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What is a performance development plan?

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A performance development plan is an idea that has come into being in a lot of companies in recent years and is proving a very positive way to engage employees with their own workplace performance. It is aimed at helping them to assess their own personal and professional development and in very specific ways create a clear road map for their way forward.

Most businesses of any size have traditionally gone to a lot of trouble to try and recruit the right staff but have often put little time or thought into how to retain them. Salaries and bonuses are of course an important part of this and have historically been seen as the main element in any retention plan.

This changed somewhat with the introduction of staff appraisals in the 1980s. These were intended to be an annual performance review, with no discussion of salary or bonuses, where an employee and a manager would sit down and go through a sort of checklist of their work life, highlight any areas of concern or need for improvement and have a general chat about the way the company was going.

Staff development platform

The problems with appraisals in many companies was that they were, and sometimes still are, done in a slightly half-hearted manner, that no one really believed in them, and that once they had been done, were forgotten until the following year. The intent was often good, but an appraisal was often more about the idea itself rather than the value of how it was carried out.

The idea of how best to develop staff, embodied in a performance development plan, is a much more concrete set of ideas that are firmly rooted in a real sense of involving staff in their own careers, in a much more meaningful way than an annual appraisal.

Companies that sign up to any type of staff development platform will have slightly different ideas of what it entails.There are, however, a number of principles that should be behind any type of development planning process.

Ideally, a performance development plan will allow for regular meetings, if possible every quarter, between an employee and a line manager or supervisor, which will build a sense of process between the two of them. The initial meeting where the plan is drawn up should act as a template for future meetings where the objectives and priorities of the plan can be assessed and revisited where necessary.

The original development plan should be a fairly detailed document with a fair amount of thought going into it on both sides. There should be a real opportunity for the employee to specify their goals for the future and a clear framework of how these can be achieved, including any specific areas of training and re-training that may be required. There should also be an honest discussion when needed of any performance issues that need addressing and how best to move forward.

A plan such as this can be a real opportunity to provide staff with real support and guidance, possibly with some type of formal or informal mentoring or supervision system built into it

From an employer's point of view, there should be a clear understanding of the role and responsibilities of the employee, how they can better fit into the organisational and team structure of the business and how their performance and work performance results can be best assessed.

The really important thing about any performance development plan, however it may be structured, is that it is not seen as being punitive but rather as an authentic way of helping both the employer and employee maximise performance for both their benefits.