Balancing Life and Ambition: Why Your Personal Development Plan Matters

Jessamy Amic

Posted: September 26, 2023

Table of Contents

The tremendous pace at which technology is changing jobs and industries means many businesses are faced with the problem of employees who don’t have the necessary skills to take the company forward.

Skills gaps impact businesses on several levels, including limiting their ability to innovate and maintain quality standards, pursue market opportunities, and execute strategic initiatives. Plus, they increase operating costs since employers have to recruit more people to fill the gaps.

One of the most efficient ways to solve this is to offer existing employees learning and development (L&D) opportunities that address these gaps, and are built into each individual’s personal development plan (PDP). PDPs are important as they motivate and empower employees, helping them reach their personal and professional goals while supporting the business’s overall vision.

What is a personal development plan?

Personal development is a lifelong process of realising capabilities, unleashing potential, and achieving goals. In a work context, a personal development plan is a framework – broken down into achievable steps – that drives employees to improve their skills, knowledge, and experience to achieve their career goals. It builds a clear understanding of what direction they’re heading in and how they will get there.

When drawing up a PDP, Line Manager in collaboration with HR and L&D managers have to first take into account each employee’s goals, values, competencies, and limitations, and then draw up a plan stating their goals, followed by time frames and action plans needed for them to achieve each milestone.

For example, a goal may be to learn leadership skills. The plan will include a time frame for completing a course in leadership, any obstacles anticipated, resources and support provided, the outcome, and details of how and when the employee will put his new skill into practice.

PDPs can be performance-based plans that identify areas a person needs to improve or leadership and succession plans to prepare younger or newer employees to take on critical future roles. They can also focus on short-term objectives, where the person sets individual milestones and goals contributing to the company’s overall vision. Or, be entirely ad-hoc, based on improving an individual’s specific skill set – from soft skills needed to perform at their best to new hard skills required by changes in the industry.

It’s important to note that personal development does not equal training – training is aimed at filling skills gaps, whereas the personal growth of each employee contributes to the success of the entire business.

What are the key steps in creating PDPs for employees?

A successful PDP considers the needs and goals of the employee and the business – and holds both accountable. The Academy to Innovate HR breaks it down into these nine steps:

  1. Get executive buy-in
  2. Do a company-wide skills-gap analysis
  3. Consider the company goals and key objectives
  4. Align these to your employee’s development goals
  5. Determine the right type of training in consultation with the employee
  6. Create targets and structure for learning
  7. Develop SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound
  8. Turn training into action
  9. Track results with data

What are the benefits of PDPs?

Besides ensuring employees stay current with changes and developments in their field, it increases employee retention and morale. This is especially important when employing Millennials and Generation Z, who are susceptible to job hopping, especially in the absence of development and growth opportunities.

Recruiting new talent to close skills gaps can cost more than retaining and developing existing employees: a company can take up to six months or more to break even on its investment in a new hire.

Finally, investing in L&D efforts supports positive mental well-being and improves employees’ job satisfaction. As they start to fulfil their potential, it provides a sense of direction, purpose, and success, which they plough right back into your company.

How to get employees to commit to their PDP

According to LinkedIn Learning, engaged employees stay with their companies on average 41% longer, yet only one out of five employees believes they can meet their career goals where they work today and have support to pursue those goals.

Where PDPs are part of the L&D strategy, it’s often found that the development plans are only introduced when an employee is not doing their job well, that they don’t include things that help them develop the way they want.

To avoid these pitfalls, here are ways to engage and support employees to get the most out of their PDP:

  • Regularly consult with employees about their developmental needs and the academic or professional programmes that could support them.
  • Form partnerships with leading ed-tech companies and provide access to online courses and in-house training sessions.
  • Foster a culture of learning in the workplace so that everyone knows it’s a cornerstone of company culture.
  • Offer learning support in the form of coaches, sponsors and mentors. 
  • Invest in employee learning technologies such as L&D tools that shape their learning journeys, giving them a sense of ownership of their own development. 
  • Gather employee feedback to discover what’s working and what is not, and conduct pulse surveys to understand what employees want to learn.
  • Make L&D a top organisational goal and start implementing PDPs early so you have enough time to adjust goals and allocate the training budget by the financial year’s end.

Let MasterStart help your employees reach their personal development goals

At MasterStart, we help individuals reach their personal development goals through a range of business essentials courses, whether Leadership and Management, Communication and Collaboration, Technology and Innovation, or Productivity and Efficiency.

Our courses are backed by industry-leading universities, partners organisations and leading business schools. Our 93% learner success rate bears testimony to the efficacy of our humanised online learning method that guides learners every step of the way, providing support and flexibility at every turn.

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