Setting Objectives and

Personal Development Plans



















Prepared by:  Training and Development


Contact for queries:  Rob Edwards







May 2003








Introduction ..................................................................... 1

Making the System work for you ...................................... 2

Roles and Responsibilities ............................................... 3



Setting Objectives .......................................................... 4

Dealing with possible misunderstandings ....................... 4

Creating Objectives .......................................................... 7

Creating Measurements for Objectives ........................... 8



Personal Development Plans (PDP) ........................... 10

More possible misunderstandings ................................... 10

Developing your PDP ....................................................... 11

Crafting your PDP ............................................................. 12


Some final words  ....................................................... 14




Meeting our goals for the Environment is challenging business.  And achieving them is not just the task of people in Flood Defence or Environment Management or EWF.  For us to win, everyone in the Agency needs to deliver results - whether you are in Customer Care, Policy Making, Administration or any other Function. There are no exceptions.


We can achieve what we have set out to do if we are clear about:


·         What the Agency needs from each of us individually

·         What skills and know-how we must personally have to deliver what we commit to

·         How we deliver the result (by the way we do things, attitudes, values and vision)


So this Guide is designed to support you in understanding:


·         How your Objectives and Personal Development Plan (PDP) can help you to deliver what you commit to

·         Provide practical assistance in constructing these tools

·         How to make the whole Performance Management System work for you





Your objectives and PDP are not stand-alone items. They are firmly locked into a cycle that begins with the Agency’s overall goals, and takes in your appraisals, and your regular performance reviews.  Here’s how that works:




So making this performance cycle work effectively should be important for you. It guides you towards developing your skills and knowledge and getting more out of your job. But for the Agency it is critical too. To be successful, it is depending on you to continue improving in your work.  And if you are a Team Leader or Manager then you have a special responsibility to make sure that the system really operates effectively in all parts of your organisation.


You can find full information about Performance Reviews and Annual Appraisals in the Performance Management Guide.  This can be found either on Easinet (click on the link here); or contact your Regional Training Advisor to find out how to get hold of a paper copy.


Making the system work starts with being clear who should be doing what!  So here’s a summary of that below.






Manager/Team Leader



1.      Translates overall team goals and makes them appropriate to each team member


2.      Proposes and collaboratively agrees with employee on objectives for the coming year


3.      Ensures that objectives are linked back to the Business Plan/Making it Happen outcomes; and they are designed to enhance individual/ team performance


4.      Regularly reviews individual Performance to ensure that it is on track; and that objectives continue to be relevant (and proposes changes if needed)


5.      Agrees PDP and provides support, guidance and direction, where necessary, to achieve it.


6.      Ensures necessary resources (e.g. Budget) are available to implement agreed PDP



1.      Actively participates in the process of agreeing objectives for the coming year.


2.      Ensures understanding of what is expected of them, and constructs a plan for delivering results.


3.      Asks for support when needed


4.      Alerts manager early if there is danger of performance shortfall


5.      Suggests adjustments and amendments to objectives in the light of changing circumstances/priorities


6.      Owns the development and implementation of own PDP


7.      Agrees PDP with manager and ensures that necessary resources will be available to implement it


8.      Ensures that regular discussions and reviews take place with the manager


9.      Ensures that records of all training & development activity undertaken are kept in line with the Agency’s Management System







As we have grown accustomed over the years to using Objectives in the Agency, our ideas and views have developed about what objectives really are, how to use them, and why we have them.  Many of these remain absolutely correct.  But some have possibly drifted off the mark.  So let’s start off this part of the Guide by clearing away a few of these misunderstandings.



1.            I have a job description so I don’t need to have objectives.

Job descriptions and Objectives are quite different from each other.  A job description details most of the things you have to do in a job.  Whereas, Objectives focus only on the priorities which need to be tackled over the next 12 months.  The aim with Objectives is to bring attention to those areas that you will need to concentrate on in the coming year.  Therefore Objectives will also be far fewer in number than the list of items in your job description.  6 to 8 are probably the max.  Let’s have a quick illustration of the distinctions.  Below is an extract from the job description of an Administrator in an Area Office:





·         Maintain effective systems for use in department, in line with needs of whole team.

·         Explore and suggest ways of implementing improvements in their own and team performance, looking for efficiencies in systems and practices.

·         Development of office administration systems and processes.

·         Ensure an efficient document storage and retrieval system is organised, maintained and developed.

·         Must observe strict confidentiality at all times, discretion needed on appropriateness of sharing information.




Compare that to the Objective he has this year in a related area:




To provide Area Manager with complete updated personal records for all team members

Check on backlog of missing info


Devise categories of info, sickness, holidays training emergency contact details.



Indeed, an objective is not a proper objective unless it has got targets and measurements.  That is one of the other ways in which objectives are different from job descriptions.  For each objective you need to be clear what you are going to do, when you are going to do it by, and how you and your manager will know that it has been done - to both your satisfaction.  Let’s take some real life examples.


Here’s one for an Environment Officer:





Increase efficiency of response to pollution incidents

Establish and monitor stock levels of consumables.


By August all equipment and materials arriving on site to be in correct quantity, timescale and fit for purpose. 

Transport Plans in place


Spot check scores of 90% + to be achieved.




Or, to follow through on the measurements from the previous Administrator example:




Success Measurements

Check on backlog of missing info.


Provide report to Area Mgr by end of May.


Devise categories of info:

Sickness, holidays, training, emergency contact details etc


Design and agree forms and documents to be used to collect and keep data by end of August



2.            Provided I concentrate only on my objectives during the coming year then I’ll be fine.  I don’t have to worry too much about the remainder of my job

No way!  As we mentioned before, objectives do not cover everything to be done in a job.  Apart from the objectives, there will still be many ‘business as usual’ activities that will need to be carried out (many of these could be the more everyday parts of your job – routine but nevertheless essential).  At review time, your performance in the whole job will be assessed – though of course the achievement of the objectives may carry a greater weighting. But also remember that objectives once set are not cast in concrete.  Inevitably during the year circumstances will change and your Objectives may need to adjust to them


3.            Everybody doing the same job will have the same objectives.

Not quite so, I’m afraid.  Even if two people in the same team are doing exactly the same job, their objectives could very well be different.  One person may be relatively new to the role and still be learning; the other person may be a seasoned professional.  To ask them both to concentrate on exactly the same priorities for the coming year would clearly make no sense.  It may also be that the type of problems one person has to deal with in their patch may be quite different from the other person’s.





4.            Because I am in the Salary Entry Zone my objectives (as well as PDP) are more or less set for me – so I don’t need to create any other ones


Only partially true.  It is certainly essential that before your objectives are finalised with your manager, you both check to ensure that the criteria from the progression framework is covered within them.  But almost certainly you will also have other priorities and objectives that are more individual and specific to you.  Similarly with the PDP: though the majority of your development actions may come from what’s identified in the progression framework, there may be perhaps one or two items that come from the other objectives.  Incidentally, if you are not familiar with the Salary Entry Zone and you believe that it may apply to you, then please talk to your manager.


Well, enough of the theory!  Let’s have a go at actually creating your objectives……





Step 1 - Your manager will kick off the process and:

·               Review the goals/objectives of the team as a whole



Double check the Balanced Scorecard/Local Contribution/Business Plan for any other cascaded team targets

·               Agree with you which of the team goals you need to contribute to, and to what extent

·               Bear in mind your abilities, experience, specific responsibilities, etc.

·               Check that your agreed priorities link back to these business targets as well as the Making it Happen outcomes.


Let’s take an example from Customer Care to see how the goals of individual team members don’t have to be exactly the same as those of the team as a whole. In fact they must be tailored to the individual. The team may have a target to reduce customer complaints by, say, 10%. But the personal goal for a very junior member of the team could be 5%; whilst that of a more experienced officer, or one who solely concentrates on customers from a very stable area could be higher. 






Step 2 - You and your Manager need to consider priorities from other areas, for example:


·               New initiatives needing attention. Examples could be a new Project, an IT system in the offing, a forthcoming organisational change, recent legislation needing implementing, etc. For instance, an impending office move may mean that a Secretary may be given some specific objectives relating to it.




Work with Facilities Project Manager to ensure successful office move to Westbury

Draw up detailed plans of what items will need moving in what order


Keep all parties informed of Plans, requirements, dates etc



·               Poor performance which needs correcting e.g. if you are failing to meet some baseline standards then the urgency will be to concentrate on getting these right first.

·               Maintaining a current standard.  It may be critical this year that a standard previously achieved is maintained – without necessarily trying to improve on it. For example an Environment Officer may have the following:





Maintain current level of compliance to the planned monitoring programme.


Focus on water sampling and waste checks

Margin of slippage: no more than +/-1 week


·               Goals that challenge and motivate. In order to add interest to your job you may want to extend yourself a little beyond what you usually do.  For example, if delivering presentations internally is something you can do with your eyes closed, you may want to do some external public speaking.  Or a Customer Care Officer who has been specialising in Flood Defence for sometime, may have an objective to extend their knowledge into another area like Environment. The proviso, as always, is that the goal links back to the needs of the Business.  But do make sure that your objectives feel worthwhile and inspiring to you - and demand something more than ‘just the usual’ of you.







Step 3 - By now, you will have a whole list of priorities that can form the backbone of your work for the next 12 months. Check that :


·             The progression criteria from the Salary Entry Zone are captured.

·             If you have more than 8 objectives, then you need to weed some out.

·             Give priority to those that directly link back to the business and team goals.





We know from the examples above that measurements are a critical ingredient in objectives.  This is also an area which people struggle with most.  Some of the frequently asked questions are: how can you tell a good measurement?  How detailed or accurate must you be? How much effort should be spent crafting them? Is there a simple formula to be applied?  So here are some suggestions


·                Definition of a good measurement: A clear and accurate understanding between you and your manager about what makes a successful achievement –leaving no room for doubt.  It includes a “when by” element.  And also, a third party reading it can easily understand it.

·                Objective and measurement matched to each other. Some objectives are best measured in hard quantitative data. Others are better based on quality of output (observation, feedback, judgement).  Taking the previous example of the Secretary with the objective of helping in the Office move, that person’s success factors could be a mixture of both hard as well as ‘soft’ measurements as follows:





Work with Facilities Project Manager to ensure successful office move to Westbury

Draw up detailed plans of what items will need moving in what order

Every team member provided with plan no later than 3 weeks before move.

Keep all parties informed of Plans, requirements, dates etc

On completion of project, +ive feed-back from majority of team and PM.




·         Formulas for creating good objectives and measurements. These  are numerous. The one most widely used in (and outside) the Agency is called SMART.



S            pecific


Unambiguous results specified


M            easurable

Capable of assessment.  May be a mixture of objective & subjective judgements (everything isn’t measurable with a slide rule!)

A            chievable



Can individual achieve results based on skills, knowledge, experience?


R            ealistic



Aligned to Business and Team goals






Dates agreed for delivery of each Objective.  Results can be tracked by milestones




If you haven’t tried the SMART method before, then check it out and see whether you find it useful.


·                Finally, a word of caution - don’t let the Measurement tail wag the Objectives dog!  Measurements are important, but ensuring that the objective is relevant and actually gets delivered has to be more important.  So don’t get hooked on trying to design the most perfect and accurate measurement for your objectives. Better to settle for something which is good-enough - and use the time instead for delivering it!


Time to do some final checks before your Objectives are ready.


·                Are you clear and comfortable about your priorities for the coming year?

·                Do you and your manager have a good understanding of the measurements you are going to use to judge your performance?

·                Do most of your objectives link back in some way to your team and or Business goals?

·                Have you written your Objectives down?!


Time to move on and tackle your PDP……





Let’s start once again with clearing out of the way any misunderstandings about what PDP’s are and are not.


1.            I am not really interested in promotion or advancement – I’m just happy doing what I’m doing.  So there’s no point in having a PDP.

How wrong can you be!  The emphasis in a good PDP should always be on how you can do better in your present job – that’s what 95% of it should be about.  Of course, for those who are interested in changing jobs in the future, there may be a small piece relating to that too – but it will always be a minor element.  Therefore having a PDP does not mean that you are preparing for promotion.  And, incidentally, it certainly doesn’t mean that you are poor performer either!  It’s simply about how to develop yourself to maximum performance potential in your current role.


2.            Most of the training I have to do is purely Technical or Professional courses – none of it is Personal Development.  So a PDP is a bit irrelevant for me.

Despite its name, a PDP is not just about improving your personal effectiveness skills (often also referred to as ‘soft skills’).  Nor is it only about merely attending training courses (as we shall see shortly).  It actually covers any activity to do with improving your skills and knowledge for your current role (or for a future one if relevant).  This could involve sitting professional examinations, attending technical conferences, doing the foundation programmes, reading up on health and safety, etc.  Or it could simply mean creating the right opportunities to practise the skills in which you are weak.  And for those who are in the Salary Entry Zone, it also covers the criteria identified in the progression framework.


3.            Everyone keeps saying a PDP is “not just about training courses” – and I have to admit that sometimes when I have been on one I haven’t got as much out of it as I was hoping to.  But I can’t see how else you can learn…

Now you’re talking!  There are literally hundreds of other ways of learning apart from training courses.  So many in fact that it may take several volumes to explain every one of them in detail.  So let’s list out just a few here and then point you in the right direction for finding out more:

·               Using self-paced videos & tapes, CD-ROMs, software programs, learning websites, manuals, books, journals and other publications. The Development Options Guide (available through the Training and Development home page on the Easinet) is an excellent source of information on what’s available and it should be your first port of call.  Or you can locate a paper copy of the Guide by contacting your Regional Training Advisor.  They can also be tremendously helpful in pointing you in the right direction on a range of development issues.  So do use these resources!

·               Coaching/mentoring others and being coached/mentored

·               Short-term assignments to particular projects to help you gain the knowledge and experience you need.

·               Job shadowing/Accompanied visits

·               Role playing with a senior/more experienced colleague to give you practical help in developing a specific skill

·               On the job training

·               Serving on a Task Force or Working Party in the relevant area

·               Guided reading/correspondence courses



If you want to know more:

·               Talk to your manager.

·               Or, once again, look up the Development Options Guide and/or speak to your Regional Training Advisor.


4.            I do a PDP every year and most times it just doesn’t happen – either there’s no money or we’re too busy.  Is there any point in carrying on with it?

Point well made.  If you don’t want your PDP to just decorate your shelf, you must do three things:

·               Ensure right from the start that you and your manager have an agreement that it is achievable in terms of budget, release time from work and any other support needed to complete it.

·               Be realistic about how much you include in it.  More than 3 to 4 areas and the chances are that some of them won’t happen.

·               Discipline yourself to make sure that you don’t pull out from your planned development activities because of work overload.  After all, this is primarily for your own good!


Also, if affordability is a problem - consider some of the other ways that we have just seen which don’t require a large outlay of money.


However, stopping doing your PDP is not the answer.  Remember, apart from anything else, it is an auditable requirement for everyone in the Agency to have one!


5.            You’ve mentioned several times in this Guide about my manager being involved in my PDP.  I always thought that it was something personal to me.  It wasn’t for sharing with other people – not even my manager.

Far from it.  When we talk about a Personal Development Plan, we don’t mean that it is confidential.  In fact, having your manager’s input is part and parcel of getting the Plan right.  Without it you are likely to be going off track.  So your manager’s help and support is essential.  Otherwise, as we saw from the previous question, it could be in danger of just gathering dust.  In fact many people also find it very useful to share their PDP with relevant colleagues and getting the benefit of their experience.






Step 1 - Always begin with your Objectives.

·               Plan out the actions you will take to deliver them

·               Consider each action carefully.  Are there any difficulties or stumbling blocks you foresee?

·               Would these risks be reduced if you had some further help or learning?




Step 2 - Now look at your Appraisal and any other feedback you’ve had

·               Review comments on areas needing strengthening and developing -particularly those agreed with your manager

·               Ask yourself: “Are there any skills or knowledge I need to do my current job better?  Or make it easier or more enjoyable?”

·               Consider areas which need refreshing or revisiting (e.g. knowledge of out of date legislation; situations where you are not fully confident)


Step 3 - Future aspirations.  Ask yourself “Is there any learning needed to position myself better for any future roles I may want to do in the Agency?”


Step 4 - Make a list of all the Development Needs from above.

·               If you are in the Salary Entry Zone check that criteria from the progression framework are covered

·               Don’t forget to include any Professional or Technical needs

·               Count up the areas identified so far.  Are there more than 3 to 4 items?  If so you’ll need to do some pruning.

·               Give priority to the ones linked to your present job and your current objectives

·               Finally run this first draft past your manager as a sanity check.



It’s time to build your PDP.  To guide you through it we’ll be using plenty of examples.

You now have your list of development needs.  The next thing is to flesh each one out.


Describing the exact need

Be clear precisely where you need to target your development activity.  Let’s take the example of a need commonly identified:  “Improve communications skills”.  This is pretty broad (and vague):  To target this need you have to find out:

·               Is this in written or verbal communications?

·               If verbal, is it at meetings, on the telephone or during formal presentations

·               If presentations, is it putting across technical information more simply, or handling awkward questions from the audience, or not over-running on your sessions?

·               If in doubt, rope in your manager (or colleague) to help you get more precise.


Areas for Development

1.      Improve Formal Communications to External Groups

·         Making technical presentations easily understandable to non- technical people

·         Convincing audience of Agency Policy – particularly unpopular messages






Decide on the Method

What activity will be most suitable for learning what you need to know?  Bear in mind

·               Your personal learning style.  We all learn differently.  Some take in more by watching and listening to others; some by actually doing it themselves, and so on.  How do you learn best?

·               What methods are readily available for learning on this particular topic?  Check out the Development Options Guide on Easinet (or for a paper copy contact your Human Resources Department).  Talk to your manager, Regional Training Advisor and colleagues.


Continuing on from the above example of Improving Communications Skills, let’s see what Methods (Development Activity) could be used.



Areas for Development

Development Activity

1.      Improve Formal Communications to External Groups

·         Making technical presentations easily understandable to non-technical people

Ask Sandy from PR for tips on making technical material more accessible.,  Work with her to review presentation content.


·         Convincing audience of Agency Policy - particularly unpopular messages


Ask Tony (local “expert presenter”) for 1 to 1 coaching.  Do ‘dry run’ with Team members + Tony and get feedback




Draw up the timescales

To complete the PDP all that now remains is to:

·               Put in the dates by which the action is going to take place.

·               Consider completing the actions in stages

·               Remember to be realistic when you are doing this!


Your PDP is now ready!  But the final and one of the most critical parts still remains to be done: the agreement and commitment of your manager to your PDP.  So do it now!





Well, you’ve put in quite a bit of effort, and you’ve now got a set of good Objectives and PDP.  But the question could arise: So what? 


It is vital to remember that these items are not an end in themselves.  They are only a plan.  And a Plan is only as good as the paper it is written on.  You still have to go out and make the Plan happen!  So don’t get tempted into taking your eye off the ball….  And to help you keep on track, here are a few final tips: 


·               Decide on the first three actions you will take to activate the Plan – and focus on those.


·               Get a date in your manager’s diary now for your first three monthly review.  That can sometimes help to concentrate the mind.


·               Inevitably situations and priorities will change - and some things may even slip a little as a result.  If so, don’t delay talking to your manager about it - and agree alterations to the Plans if necessary.



Finally, just to wish you well in achieving your goals for this year.  With the contribution of everyone like you, the Agency is guaranteed success- and you too will gain greater achievement and satisfaction in your work.  And it’s not just all of us who will benefit.  Our customers, stakeholders – and ultimately the Environment are direct beneficiaries of the work you do.