How To Motivate Learning Through Personal Development Plans


Early in my career in the human resources field, employees dreaded what became known as the PDP or PIP.  These were a Performance Development Plan or a Performance Improvement Plan.  These documents were essentially reprimands disguised as plans, and truly had nothing to do with growing and developing an individual in order to help them achieve their greatest potential.  Instead, they were a way to document under performing employees in order to create a paper trail for the employer that would give the appearance of communicating expectations and allowing an employee to attempt improvement as a last resort prior to terminating their employment. I know many employers who still use such “plans” in this way.  Yet that is not what this article is about.  What if employers started using personal growth, development, and improvement opportunities as a way to motivate and inspire employees, especially high performing employees?

I believe that every employee, and especially high performing employees in leadership roles, should have a personal development plan that sets out ongoing growth, learning, and development options that will help employees achieve at their highest and best.  If an organization believes that strategically planning the initiatives, programs, and goals for the company is important to the company’s success, why would it not believe also that it is important for each employee to have a plan related to developing that employee’s performance and contributions above and beyond the current level. If an organization only cares about developing employees who are under performers (by placing under performers on performance improvement plans), why would they not be interested in developing middle performers and high performers to also continuously grow, improve, and develop?  I think it is time to stop using development plans to punish or document poor performance, and instead use development plans to inspire and motivate the highest performers to continuously grow, improve, develop, and contribute more.

For these reasons, I support leadership development programs that not only provide foundational learning to strengthen the organizational culture and keep everyone on the same page, and that include different learning and growth opportunities based on the level of the employee within the organization, but also the best leadership development programs should include individual development plans for each person.  These plans can help to assess where an employee is currently, where the employee has potential to grow and develop in the future, and creates the steps needed for the employee to achieve that highest future potential.