What Is Personal Development Planning?

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  • Written By: Terry Masters
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2019
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Personal development planning is the process of setting goals and objectives to achieve individual milestones in life. Planning can pertain to career, education, self improvement, or any other aspect of advancement. The process typically results in a written personal or professional development plan (PDP), also known as an individual development plan (IDP).

There are a number of contexts where a formal plan is developed to drive individual advancement. In elementary schools, students have individual educational plans to structure teaching to their particular needs. Social workers use IDPs as part of the case management process to help clients design a path to stability and wellness. In an everyday context, personal development planning is a tool most often used by employers, life coaches, and by individuals in self-help settings.

Human resources management is perhaps the most structured use of personal development planning. Managers in this business area are responsible for maximizing a company's human capital. One of the best practices for ensuring that a company's workforce is meaningfully fulfilled and consistently broadening skills is to develop a PDP for each worker. This plan identifies the individual's aims and ambitions, and where he sees himself in the company in future years. It then plugs in activities, such as educational attainments and training, that will enable the worker to reach his goals.


The PDP can be used as an evaluative tool in a human resources setting, benefiting both the employer and employee. For example, teachers usually go through formal personal development planning at the start of their careers that identifies what they need to do to become credentialed in certain subjects and permanently licensed. When a teacher is reviewed every year, the PDP is used by supervisors to track progress towards goals. A teacher typically has a limited amount of time to obtain certain credentials, and the PDP helps keep his overall objectives on track.

Personal development planning is also used by individuals in less formal settings. Whenever a person wants to change the direction of his life or to make strides in areas that were previously unfocused, crafting a written PDP is often one of the suggested activities. Motivational seminars and self-help books will typically require a person to write down goals and objectives by time frame and to chart the steps needed to achieve those ends. It is a process of envisioning where a person wants to finish and then filling in the functional blanks. In many respects, personal development planning is very much like writing a business plan for an individual life.


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