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Rachel Matthews What is a personal development plan and how to create one

In a recent blog, I discussed the difference between personal and professional development and when you might use each to achieve what you need.

I discussed how personal development is about improving your talents and potential, both in and out of the workplace, and includes developing the skills you need to accomplish the results required both in and outside of your role.

Now I am going to look at exactly what a personal development plan (often referred to as a PDP) is, and how to create one. 

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What is a personal development plan?

A personal development plan is an action plan centred around the skills needed to succeed in your role. This could be communication skills, time management skills or anything to make you more effective.

Having a PDP will allow you to review, plan and take responsibility for your own learning. It is often a great motivational tool and gives people a great sense of control over where they are and in which direction they are heading.

The plan will often include three sections – role requirements, strengths and areas for development and the action plan itself.

It’s worth bearing in mind that most organisations will help you to create a PDP as part of an appraisal process, which will give you an idea of how important they are to development. If this isn’t the case, or you would like to create one yourself, follow some of the guidelines below. 

How to create a personal development plan

Man _Brand Strategy

A great way to start creating a personal development plan is to get some feedback on performance. Establishing your own strengths and areas for development is vital but it’s also useful to hear a manager or colleague’s opinion on this too.

Your role 

Think about what your current (or future) role is, and what skills and knowledge you need for it. Writing down all of your day-to-day tasks and then comparing it to your current job description is often a useful way to capture everything.

Consider elements such as relationships and communication, key tasks and responsibilities, how your goals are obtained and measured, and perhaps any personal pressures.

Write a list of the top ‘needs’ required for the role. This can be as long or as short as is appropriate, but try to aim for at least three. 

Strengths and development

When you have this information written down, compare it to your current skills. You can also look at it in comparison to any feedback you have received. For example, if you work in retail perhaps you have outstanding customer service skills, or maybe it needs fine-tuning.

List at least three strengths and three developments and how you can use or develop these. For example:

Customer service skills

How can I use this to my advantage in the future?
Use my skills to talk to colleagues as well as customers.

Development need
Sales skills 

Ways to address this
Speak to someone who is good at sales and look into sales training courses.

Staying SMART

Your action plan should be SMART in order to ensure it can be achieved and not used only as a development exercise.

Specific – is the goal well defined and precise?
Measurable – how will you measure if you have achieved your goal?
Attainable – is the goal challenging but attainable to avoid disappointment and demotivation?
Relevant – is the goal related to your role and performance?
Timely – is there a deadline for the goal so you know when you need to achieve it by?

See below for the above examples written in a SMART format.

I have excellent customer service skills and am comfortable talking to people.

How can I use this to my advantage in the future?
Use my customer service skills to improve communication internally as well as externally. Talk to each colleague every day about challenges I or they have faced, or tasks that have taken a considerable amount of time, to try and ensure we are all using the most effective method of service for our clients. I will measure this goal by assessing how efficiently I am spending my time currently and going forward and through the development of relationships within the store. I will start doing this on my next shift and review the success in three months.

Development need
I am not confident in upselling and therefore need to work on my sales skills and confidence.

Ways to address this
Begin shadowing a colleague who has the knowledge and confidence in sales to pick up some tips, and request feedback from them on how I can improve what I am doing. This can be measured through the increase in my sales figures. I will speak with my manager this week for a suggestion on who to shadow and begin doing so once a week for six weeks and then I will review my progress.

I will also use the internet to research retail sales training courses in my local area that focus on building confidence and aim to undertake training within the next six months. I will track my sales for one month prior to the course and for one month after to check my development.

Your goal may consist of several different milestones. If this is the case, list each one and set a deadline. For example, when researching sales training courses you may do some research this week, speak to your manager next and book something the week after. The reality is it may not work that quickly so do be realistic.

Each milestone may also require participation from someone else, for example your manager may need to speak with the training department to confirm allowances. Include this in your plan so you can always track where you are.

Finally, consider what obstructions may stand in your way – perhaps it is other people not buying into a plan, or a lack of training support or courses in the local area. Consider how you will overcome these or what you can do to prevent these obstructions from happening.

What are you waiting for? Start creating your personal development plan today. Perhaps talk to your manager, or, if you are a manager, consider speaking to your team about how and when to begin and implement a plan to encourage and develop your people further.

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Rachel Matthews

Rachel Matthews, Social Media and Marketing Manager

In my blogs I will look at industry constraints and issues and problems that employees face in their day-to-day work lives.


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