The Complete Guide To Building a Performance Development Plan

Performance development plans help managers work with the people on their team to identify and document valuable business and personal goals their employees wish to work toward. 

Having development plans allow organizations to align personal, team, and company interests and goals for the greater success of everyone involved. 

We’ve created a complete guide on how to build and execute a performance development plan so you can streamline your development planning process and improve your business outcomes. 

In this guide, you’ll find a breakdown of what should be included in a personal development plan, how often it should be reviewed and updated, and why it’s so essential.

You’ll also get a complete step-by-step guide on how to build a solid development planning process, including how to tackle performance development plan meetings and what to do if your performance development plan fails. 

What is personal development planning?

Personal development planning encompasses the whole process of managing a performance development plan, including the following:

  • Defining measurable goals and objectives for the employee.
  • Creating an action plan, including a timeline, on how and when those goals will be reached.
  • Scheduling and holding regular check-in meetings to review and provide feedback on progress so far.
  • Updating or refining the plan, goals, and actions as needed. 

Personal development planning in the context we’re discussing is about how to help employees grow and improve in their roles and careers. 

It can also apply to personal, educational, or relationship goals outside of the office. But, this type of information is typically not covered in a company performance development plan. 

What’s the difference between personal development planning vs. succession planning? 

Personal development planning and succession planning are not the same thing.

Personal development planning and succession planning both focus on creating and achieving short, medium, and long term goals. But succession planning specifically involves moving up in the company. 

The focus of succession planning is to ensure employees are gaining the skills and experiences necessary for moving up into higher-level roles when opportunities arise.  

Personal development planning may involve succession planning, but it doesn’t have to. Some employees will have no desire to move into another role. 

In these cases, personal development planning is still relevant and important. But, the focus will be on keeping them engaged and happy in their current role, as well as looking for opportunities for them to become more efficient and improve their productivity and/or quality. It’s about helping them reach and maintain their full potential. 

Why are performance development processes necessary?

Performance development processes are essential for two reasons:

They provide a clear structure for measuring and improving employee performance. 

They allow you to engage your employees in the process and tackle issues together.

With a clear structure in place, employees know exactly what they are working toward and how to get there. This eliminates doubt around what’s expected of them and helps them improve in their roles. 

Knowing their performance is being measured and reviewed on a regular basis can also help motivate them to achieve their goals. Plus, when you work together to set the goals, create the action plan, review progress, and brainstorm ways to improve, you’re showing your employees you’re in their corner. 

A solid performance development process provides plenty of coaching and mentoring opportunities, which will help employees reach their potential. 

Without a defined performance development plan and consistent development process, you may experience the following issues:

  1. Employees aren’t aware of or aligned with company objectives.
  2. Key performance indicators (KPIs) aren’t defined or being measured.
  3. Management isn’t aware of employees’ goals and interests within the company.
  4. There’s an inconsistent record (or no record) of employee evaluations, which makes it hard to assess whether an employee is improving or declining.

How often should performance development plans be created?

A performance development plan should be created for each new team member within the first three months of them joining the team. 

These performance development plans should then be considered “living” documents that are reviewed and updated on a regular basis. The standard is often to have an informal “interim review'' at the six or nine-month mark and a formal review every 12 months. 

Depending on your business, team, and goals, you may find more frequent reviews are necessary. For instance, if an employee is working on completing a number of objectives in the next 3–6 months, you wouldn’t want to wait 6–9 months to do the first review.  

How to create a strong development planning process

Here are nine essential steps for establishing a strong development planning process:

  1. Define your timeline: How often will performance development plans be created, reviewed, and updated? 
  2. Establish outcomes of performance reviews: When an employee meets or exceeds their objectives, do they get a raise, promotion, bonus, or something else? If they fail to meet their objectives, are they disciplined or let go? All of this should be documented before the first performance plan is created. 
  3. Create your templates: Use a standard format for all development plans, so every employee is measured the same way. They may have unique goals, but the number of goals, measurement scale (i.e., 1–5 or 1–7), frequency of review, etc. should all be identical. 
  4. Document goals and objectives: These may be company-wide, team, or person-specific standards. You may even wish to have three sections in your template: one for overarching top-down goals, one for team goals, and one for unique individual goals.
  5. Create action plans: While higher-ups may dictate some goals, the action plan on how to achieve them should always be developed in concert with the employee being measured. Sit down together to brainstorm what actions they can take to achieve their objectives. 
  6. Record KPIs and milestones: Work with your employee to determine how progress will be measured, how often it will be assessed, and what key milestones should be watched for. 
  7. Identify areas for support: If the employee needs something from you or someone else in the company to complete their action plan, make sure to document it. If a goal isn’t reached because they didn’t end up getting the support they needed, it shouldn’t be held against them. So, any requirements outside of their control must be noted and monitored. 
  8. Review and finalize the plan: After you and your employee draft the plan, take some time to review it and ensure nothing has been left out or overlooked. Then, when you’re both happy, you should sign off on it to acknowledge that it's now your formal plan. 
  9. Hold performance reviews: Once the plan is live, it’s up to the employee to execute the action plan, with your help and support as needed. The next step in the review process then becomes the regularly scheduled assessments, as you defined in your initial timeline. During these assessments, the plan should be evaluated and updated as needed.

Who curates performance development plans?

Typically, an employee’s direct manager will create their performance development plan. However, it is rarely done in isolation. 

Often, the executives of the business will set the overall strategy and goals for the organization. They will then work with the different departments or team leaders to define how the separate business areas will contribute to the overall goals. Those initiatives will then cascade down the chain to help define individual goals and objectives. 

This process helps ensure everyone in the organization is working towards the same things. For instance, if your business wants to expand in the west, every department, from marketing to IT and finance, may have at least one objective tied to supporting this objective. 

What do you include in a performance development plan meeting?

A performance development plan meeting should include two things:

  1. A review of performance over the last period.
  2. An update of the performance plan, including goals and action plans, for the upcoming period. 

Typically, you would first sit down and discuss the employee’s performance since the last review meeting. This involves reviewing their current performance development plan and how well they’ve completed their action plan and met their objectives.

Next, you’d discuss what’s expected between now and the next review meeting. If any of the goals or objectives need to be updated, you’d do so together in this meeting. You would then also update the action plan as needed.

The meeting should end with a discussion of any consequences of the meeting (I.e., will there be a reward, additional training, etc., due to the current performance results) and setting up the next review appointment.  

What do you do when a performance development plan fails?

What happens when you have a performance development review meeting and discover your employee failed to meet their objectives? 

The first step should always be to ask why. 

Did they not get the resources or support they needed to succeed? If so, you’ll need to either help them gain the support, find an alternative action plan, or modify their goal. 

Was the action plan not followed? Again, you’ll have to start by finding out why. Maybe they had to miss developmental training because they were pulled into a huge project at the last minute. They shouldn’t be penalized for that. 

Were the objectives too unrealistic? Let’s say your team was operating at an 85% efficiency, on average, for the last three years, and this year you set a goal of 95%. It may have simply been too high of a target. 

What other variables need to be considered? Was the employee off on leave for an extended period of time? Did they have to suddenly adapt to remote work due to a pandemic? Unexpected circumstances should be taken into account when assessing performance. 

The number one reason development plans fail is a lack of employee buy-in. You can often protect against this by engaging the employee in the goal setting and action plan creation process. 

However, if they still aren’t bought in, you’ll need to find other ways to motivate them to improve. Depending on the employee, that could be anything from public recognition to flexible work hours or additional pay. 

Once you identify the cause of failure, whatever it was, the next step should be to reevaluate and adjust the plan moving forward. Create new action items to help overcome whatever hurdles caused the failure, and reassess progress at the next review meeting. 

Can you create a PDP (personal development plan) in Wrike?

Yes, you can create a PDP plan for each of your employees in Wrike. 

Using the software’s folder system, it’s easy to create personal, team, and company-wide goals within Wrike. Plus, you can easily schedule your performance reviews, store your essential documentation, and share progress updates. 

How to create a performance development plan with Wrike

You can easily create an annual performance plan in Wrike using the following folder structure:

Create a folder called ‘annual personal development plan’ to share with your employee.

Inside that folder, create quarterly or semi-annual plans to cover the period between each review.

Set up your OKRS (objectives and key results) for each quarter. 

Use a separate task for each step in your employee’s action plan, so they can progress them as they complete the steps. 

You can then also schedule your upcoming reviews, monitor employee progress, make comments on tasks, and more. Plus, once you complete a performance review, you can upload it into the relevant quarterly folder, so it’s easy to access and refer to later. 

Sign up for a free two week trial of Wrike project management software and discover how it can help you create and update a performance development plan with ease.

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