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. A study by Udemy found that 80% of employees feel that learning and development opportunities would make them more engaged at work.
Emphasising personal development links to employee retention is a vital and ongoing concern for employers. This is why 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 specific and measurable personal development objectives that follow the 5As test, which managers and employees review and update on a continuous basis.
The act of turning PDPs into measurable, attainable objectives gives them more weight, thereby encouraging employees to take accountability and deliver on them. At Advanced, 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.
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When implementing and creating personal development objectives within your organisation, be sure to follow the steps below for optimal impact:
Define personal development objectives for 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 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. Advanced 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 their 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 own objectives, we are far more motivated to achieve them. This is why it’s essential that personal development objectives are driven by the individual rather than dictated from above. Having employees construct and arrive at their personal development objectives is a much more efficient approach when it comes to boosting productivity and performance. Although managers should be on hand to help and advise, employees should always be in the driving seat.
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.
Mind Gym recommends feedback on objectives be 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 your business is too small to warrant an online system (we disagree — check out this post about how HR software can seriously benefit SMEs), you can use 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 to determine whether people are more likely to perform well when working on challenging goals or easier deliverables. The study 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.
Keep this information 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.
Overview: what should personal development objectives look like?
Personal development objectives should be unique to each employee based on their strengths, weaknesses and interests. However, they should also align with your business strategy so that team members can see how their individual goals contribute to the organisation’s success. Keep the 5 As in mind when setting new goals:
- Assessable — objectives can be clearly measured, so employees and managers know when they’ve been achieved.
- Aspirational — goals are stretching and designed to drive high performance.
- Aligned — objectives align with broader organisational goals.
- Accountable — employees have control over objectives and a clear understanding of where they are accountable or where responsibility is shared with collaborators.
- Agile — Objectives are achievable within the next one to four months and regularly reviewed to ensure they remain meaningful.
With Advanced Clear Review, gone are the days of setting year-long objectives that are often forgotten about, become irrelevant, or employees simply lose motivation with. Setting short term, agile goals means employees always know exactly what is expected of them is they don’t lose motivation, and they know their goals remain relevant and aligned to the organisation’s objectives.
Find out how Advanced Clear Review can help
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 Advanced Clear Review team. We’ll take you through a personalised demo of our software and show you how it could transform your business.