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The Performance Development Plan or the PDP

The effective way to improve employee performance and productivity

Conducting great performance discussions between the boss and their direct report is vital to improving productivity; building great teams; serving the customer, and enhancing profitability.  The problem is that it is frustrating and filled with anxiety by both the boss and the employee.  The boss hates it because nothing is really accomplished and they are forced into it by human resources. The employee hates it because it always seems like an ambush and it feels like they have only been beaten up. What rational person looks forward to pain?

The traditional annual performance review or performance appraisal is usually poorly done because no one wants to be there. It seems phony and done only because it has always been done before.  What a waste of time. It does not have to be an agonizing experience for anyone if the whole process is done correctly.

The right way to turn a worthless ritual into a positive experience and result is through the Performance Development Plan or the PDP.

The PDP is a performance planning system that is designed to:

  1. Encourage a real dialogue between the boss and the direct report from a thorough and honest discussion about performance and personal growth;
  2. Set goals and objectives for the next period of time until the next PDP performance discussion,
  3. Develop the employees plans for expanding their own personal capabilities within the firm, and
  4. Determine how to get the individual employee’s personal involvement and engagement in achieving the organization’s business results.

This PDP process provides a forum to hold frank discussions around reasonable expectations about an employee’s role in managing the business. The idea is to continuously improve the company by delivering improved individual and team results through the implementation of best management practices.

We are not just changing the words from a performance review to the Performance and Development Plan. It is changing the fundamental way that both parties deal with the experience. The PDP – Creating a PLAN for improving performance and a PLAN to develop the person into the kind of employee they are fully capable of becoming. A Performance and Development Plan – the PDP combined with a Personal Growth Plan for each person.

When you conduct a typical review it is a monologue where the manager tells the employee what went right and what went wrong. All the employee hears is what is wrong with me. They stop listening and certainly are not ready to participate in any of the discussion in a meaningful way. The performance review also tends to be a surprise as the employee does get a copy to prepare for the talk. So they sit. They listen (sort of) and nod their head in agreement. They did not hear much of what was said as they desperately try to understand how this will affect their pay and promotions . . .  and ultimately their life. That is a lot to absorb in any one meeting. Employees tend to walk out of the meeting glad it is over and thinking it was a waste of time; dreading the next time they have to face it.

For the manager, the ordeal is not any easier. It is a lot of work to write something up. They remember what went on recently, but there is very little documentation what happened 9 or 10 months ago. So what gets written is what happened recently. Of course, sometimes the words flow easily. Most of the time it is excruciating to put it all together. You have to say something nice. You have to find something to say that leads to improvement.  In these days you don’t have a lot of money to hand out so it is a gruesome exercise with few reasons that make it worthwhile. It gets postponed and delayed and that only makes things worse.

The PDP is different. It works. The discussion is focused and most times really produces results. What kind of results? An employee that knows where they are going and how to get there. An employee more fully engaged in getting things done. An employee that takes control of their own career rather than waiting around for the boss to tell them what to do.


  • The employee fills out the PDP first based on what they think they did.
  • The criteria was clearly spelled out in the job description. They know exactly what to do and how to do it.
  • The employee develops their own plan for the following year. They control their own lives.
  • The ratings are based on objective definitions.
  • Examples must be given to justify each rating evaluation. No one can say you did a good job or a bad job without some specific example to demonstrate what they mean.
  • The boss or manager then fills out the same form and comments on what the employee thinks. This saves manager time as it is easier to edit than create from scratch. The manager must give specific examples of what they think.
  • When you see the differences and gaps in perception between what the manager thinks and the direct report thinks, it is many times clear about what has to be done to improve the overall productivity of that team member.
  • Clear goals for going forward are agreed upon based on concrete information not wishful thinking.
  • We can actually hold people accountable for the tasks and results they are assigned. 

How can you create these results?  Part of the TalentValue suite of products is found in HR Out of the Box. This is an HR performance platform and system. The Job Description – which is how you hire someone – is linked to the Learning Checklist which is how you train someone – which is linked to the Performance Development Plan which is how to retain the best performers in your company.

What is the next step?

If you want to build a performance system that delivers results click here on the Performance Development Plan. One of our TalentValue advisors will show you how it can all fit together and improve the productivity of each of the person on your team.