Personal Development Plans; Case Studies of Practice

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Summary of Personal Development Plans; Case Studies of Practice

PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT PLANS: CASE STUDIES OF PRACTICE Other titles from IES: Development Centres: Assessing or Developing People? C Jackson, J Yeates Report 261, 1993. ISBN 1‐85184‐185‐7 Careers Counselling in Organisations: The Way Forward C Jackson Report 198, 1990. ISBN 1‐85184‐106‐7 Performance Appraisal: A guide for Design and Implementation J Yeates Report 188, 1990. ISBN 1‐85184‐091‐5 Succession Planning: Current Practice and Future Issues W Hirsh Report 194, 1990. ISBN 1‐85184‐088‐5 THE INSTITUTE FOR EMPLOYMENT STUDIES Report 280 PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT PLANS: CASE STUDIES OF PRACTICE P Tamkin, L Barber, W Hirsh A study supported by the IES Co‐operative Research Programme Published by: THE INSTITUTE FOR EMPLOYMENT STUDIES Mantell Building University of Sussex Brighton BN1 9RF UK Tel. + 44 (0) 1273 686751 Fax + 44 (0) 1273 690430 Copyright © 1995 Institute for Employment Studies No part of this publication may be reproduced or used in any form by any means — graphic, electronic or mechanical including photocopying, recording, taping or information storage or retrieval systems — without prior permission in writing from the Institute for Employment Studies. A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library ISBN 1‐85184‐206‐3 The Institute for Employment Studies The Institute for Employment Studies is an independent, international centre of research and consultancy in human resource issues. It has close working contacts with employers in the manufacturing, service and public sectors, government departments, agencies, professional and employee bodies, and foundations. Since it was established 25 years ago the Institute has been a focus of knowledge and practical experience in employment and training policy, the operation of labour markets and human resource planning and development. IES is a not‐for‐ profit organisation which has a multidisciplinary staff of over 50. IES expertise is available to all organisations through research, consultancy, training and publications. IES aims to help bring about sustainable improvements in employment policy and human resource management. IES achieves this by increasing the understanding and improving the practice of key decision makers in policy bodies and employing organisations. Formerly titled the Institute of Manpower Studies (IMS), the Institute changed its name to The Institute for Employment Studies (IES) in Autumn 1994, this name better reflecting the full range of the Institute’s activities and involvement. The IES Co-operative Research Programme This report is the product of a study supported by the IES Co‐ operative Research Programme, through which a group of IES Subscribers finance, and often participate in, applied research on employment issues. The members of the CRP are: Abbey National plc BAA Barclays Bank plc British Steel plc British Telecommunications plc The Cabinet Office Department of Social Security Electricity Association Services Ltd HM Customs and Excise HM Treasury J Sainsbury plc Lloyds Bank plc Marks & Spencer plc National Westminster Bank plc The Post Office Prudential Corporation plc Rolls Royce plc Shell (UK) Ltd W H Smith The Wellcome Foundation Woolwich Building Society v Acknowledgements Our thanks to those in the case study organisations who gave so generously of their time and enthusiasm, and were willing to pass on their learning to others. vi Contents Executive Summary 1 1. Introduction 7 1.1 Background 7 1.2 Objectives 7 1.3 Methodology 8 1.4 Literature review 9 1.5 Report structure 13 2. Case Studies 14 2.1 Detailed Case Studies 14 Case Study 1: Royal Mail Anglia 15 Case Study 2: Guardian Royal Exchange 17 Case Study 3: Scottish Power 20 Case Study 4: TSB Bank plc 23 Case Study 5: BP Chemicals 26 Case Study 6: Marks and Spencer 29 Case Study 7: The Wellcome Foundation 32 Case Study 8: Abbey National 35 2.2 Summary of telephone interviewed case studies 37 2.3 Summary 39 3. Main Findings 40 3.1 Content and characteristics of the PDP 41 3.1.1 Frameworks for skills and learning needs 41 3.1.2 Target group 41 3.1.3 Focus 42 3.1.4 Development actions 43 3.1.5 The PDP itself 45 3.2 Process issues 46 vii 3.2.1 Implementation 46 3.2.2 Support 48 3.2.3 Roles and responsibilities 49 3.3 Linkages in 49 3.4 Linkages out 51 3.5 Impact and evaluation 51 3.6 Summary 52 4. Issues for Practitioners 54 4.1.1 Self‐organised learning 55 4.1.2 Individuals’ ability to manage their own learning 56 4.1.3 Emergent themes 56 4.2 Scope and content of PDPs 57 4.2.1 Employee coverage 57 4.2.2 Structuring the PDP 57 4.3 Links with other processes and the focus of the PDP 58 4.3.1 Links into PDPs 58 4.3.2 Links out from PDPs 60 4.4 Implementation and support 61 4.4.1 Launching PDPs 61 4.4.2 Supporting individuals 62 4.4.3 Maintaining momentum 63 4.5 Ownership, control and confidentiality 64 4.6 Impact 65 4.7 Lessons for practitioners 66 Appendix A 68 Section A: Background and Context 68 Section B: Design of the Current PDP Scheme 68 Section D: Impact and Evaluation 69 Appendix B 71 Bibliography 73 viii Executive Summary Personal development plans (PDPs) have evolved as a particular approach to planning career and skill development activities for individuals within employing organisations. The concept of a PDP is of a clear development action plan for an individual. It may well include some plans for formal training, but is also likely to include a wider set of development activities eg coaching, project working or action learning, secondment, self‐study or distance learning, and developmental career moves. The other core concept in the PDP approach is that the individual takes primary responsibility for the plan. Line managers and the HR function often have a supporting role. Although the idea of personal development planning is not new, especially to those in education and training, there does seem to have been a rapid increase in the number of large organisations seeking to introduce some kind of PDP scheme. Organisations no longer feel they can take prime responsibility for the careers and development of their employees, and the PDP approach clearly puts the development ball in the employee’s court. It also fits comfortably with other business processes, such as total quality initiatives, which are both devolved and dependent upon the commitment of individuals to positive change. The study The research study reported here was undertaken because of this rise in interest in PDPs, and because relatively little appeared to be known of how such schemes were working in practice. It builds on other IES research both into self‐development in general, and particular career development processes. The research was undertaken with the support of the IES Co‐ operative Research Programme. This is a mechanism through which a group of IES Subscribers finance, and often participate in, applied research on employment issues. The study examined the practical application of PDPs through the experience of fourteen case study organisations. Eight of these had significant experience of implementing PDPs and are reported as Personal Development Plans: Case Studies of Practice 1 detailed named case studies. They are: Royal Mail Anglia, Guardian Royal Exchange, Scottish Power, TSB, BP Chemicals, Marks & Spencer, The Wellcome Foundation and Abbey National. Information for seven of the named case studies was obtained not just from the HR function but also from line managers and employees and, in some cases, analysis of samples of real completed PDPs (nearly a hundred in total). The other case studies provided more limited information through telephone interviews. Findings The main text of the report deals with PDPs in terms of content, target group and focus; process issues in implementation and support; linkages between PDPs and other HR processes; and the impact of PDP schemes on the organisation. In this summary we pull together some of the key issues arising from the research under the following headings: � scope and content of PDPs � the relationship between the focus of PDPs and their links with other processes � implementation and support � ownership, control and confidentiality � impact. Scope and content of PDPs The majority of the case studies intended PDPs to be used by all staff, although some only covered managers or ‘white collar’ staff. This was often a function of the length of time the scheme had been in operation and the way in which PDPs were created. As some of the processes by which PDPs are created are expensive, for example development centres and development programmes, it is unlikely that any organisation could afford to use such methods for all staff. Such activities tend to be reserved for managers, graduates, or those judged to have high potential. Appraisal was the most common means of creating PDPs in organisations that were either using the initiative for all staff or were intending to do so. This is usually a process which covers everyone. The PDP forms used by the case study organisations covered very similar areas but varied in the amount of guidance they gave to users in terms of defining areas for development and development actions. Some forms specified the definition of development needs under each of the organisation’s key Institute for Employment Studies 2 competences, whereas others would leave it to individuals to express their development needs. Similarly, some forms would encourage the expression of development actions under particular headings such as training, open learning, job moves and coaching, in contrast to others which left it to individuals to think through how their development needs might best be met. Nearly all the case study organisations were using competences as a framework to assist individuals articulate development needs. Some were also using a number of other psychometric questionnaires, or forms of 360 degree review, to assist individuals reflect on their current strengths and weaknesses. The focus of the PDP and links with other processes A personal development plan can vary considerably in focus. A plan may concentrate purely on development needed to perform better in the current job. It may extend to development required for the next career step or longer term career options. It may take a much more holistic or person based approach, encouraging the individual to think about their personal effectiveness and life/career issues and to consider a correspondingly wider range of development needs, not restricted to those relevant to the current job. This issue of focus was very important to how the individual employees perceived their scheme. By and large employees felt more satisfied by a development planning process which takes their wider personal aspirations on board. From the employees’ perspective it can be seen as a contradiction in terms to be encouraged to think about their own development in their own way, but then be told to concentrate only on their needs in relation to the current job. The processes which feed into PDPs tend to have a bearing on focus. Development centres and development programmes tend to be ‘person centred’ or holistic in approach. Appraisal tends to be more current job or ‘next job step’ based. Although appraisal based PDPs may be easier to implement for the whole workforce, the downside of this approach may be this tendency to take a narrow view of development. The expected application of the PDP will also affect its focus. All of the case study organisations were using PDPs as a means of securing development outcomes. Expectations about types of development outcome sometimes affected the design of the form and led employees, for example, to couch needs in terms of training rather than job experience. Two of the case studies linked Personal Development Plans: Case Studies of Practice 3 PDPs with succession planning and this tended to lead to development outcomes couched in terms of desired job moves. Implementation and support PDP schemes present two serious challenges in terms of implementation and support. Firstly, a scheme which is intended to apply to all individuals, and often involve all their line managers, requires a major effort of communication and training support to actually reach its intended audience. The second major challenge is that self‐organised learning is not part of the UK tradition. Even if they have a pile of documents on the scheme, employees may still need help — at least the first time — in thinking through their own development needs. This may be why individuals find it is easier to complete a PDP in the context of a development centre or as part of a management development programme. Both these activities offer considerable support. In addition to supporting implementation and the first round of PDPs, support will be needed to maintain interest in the scheme and encourage plans to be reviewed and updated. Most of the case study organisations expected line managers to be involved in discussing and actioning PDPs, but it may be unrealistic to expect all the momentum to come from the line at a time when they are often feeling overstretched. Additional support in some of the organisations was provided by mentors or, in one case (of PDPs produced on a development programme), by groups of participants keeping in touch with each other’s progress as part of their action learning approach. Ownership, control and confidentiality Another set of issues is raised by our assumptions about who really owns the planning process, who owns the PDPs and how such information should be used within organisations. Is it appropriate that a process ostensibly created to encourage individuals to develop themselves should be controlled by the organisation at all? Some of the case studies did not know anything about the take up of their scheme, and felt it was not appropriate to do so. Some monitored take up, but did not seek to collect completed PDPs. Some did attempt a degree of control, often originally to get the scheme embedded, but telling people ‘You must produce a personal development plan’ really is rather a contradiction in terms. This creates problems for those schemes which are designed to feed into processes such as job filling and succession planning. Institute for Employment Studies 4 The other problem with schemes which use the PDP as an input to job applications or succession is the impact of such linkages on the degree of confidentiality of the PDP and therefore on the degree of honesty the individual can bring to it. Impact The impact which the case study organisations wanted to see from personal development planning was predominantly the culture change away from the organisation owning individual development towards employees feeling they were responsible for their own development. In some cases attitudinal measures were starting to register such a shift. Other outcomes sought included a more adventurous approach to development methods, usually away from courses to more job‐related approaches, including more lateral job moves. Measuring take‐up of a PDP scheme will not be very easy if the forms remain private to the individual. Confidential sample surveys may be a better approach for getting information both on take up and perceived value. Employees and managers participating in the research were mainly enthusiastic about the PDP approach and its link with business development. However, as always with HR processes, few of even this vanguard had really evaluated their schemes. For some it was still to early to have done so. Lessons for practitioners In conclusion, what tips can this study suggest to those introducing a PDP scheme? � The key outcomes sought from introducing PDPs — including cultural change — need to be clear to all those involved, and built in at every stage of design and implementation. � The introduction of the scheme — whether ‘big bang’ or ‘softly, softly’ — should take account of the target group and the prevailing attitudes to employee development. � The process used to generate plans must be realistic in terms of the target group of employees and the level of resources available to the scheme. � If PDPs are expected to flow out of appraisal, the design of an appraisal scheme should take this into account by building in sufficient time for discussion of individual development. � PDPs which focus solely on skill development for the current job will not be welcomed by many employees. Those which take a broader view of the individual and their future may be Personal Development Plans: Case Studies of Practice 5 more effective in encouraging flexibility and have a higher impact on employees. � Frameworks (including competences) and instruments for assisting in self‐assessment (including psychometric tests) can be very valuable in helping employees to think about their PDPs. However, the PDP form itself should not be too highly structured as this will constrain the user. � If the organisation really wants employees to own their own development, it will have to achieve a critical balance between encouragement and control. � Formal use of PDPs in other processes such as selection or succession planning will affect the content and confidentiality of the plans, and therefore should be carefully considered. � A PDP scheme will not sell itself or maintain itself. A planned and realistic approach to supporting the scheme is crucial. This has cost implications. Institute for Employment Studies 6 1. Introduction 1.1 Background Personal development plans (PDPs) are a relative newcomer to the portfolio of popular HR initiatives. The idea of a PDP is the simple notion of a clear action plan for personal development, which will normally include training action but may be much broader than this. PDPs appear to sit comfortably with the current emphasis on empowerment and employee involvement, and initiatives like Total Quality Management which emphasise continuous improvement, shared vision and values and employee responsibility. With such initiatives relying on individual autonomy, PDPs complement and contribute to this overall approach. The essence of PDPs is that ownership of development rests very firmly with the individual, the individual is often primarily responsible for formulating the development plan, for actioning that plan and for updating it. Others have a role in this process, such as line managers or HR specialists but they are partners in the creation and actioning of the development plan or support the individual in its achievement. Despite their timely appeal, PDPs have received comparatively little research attention. Like many such initiatives there is some confusion as to exactly what they are, how they are introduced and what support they require. In fact it may be difficult to understand what differentiates them from the development action plans that have quite commonly been an integral part of appraisal schemes. Because PDPs are gaining rapidly in popularity and because some organisations seem to be having difficulty implementing them, IES obtained support from its Co‐operative Research Programme (funded by major employers) to look at PDPs more closely. 1.2 Objectives The objective of the research project reported here was to shed light on both the ideas behind the introduction of PDPs and their practical application. We also hoped to identify factors that influence success and to understand possible problems. Personal Development Plans: Case Studies of Practice 7