February 7, 2022

3 Ways to Achieve PDP Success

Gabby Cummins

The world of work is changing. Now, more than ever, it’s critical that companies develop and invest in their people. CEOs know this — 77% of them see availability of key skills as the biggest future threat to their business. Given the high cost of hiring and difficulty of finding talent, re- and upskilling the people you have has become a priority.

How do you actually do this? Well, one of the key methods is development planning — particularly through the Personal Development Plan (PDP) or through use of a PDP template.

Done properly a great PDP provides the glue between performance goals, learning and career development. It helps individuals and businesses grow together.

However, we’ve found that many enterprises feel that in practice PDPs pay lip-service to HR, but only have limited value for individuals and even the business itself. We sourced our insights from a variety of places, from Professional Bodies and People Management Accrediting organisations to management magazine articles, alongside Learnerbly’s own product development. The broad consensus is that PDPs are often a bureaucratic exercise. So why should anyone bother with them?

Attracting and retaining talent is more critical than ever. 68% of employees have changed jobs at one time because of a lack of learning and development (L&D) opportunities. Enterprises need to offer their employees a great L&D experience, and the PDP has the potential to be the tool that gives the entire process meaning and impact.

PDPs can be a strategic tool to provide challenge, focus and clarity for employees. If you don’t have this action plan to organise development, you risk demotivating people and having low engagement. Tomorrow’s talent will have no problem following their next development opportunity out of the door.

Here are the three things we’ve found that you need for successful Personal Development Planning.

  • Dynamic: A working, agile exercise that’s constantly being built on.
  • Personalised: Align individual motivations with business goals.
  • Tied to learning: Link tailored learning experiences to people’s goals.

PDPs Should Be Dynamic

PDPs are often treated like Christmas decorations — you get them out once a year, but otherwise you stick them back under the stairs. Professional development doesn’t happen once or twice a year, coincidentally during your review cycle. It’s a constant process, so an infrequent process quickly becomes outdated and irrelevant.

What matters most is that this is an active tool. They’re never ‘done’. PDPs should be a continuous working exercise which is frequently reassessed, reformed and revised. Whether the goals are short or long-term, holistic or professional, is less important. Most of the battle consists of getting people to use it on a regular basis.

PDPs Should Be Personalised

Many companies develop PDPs from the top down. They focus on business needs and team targets, but neglect people’s individual passions. If you don’t understand what motivates people, you can’t act in their best professional interest.

This lack of transparency damages the trust between employees, their managers and the business. It’s a large reason why PDPs often end up being half-baked exercises.

Tackle this head-on. Managers can’t be afraid to ask their direct reports, “What gets you out of bed in the morning?” This invites people to take ownership of their personal plan. But the manager still needs to guide them towards the sweet spot between what the individual wants to achieve and what the business needs them to achieve.

PDPs Should Tie Learning to Goals

Many companies have an L&D process, but too often people aren’t actually learning or developing. Sometimes they aren’t being offering personalised learning experiences, because employers are unsure of impact. Other times, employees don’t take their opportunities because they’re afraid learning will be seen as wasting time.

A good PDP addresses both of these concerns by tying learning experiences to people’s goals. Businesses can feel reassured that their investment is actually moving the needle. Employees will feel more motivated and empowered to take advantage of a company L&D policy because they know it will help them achieve goals that they’ve had an input in. (Plus, they’re more likely to stick around if they feel they’re valued in this way.)


Successful personal development planning is truly agile, personal, and ties the best learning experiences to people’s goals. Done right, it can drive individual and business success. The PDP has to change from being top-down to personal, and from a checkbox to a deliberate practice that continuously builds success.

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