How can you get personal development planning to work?

More on individual development plans here

How can you get Personal Development Planning to work


I have had the opportunity to help over the years hundreds of people to do personal development planning.  It can be a very straightforward process just requiring some focused attention and a bit of structured thinking.


The creation of IDPs according to the Corporate Leadership Council represents the second most effective method for developing employees.  Not only that it increases the effectiveness of leadership development by approximately 65 percent and can increase discretionary effort of employees by as much as 27%..


It is not that difficult to do personal development planning,


It is however not that easy to create a great personal development plan


One that will make a significant difference to your development and career .


A good personal development plan arises from an effective personal development planning process. I say process because done well personal development planning is and should be a learning process.

According to research from the Centre of Creative Leadership (CCL) development specifically involves:


§         Knowing what the target looks like!

§         Knowing where you stand against the target : (the before picture)

§         Seeing some consequence or reason to develop:

§         Having challenging experiences that test you in this area: not just practice but real work!

§         Addressing the need with every learning method available:

§         Making sense of it all: developing some new rules of thumb, guidelines “dos” and “don’ts” so the new behaviours become a normal part of your repertoire.


Reading the above guidelines you are probably thinking this goes way past any personal development planning I have ever done.  


Ironically where learning can work best (and worst)  is when people are thrown in at the deep end into a challenging new job or project. When that happens it ticks most of the boxes shown above by CCL.

In these cases development is not a “nice to” it is no less than “critical”  and so receives a lot of motivated focused attention from the learner as they feel it is ”sink or swim”.  I’m not advocating throwing all employees into the “deep end”  as the cost of failure is too high but it shows you that learning can happen very rapidly and effectively under the right circumstances in our organisations.


More information on personal development planning here

So what are some of the tactics that can support better personal development planning?


  1. Provide organisational reinforcement on the importance of development
  2. Clearly define employee and manager responsibilities
  3. Train employees on how to do personal development planning
  4. Provide more support to managers in developing their team members

  • 1.Provide organisational reinforcement on the importance of development
  •  This is a huge topic but in over view here are some of the things that can be done:

      • Have learning and development featuring in values, strategies and business plans
      • Set up measurement processes of learning and training
      • Reward and recognise Managers for developing others
      • Have Executives play visible and active roles in company mentoring and development
      • programmes
      • Invest in the tools and processes that make learning and career development easier
      • Align your people practices (recruitment, selection, pay, performance management, talent management, promotion, leadership development, culture development, resourcing) to emphasise learning and career development


    1. Clearly define employee and manager responsibilities


    Of course employees should be responsible for their own personal development planning but that doesn’t mean that their Managers should be sidelined. To do so ignores the day to day reality of organisational life.

    The employee manager relationship is an important relationship and the manager can be an advocate for change and development or a roadblock. As a general rule it has been my experience that organisations “undercook this area” and do not put enough effort into getting line manager buy in. The inevitable consequence is inconsistency and mediocre performance as your good managers take it on themselves to get involved anyway and the rest try to, if and when they have time.

    Employee responsibilities

    ·         Take responsibility for their development Understand the organisation changing expectations and future direction

    ·         Reflect on career goals over the next few years

    ·         Participate in ways to evaluate current strengths and weaknesses

    ·         Identify developmental opportunities

    Managers responsibilities

    ·         Manage workloads to enable employees to have time to develop

    ·         Offer useful feedback

    ·         Have high expectations

    ·         Suggest ideas and obtain resources to help the employee develop

    ·         Set up meetings and encourage employee accountability

    ·         *Advanced: coach their employee

    3.  Train employees on how to do personal development planning


          Organizations should also provide effective and IDP-specific training for employees and managers .


    According to research, most training fails to help managers in the creation of an IDP draft that provides actual value to their employees.


    •          To combat this, organizations should use a combination of on- line tools and support and in person training techniques.
    •          Simple techniques like breaking down the personal development planning into stages
    •          Providing examples of thinking and outputs at each stage.
    •          Putting in moderation processes to improve the quality of personal development plans.
    •          Adding personal development planning training and support  to 360 feedback processes


    4.  Provide more support to managers in developing their team members


      • It is often about Learning and development functions having good project and change management processes as they roll out new initiatives
      • This is about “sharpening up” people management programmes and making them very useful and practical.
      • It is about training and learning design and the incorporation of “on the job learning”
      • It is also about using selectively mentoring and professional coaching
      • It is about having access to the right tools and expertise


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