Personal development plans: Insights from a case based approach

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7 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: In light of contemporary shifts away from annual appraisals, this study explores the implications of using a personal development plan (PDP) as a means of focussing on continuous feedback and development to improve individual performance and ultimately organisational performance.

Research Methods: Data were collected through an employee survey in one private sector organisation in the UK finance sector using a case study approach. Secondary data in the form of completed PDP’s was used to compare and contrast responses to the survey.

Findings: Results indicate that the diagnostic stage is generally effective but support for the PDP and development activity post diagnosis is less visible. Implications of this are that time spent in the diagnostic stage is unproductive and could impact motivation and self-efficacy of employees. Furthermore, for the organisation to adopt a continuous focus on development via PDPs would necessitate a systematic training programme to effect a change in culture.

Research limitations: This study was limited to one organisation in one sector which reduces the generalisability of results. Research methods were limited to anonymous survey and a richer picture would be painted following qualitative interviews. There was also a subconscious bias towards believing that a PDP containing documented goals would lead to improved individual and organisation perspectives but the discussion has identified the concept of sub conscious priming which indicates verbal goals may equally be valid and further comparative research between verbal and written goals is recommended.
Practical implications: The results indicate the potential value that using PDPs could bring to an organisation as an alternative to annual appraisal subject to a supportive organisational culture.

Originality/value: PwC, in a recent article for CIPD (2015) reported that two thirds of large companies are planning to rethink their annual appraisal system. One of the key drivers for this was the desire for more regular feedback. Given the recent shift in thinking little research has been conducted into what would replace annual appraisal. This paper therefore focuses on the extent to which PDPs can contribute to supporting this more regular contact and feedback.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)322-334
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Workplace Learning
Issue number5
Early online date28 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jul 2016


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