior managers should also demonstrate interest by agreeing when they will review the plan – weekly or monthly – and discuss the progress that has been made. It cannot be left in a folder on your desktop as some aspirational document that just gets forgotten, that’s no good. Both sides must take responsibility for monitoring the document otherwise neither side gains from it, nor does the company.