The personal development plan explained

A personal development plan (PDP) is a document in which you and your employee outline a personal pathway for growth. The power of a PDP is that you formulate result-oriented actions and monitor your employee's individual progress.

With the help of a PDP, your employees develop and become motivated by the career prospects they see open up before their eyes. For employers, PDPs are a valuable tool to get the best out of your staff by getting the right employee in the right place. At the same time, it lets you track competencies within the company. Are they aligned with the direction you have in mind? How to come up with a PDP that works for everyone involved?

Staff policy

You can choose to have employees make a personal development plan as part of the annual appraisal cycle. Managers can use it as a guideline during performance reviews and appraisals. An annual appraisal cycle could consist of:

  • An initial meeting at the start of the year in which the employee and manager discuss what the former would like to achieve that year.
  • An interim performance review to chart progress.
  • An appraisal interview at the end of the year, in which the manager assesses how the employee has performed.

At some point during this cycle, the employee may benefit from a PDP, especially if they want to grow, want to transition to a new role, or are underperforming. In the latter case, a PDP can help you justify why you are letting an employee go.

Who does what?

Your employee takes the lead regarding his development and the PDP trajectory. As a manager, you provide feedback, and insight and facilitate where possible. In addition, employees can also provide feedback to each other. This leads to more development. You can approach a PDP trajectory in various ways, but often agreements in a personal development plan are not without obligation. An employee can expect their employer to facilitate realistic goals. In turn, the employer may expect their employee to actively try to reach their personal development goals.


Ask your employee to perform a self-analysis to prepare. Employees can request free advice from qualified career counsellors via (in Dutch) and include it in their PDP. Here are 6 more questions that employees can ask themselves to gain insight into their wishes and skills:

  • Where am I now and what do I want to achieve?
  • Where do I want to be in the far future?
  • How do I feel about the company’s development in the years to come?
  • Do my talents and ambitions match that development?
  • How would I like to develop? What do I need to make that happen?
  • How can my manager support me?


Managers can help their employees by asking themselves the following three questions:

  1. What opportunities are there for your employee (within and outside their department)?
  2. What opportunities are there for your employee within your organisation?
  3. What facilities or assistance can you offer your employees? Consider third-party career counselling, internship opportunities, or education.

The next step is setting goals together and drawing up an action plan. Your employee will suggest various development goals. Discuss whether these goals fit the organisation and whether they are feasible. When you reach an agreement about the goals, document them in the personal development plan. Discuss the employee’s progress during regular check-ins.

PDP contents

A personal development plan consists of:

  • Practical details such as the employee’s name and number, their position, the name of their manager, the period covered by the PDP, the date of the meeting.
  • Future development goal.
  • The desired result.
  • An action plan to achieve the intended goal, which consists of 4 parts:
  1. Results-oriented actions.
  2. Persons, courses, or materials that can help you achieve your goals.
  3. Target date for completing the actions.
  4. Milestones.
  • Signature of manager and employee.
  • Optional: rewards for achieving goals, such as a promotion or raise.

Ultimately, the final goals are set by the employee and manager together.


Use the SMART criteria when you formulate your PDP goals. SMART is an acronym that stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound. SMART goals are unlikely to be overly general or vague. This increases the odds of the employee achieving the goals and helps create a uniform understanding of the goals.

Example of a goal that was not set with the SMART criteria in mind: 'I want to supervise interns'. Here is how to make it SMART: 'In the first quarter of this year, I want to be responsible for hiring, supervising, and evaluating at least one intern. This includes biweekly bilateral meetings and liaising with their school’s internship manager.”