Addressing the Challenge of Professional Development Plans in the Workplace

Meeting the target: Completing Professional Development Plans on time.

It has puzzled me over the years that there is a lot of reminders through emails, meetings, and memorandums for all the employees to have an updated professional development plan (PDP) within our organisation. It has always been the only area that had been consistently low in the mandatory requirements throughout the organisation. This means that the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in that area are not met. As a business management student, I took an interest in finding out why this an issue.

I asked my colleagues in the Safety and Quality unit, who support various teams as I do, and they confirmed that, it is across the board, and the common reason given is lack of time. Professional development plans require an agreement between the manager and the employee on the goals, skills, and resources, needed to meet the competencies. This requirement is different from other mandatories, where they are just certifications of achievement by the employee. As Camillus described in the Strategy as a Wicked Problem article, this issue involves more than one person and possibly multiple contributing factors (Camillus, 2008).


In my search for answers, I visited the 2017 staff survey (the latest published so far) where only thirty-seven percent of approximately 8000 employees responded (ORC, 2017). It indicates that, there are lots of employees who are not willing to participate in the survey as they though that they cannot influence the managers and the leaders for their professional and personal development. A third of respondents indicated that, they want to leave due to professional development issues (ORC, 2017). It further refers that; the managers and the leaders fail to motivate the employees through introducing different personal and professional development plans through which they can improve their abilities to enhance their performance in near future. The survey does not elaborate on the type and level of issues around professional development issues. It is also a small representation of employees, hence challenging to use as a true reflection of the organisation as there is low numbers of employees contribution int he survey, it is difficult for the managers to gather feedback from all of them without which it is not possible to review the personal and professional development planning. Informal discussions with colleagues did not yield much information as they blame the organization for not giving them time. Only one employee stated that, it is a box-ticking process and does not matter whether it is updated or not hence it is also another crucial issue where the employees fail to provide proper information and share their experience successfully.

If the employee does not sign the PDP, then it is incomplete indicating that, the employees are equally responsible for the issue of non-compliance where they fail to cooperate with the managers as well to complete the PDP. It takes a significant amount of time for the employees to complete the PDP which is mostly done at the cost of the employer, the employee is at risk of not meeting professional registration requirements, and the organisation is at risk of not meeting accreditation requirements which affect its operation. If there is a lot at stake from all angles, so the question remains why they are not done.

The PDP process appears simple as per organisational policy and clear on the steps that, both the manager and employee need to take active initiative to complete the PDP process, thus it is accountable for both the managers and the employees to take active part in creating proper planning for personal and professional development. On approaching one of the managers, she advised that the employees do not want to do PDPs and she does not understand the reasons behind this. She further explained that, the employees find reasons for not completing them, and she highlighted that, it is legislated and that is the employees’ responsibility. Brockner advised that, the fairness of the process is different from the outcome fairness (Brockner, 2006). The fear of getting PDPs done may not yield fair outcomes for the employees. This may be true as there is no indication that employees were involved in the process development. As per the data, most of the employees thought that, there is lack of management in maintaining transparency and accountability at the organisation for which they cannot get fair result after completing the PDP plan. this is the main reason behind the poor involvement of the employees in completing the PDP planning.

Fairness may be subjective; it depends on the angle that one is viewing from. Kampkotter identified that, the process of directly following up with employee performance and ensuring that goals are met might be very costly to the organisation (Kampkötter, 2017). Approximately, half of the employees viewed that, the performance evaluation practice is not fair at the organisation for which the managers also fail to motivate them to participate in the PDP planning. If the managers are not able to follow up employees as agreed, then it may explain why the employees may not want to participate in the activity. Furthermore, in his observation, Brockner suggested that, process fairness is usually associated with positive employee participation, where half of the employees are disagree the situation to take active part int he PDP planning as they think that there is lack of transparency and accountability at the organisational workplace (Brockner, 2006). In this case, it is hard to tell as approximately half the employees have their PDP outstanding. As PDPs are confidential, I have no information from employees commenting on the fairness of the process. In the Wessex survey, 50% of the General Practitioners (GPs) who responded felt that, the process was complicated and unnecessary (Cross & White, 2004). As per the data gathered, the GPs are not willing to participate int he PDP process as they are not motivated to the organisational culture where the managers fail to maintain fairness and transparency in the decision-making practice and evaluating the PDP planning of the employees.

One of the barriers of keeping PDPs up to date is the lack of training and education in PDPs (Cross & White, 2004). The GPs recommended educational tools for facilitation of PDPs. As Camillus mentioned, a wicked problem has no right answer, but one can aim for a better solution each time (Camillus, 2008). Training and education can help if the cause identified are related to lack of knowledge on PDPs. I have been in a position, where I had little experience and training on PDPs, and I had to carry attend to with a Junior staff member. The final sign off was with the manager, but I felt that, I needed more coaching and knowledge on a lot of things that are not documented in the process. The organisation has educators that guide people in completing professional development plans at different levels. In this context, there is more than 50% of the employees at the organisation who are not satisfied with the training and development program provided by the organisation and in this regard they are not motivated to participate int he PSO planning as they assume that they cannot change the organisational planning and practice of the managers to enhance their PDP planning. Whereas, it can be stated that, above 90% participation is considered to be good in the organisational context to develop proper planning so that most of the employees can be cooperative and it further contribute to manage transparency and accountability and reduce the chance of non-compliance. The challenge is whether people know that they need to have adequate training, resources, and experience in this which deteriorate the chance of developing appropriate PDP planning.

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The organisation has interprofessional highly educated employees, who believe that they know what they are doing. In 1991, Argyris wrote in a business review about professionals who avoid learning (Argyris, 1991). Although he wrote this about twenty-eight years ago, I understand and to some extent agree with his observations. In informal conversations, employees blame the managers, or the organisation for not completing their PDPs. None of them has reflected on their actions or behaviour which may have contributed to this. Even when the organisation has provided resources, training, and education, that still has not resolved the issue due to lack of commitment and appropriate PDP planning. The literature focuses on employers supporting employees with PDPs for increased job satisfaction, but as per the data, it is the responsibility of both the employees and the employers to participate and collaborate for developing proper planning. It is difficult to find research that holds employees responsible for completing professional development plans. Research focuses on satisfying the employee and how to achieve this (Haider, Aamir, Abdul Hamid, & Hashim, 2015; Kampkötter, 2017).

I identified that PDPs might not be updated if employees move departments. I have moved between four departments in ten months which is another major issue behind lack of completing of the PDP planning where I fail to concentrate on one department and identify the resources and capabilities that are required for developing effective PDP planning. I had a current PDP, when I left my substantive role. When my PDP became due, the manager went on emergent leave on the booked date and had a temporary cover. I then moved to other departments, where I was told to wait until I get back to my substantive role. This meant that, my PDP as three months overdue when I did it. This is a gap that the organisation needs to address whether the other employees are facing similar issues or not.

In order to have an organisation which does not meet the requirements of one of the mandatory areas, PDP may be a wicked problem that Camillus described. There may be multiple contributing factors like lack of time, education, and training (Cross & White, 2004), and employee location changes, which make it complex (Camillus, 2008). There is no assurance that, if these are addressed, then the rate of PDP completion will increase. I will follow up on strategies that the organisation will address the issue, and I will contribute, what I have found helpful in my research as able. As this is a public organisation, none of the managers, I spoke, have explored the strategies used in the private health system to keep their PDPs up to date. It is another area to explore moving forward if that is an option. I have not had the opportunity to discuss with executive management concerning this. They may have more information that can help me explore further. above 80% of the employees must participate in the organisation and the percentage is considered to be effective to inform the managers and collaborate with them for developing effective planning, whereas the managers and the leaders must be contributing positively rand resourcefully to develop the PDP. As per the data driven through searching the survey, most of the employees also explored that, lack of communication is another issue which raises the problem of non-cooperation among the employees and the managers in the health and social care context that increases the risk of doing PDP properly. Thus, it is necessary for the managers in the health care system to improve communication and enhance cooperation so that they can support the employees and acknowledge their gap to develop PDPs and side by side, it is also the duty of the employees to cooperate with the managers and inform them about the necessity if the PDP ion the organisation so that they contribute positively to make the plan successfully.


Argyris, C. (1991). Teaching Smart People How to Learn. Harvard Business Review, 69, 99.

Brockner, J. (2006). Why It's So Hard to Be Fair. Harvard Business Review, 84(3), 122-129.

Camillus, J. C. (2008, May 2008). Strategy As a Wicked Problem. Harvard Business Review, 86, 98-106.

Cross, M., & White, P. (2004). Personal development plans: The Wessex experience. Education for Primary Care, 15(2), 205-212.

Haider, M., Aamir, A., Abdul Hamid, A.-B., & Hashim, M. (2015). A literature Analysis on the Importance of Non-Financial Rewards for Employees' Job Satisfaction. Abasyn University Journal of Social Sciences, 8(2), 341-354.

Kampkötter, P. (2017). Performance appraisals and job satisfaction. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 28(5), 750-774. 10.1080/09585192.2015.1109538

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