Personal Development Planning

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Personal Development Planning

Personal development planning

Personal development planning is the lifelong process of nurturing, shaping, updating and improving an individual’s skills, knowledge and interests to ensure their maximum effectiveness and adaptability.  It is about enabling individuals to improve and develop in line with the industry in which they engage or aspire to engage.  It is about widening or broadening their knowledge and skills in order that they will continue to have a place in the flatter structures of today’s organisations.

The benefits of personal development planning are that it provides a schedule to work, in order to motivate the individual and suggests a framework for monitoring and evaluating achievements.


If you are currently working as a first line manager or senior administrator and aspire to the position of your manager, you may need to acquire new skills or develop your lower level skills to a higher level in, for example, budgeting, managing people, performance review, report writing and chairing meetings.  You would need to plan how you are going to acquire these skills and over what time frame.

Personal development planning can also be the basis for:

  • Assessing where you want to be and how you can get there
  • Keeping skills up-to-date, particularly in IT and industry-specific areas
  • Continuous learning
  • Gaining satisfaction from achievements
  • Building up transferable skills, such as time management, adaptability to change, self-awareness
  • Supporting future employability
  • Positioning yourself to optimise job opportunities as they arise.



Personal development planning is a cyclical process and should continue right through your working life.

Remember, nothing stays constant.

You can start at any point on the chart on the right:

Establish the purpose or direction

This may be carried out on your own, formally (with your line manager) or informally (with a peer or friend).  It involves:

  • Becoming aware of your potential within your own parameters
  • Knowing what knowledge, skills and competences you have and which you would like to develop
  • Being realistic about your current organisation and its needs or the external environment.


  • Your own value system involving work/life balance, your financial perspective and mobility considerations, both for now and in the future
  • The characteristics of work which would fit with your value system.

Simply speaking, it is just a case of knowing where you are coming from, where you want to be and how you will achieve it.

Identifying development needs

These may emerge in your normal working life through your manager or a new area of responsibility.  Alternatively you may have aspirations to fulfil or skills you wish to acquire.  Various tools will assist you.

They will also vary according to how you see your future and whether you will be seeking to maintain your existing skills and motivation in the same post in the same company.  If you are preparing for promotion, a new career or self-employment, then your development needs would need to support this approach.

Identify learning opportunities

As a result of the development needs you identified, you will need to consider the following:

  • Your learning style
  • The resources available – these may take the form of people you work with who have knowledge and skills they can share, projects you could undertake (perhaps under a mentor), networks which exist in your sector or industry, e.g. Sector Skills Councils, work shadowing, visits or exchanges with another team or organisation to see how they operate.
  • The range of learning opportunities available – these could be:
    • Education, which is usually for a set time period, leads to a qualification and may be leading to a new career direction, e.g. Level 3 Advanced Diploma in Accounting.
    • Training, which takes place at a set time and place, is usually relevant to a particular skill or piece of information, e.g. a Health and Safety Course within your workplace.
    • E-learning, which takes place using electronic media or over the internet. This can be self-taught, with or without tutor, or by attending a learning centre. Depending on which methods suits you and the robustness of the e-learning materials would determine the best approach.
    • Development, which encompasses a large number of activities that offer learning potential. It may be:
      • work-based, e.g. work shadowing, secondment, mentoring, counselling, coaching, delegation
      • personal, e.g. private reading, internet activity, watching a TV programme, using a DVD, listening to a podcast, authoring, making presentations, networking, peer group contacts, community involvement.

Formulate an action plan

For each of the gaps you have identified, set yourself SMART objectives.  There should be an element of challenge so that they stretch you and enable you to break new ground.  Don’t lose sight of the fact that they must be attainable and viable within a realistic time-frame.

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

Example of a poor objective (because you will never know if it has been achieved):

“I will get the team to communicate more effectively”.

Example of a good SMART objective:

“Within the next 12 months (time-bound), I will devise and implement a system (specific) which will enable the team to communicate more effectively with each other (achievable and realistic) through monthly group meetings and three-monthly one-to-one meetings (measurable)”.

Undertake the development

Put your plan into action.  Choose what you do, how you do it and the timeframe to enable a variety of methods of learning to keep you interested.

Record the outcomes

Keeping records is essential both for you and potential employers.  This should not just be the title of the course but also what knowledge, skills and competences you gained from the development activity.  Record the date, the development need identified, the chosen method of development, the date/s it was undertaken, the outcomes and further action.

Evaluate and review

Evaluation is the key stage to the self-development cycle, as it enables you to discover the value of the activity undertaken.  Whether it was suited to your needs, was appropriate, and if (and how) your working behaviour has improved as a result.

Evaluating development activities involves asking yourself the following questions:

  • What can I do better as a result?
  • What can I do that I couldn’t do before?
  • What knowledge, skill or competence do I now have?
  • How well did my chosen method of development work and why?
  • Did I make the best of this activity?
  • Would I choose the same method for this or another development need?
  • Has this identified another development need?

Evaluation will lead you into the next stage of a continuing cycle.

Your goals will change, new tasks requiring a new set of skills will emerge, and your aspirations will develop.  It is important to revise your plan accordingly.  A plan that does not evolve and adapt will not be worthwhile.

In order to focus your attention you will need a Personal Development Plan, but this needs to be worked on in stages. The first step is to assess yourself using the tools demonstrated.

You also need to consider what development action you will be undertaking and in what timeframe.  This will also depend upon your chosen method for acquiring each skill, new piece of knowledge or competence.

Your objectives might be set to take place in a matter of weeks, months or even years depending upon their nature.  A short updating course or in-house development day might happen relatively quickly, but undertaking a qualification may take years.  This needs to be considered when setting your target completion dates (remember the SMART acronym).

Your plan should be reviewed after six months to see what progress is being made and whether all the content is still relevant.  After a year a more in-depth approach should be taken along with your line manager (if applicable).

Consideration should also be taken of the resources you will need in order to implement your plan.  These might include:

  • Finance – will your company be financing the costs, will you be paying, or might the costs be shared?
  • Time – are you able to undertake development during company time or will you, for example, be taking a distance learning course in your own time?
  • Support – will you have a mentor to assist you, or will your line manager provide support? Will you have a tutor/lecturer to call upon if needed?

Some of the answers to these questions will depend upon whether it is the company’s objectives driving your development or whether they are more personal to you, perhaps with promotion in mind, which may be with another company.

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