Former Director of Learning Solutions Bray Leino Learning
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Five reasons people don't complete their professional development plans

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28th Apr 2015
Former Director of Learning Solutions Bray Leino Learning
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Stephanie Morgan takes a look at the reasons PDP’s are being avoided and how to resolve the problems.

It’s a frustrating situation to be in. As a manager, you’ve worked closely with your team to create individual professional development plans aiming to increase their skills and overall performance. But, when it comes to review stage they’ve done little or nothing towards completing it. You are now faced with a situation where the individual may not be able to deliver what is required of them because they haven’t had the development and gained required skills to complete the job.

It’s not uncommon for people to bluff about the real reason they haven’t achieved their goals, so I’m taking a look at what false objections we, as managers, face and the reality behind people not completing plans set out for them.

Loss of relevance means lack of motivation

Rapidly changing industries mean that development targets can lose relevance as an operating environment changes. High pressured, time-critical roles and situations mean that people are often faced with a decision to invest time addressing changing demands in relation to their PDP and adjust accordingly, or trust that the skills and experience accrued in a fast-paced, high-pressure role will be the ones most relevant to their continued progression.

For many, the choice between achieving developmental results and attaining the praise and status that comes with delivering stone-cold business results isn’t really a choice at all.

How to resolve this: Set shorter measurement periods. Even rapidly changing organisations should have a good idea of what the next quarter looks like, so tie PDP development into quarterly appraisals and focus on the skills each person will need to face the next quarter head on.

It’s entirely your fault as the manager

Many people simply don’t like PDP’s and will do whatever they can to get out of them, including manipulating targets so that the commitment and responsibility is in the hands of their manager.

I’ve worked with people who have set targets that deliberately rely on their manager. This means the manager has to take some action in order for the employee to achieve their objectives. They do this knowing that their manager is unlikely to have time to complete the task and will hopefully skip over these objectives in a review. Obviously you need to support people, and of course you would want to champion their development, however you should never forget that the actual responsibility should always remain with the individual.

How to resolve this: Be careful when agreeing objectives. If, as a manager, you don’t have the time to complete work on a team members PDP then don’t agree it as a task. If you do, be sure to set yourself reminders so that you’ll be prepared for the review. Remember, it is not your PDP, but some support from you may be required. If you find that someone is consistently avoiding responsibility, build in more regular reviews and hold them to account.

Lack of incentive upon completion

I’ve seen it plenty of times; lack of a good incentive can reduce the drive required for completing a PDP. Without an opportunity for advancement or a pay review, many people see it as an unimportant task that gives them nothing in return. People are often blinded by short-term gain and don’t recognise the long term impact of personal and professional development.

How to resolve this: Not every company is in a position to offer a pay review or advancement at the end of a development period. However, perhaps new skills obtained via a training programme can provide incentives such as an increase in responsibility, or the opportunity to contribute to a new client account. It’s also beneficial to help them understand the difference this development will make both short and long term.

It’s not important to my future career plans

In today’s competitive job market, people often think employers will only judge applicants on the results they have achieved in previous roles. The result of this is that, if time is tight, these people will always take work exposure over formal training. This is a fallacy, employers look at the bigger picture but more importantly they will recognise that someone with more development will achieve greater results.

What the individual often doesn’t recognise is that the correlation between development and results will be apparent on a CV; results achieved are always dependant on level of skill and ability at that time.

How to resolve this: Communicate that, while people may feel they are better off working solely on their role instead of developing skills, ultimately they are suppressing themselves. Emphasise that developmental progress will make them more successful in their role. Additionally, make a compromise. Try to create opportunities where people can develop their skills working with a client, or shadowing a colleague, giving them a chance to learn on-the-job.

Accessibility is causing too many challenges

Where formal training is required, accessibility can cause issues. Many of the clients I’ve worked with report that even small difficulties acquiring suitable dates, locations and training within a given budget can slow down a person’s ability to achieve targets.

How to resolve this:  If there are a number of people in the organisation who need to develop the same skill, a bespoke, in-house training course may be the answer. If not, it’s worth casting the net further to see if there are more comprehensive courses available that wrap the identified skills into a wider relevant package. Often this process can identify additional, as yet unidentified skills gaps. Alternatively, it’s worth establishing if someone within the organisation has the ability to train someone in this skill. Perhaps they excel in the area and are willing to spend a few hours working one-on-one with the individual in a shadowing and coaching environment.

Stephanie Morgan is an experienced learning and development professional and director of learning solutions at Bray Leino Learning

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