by Kate Russell

Performance development plan

An important component of the performance management process is the development of an employee’s work-related skills, knowledge and experience. The performance development plan will emerge from informal feedback sessions and the formal appraisal meeting. Your role as a manager is to coach the person through their plan.

Preparing the plan

Discuss training, education or development opportunities with your employee. Identify the specific steps to be taken and document a strategy for accomplishing these objectives.

The documentation should include the following:

  • A description of the specific steps to be taken
  • The names of those who will assist the employee
  • End dates for the completion of the plan’s objectives
  • A statement explaining how successful completion of the plan’s objectives will be appraised.

Enter a description of the objectives, the names of any resource people or groups who will be involved in their accomplishment and the estimated completion date.

Development activities

Below is a list of examples of activities which could be considered appropriate for employee development. The list is not exhaustive, but represents many of the most commonly used methods.

  • On-the-job training
  • Cross training
  • Attending or participating in institutes or conferences
  • Membership of professional organisations
  • Participation in professional organisations
  • Coaching or consulting
  • Writing professional articles or books
  • Individual career counselling
  • New employee orientation
  • Working with a mentor
  • Management development programs
  • Self-study or reading assignments
  • Computer-based training
  • Participation in projects
  • Participation in teams, task forces or committees

Below are some of the factors that may be considered when deciding whether to authorise an employee’s participation in a particular activity.

  • The employee’s need for training
  • The employee’s career plan
  • The needs and strategic goals of the organisation
  • The resources of the department
  • The advantages of one type of training over another
  • The training needs of other department employees
  • The effect of the determination on workload and other employees

The performance manager’s responsibility


Effective preparation of performance development plans, with and for your employees, requires the ability to assess the needs of both the employee and the organisation.

You can help your employees to set goals that are consistent with their skills, knowledge, experience and interests by providing feedback based on your observations and assessment of their abilities, readiness and potential.

The assessment should be based on your actual experience and observation of employee performance and behaviour rather than on assumptions and personal bias. This may seem obvious, but it’s all too easy and too human to jump to conclusions or to allow personal beliefs and prejudices to creep into a relationship such as this.

Providing information

One way in which performance managers can and should support career development is to inform individual employees about options for and possible barriers to career movement. For example, you may tell your employees about upcoming positions or openings for which they may be qualified, or about budgetary constraints which may inhibit career options or development opportunities in the department.


Refer your employees to others who can assist them in achieving development goals. As a performance manager, it is your responsibility to be aware of the appropriate referral sources, both within and outside your department.

You may refer employees to journals, professional associations or other sources of information. You may also put them in touch with people who might be willing to serve as mentors or with those who might provide an ‘information interview’. This last is a way of giving an employee the chance to learn more about a field or position from someone who is currently working in that area or capacity.


Encourage your employees to focus on clear, specific and attainable career goals. Share your knowledge and experience with your employees. Provide guidance for your employees about steps they might take either to improve existing skills and knowledge or to develop in new functional areas. The following are some typical questions that employees ask.

  • What is required to move to the next logical position?
  • What are the chances for advancement in this department?
  • How can I qualify for training and development opportunities?
  • Who should I contact for further information or career counselling?


Support employee development by assigning to employees roles or tasks that challenge them and provide them with the opportunity to grow. Base decisions about development options and opportunities on a careful assessment of the individual employee’s readiness to accept additional or new responsibilities or challenges. Consider delegating a responsibility that is currently your own but which is appropriate to the employee’s classification and development. Provide on-the-job training; refer employees to classes, workshops, and other learning and development opportunities, and recommend employees to serve on committees, task forces or cross-functional teams.


Doing all of the above well hinges on you being a good coach. See the Coaching topic. There are also some useful ideas in the topic on Solutions Focus Approach.