Maximize your Employees’ Potential with Personalized Performance Development Plans

So you’ve just finished with performance and 360 degree reviews and you notice one of your team members is struggling. Though some people may take constructive feedback as a great opportunity to implement new insights into their work style, others may become discouraged. After giving constructive feedback what more can you do to help them get back on track?

As a manager, your key responsibility is to help your team members grow and develop professionally. The cost of hiring, onboarding and training a new employee far outweighs the cost of taking time to coach and develop your existing team members.

Great coaching always begins with a strong performance development plan. When you’re working with someone who’s really struggling, it can be difficult to know where to start. It’s important not to overwhelm them with too many improvements at once, this can lead to confusion or further discourage them. The best strategy is to pick a few areas to focus on first. Should you begin with the area where they’re struggling the most, or the skills that are most relevant to their job description? The answer may surprise you.

While it may seem counterintuitive, you should focus on the areas where they show the most potential. Strengths based development is an HR movement that has been growing in popularity. According to a 2015 survey by researcher and applied psychology expert Michelle McQuaid, 64% of employees believe they are more successful when building up their strengths as opposed to weaknesses. This can have a major impact on motivation, as those who have strengths discussions with their managers are 78% more likely to feel their work is appreciated and is making a difference within the team.

Similarly, the survey found that managers who know their team members’ strengths are 71% more likely to have people who are engaged and energized. They are also in a better position to assign tasks that will motivate and incentivize them, which can have a major impact on employee turnover: according to a 2015 Gallup Survey, 93% of US adults who left their employer left to pursue a career change. But if managers are able to create more opportunities for career mobility within an organization, they will be more likely to retain and grow a more talented workforce.

Follow these steps to help your team members personalize their strengths-based development plan:

Self Assessment

Everyone has their own skills, they just need to learn how to identify and develop them. After giving them the results of their 360 or performance review, ask them to come up with a list of their interests. This should also include hobbies outside of the workplace. It’s important that they have time to think this over and aren’t influenced by others.

They should then come up with a list of their skills. If they’re having trouble knowing where to begin, Impraise’s self assessment feature can be a useful tool to help organize thoughts and get ideas for teamwork, leadership and company specific skills. Bear in mind that skills or habits that are perceived to be that person’s current weaknesses, can also be honed into strengths if directed in the right way.

The results of their review can also be a great resource to get better insights into what others perceive as their strengths in the workplace. Be sure to advise them not to let the perception of others influence them too much: if they’re good at inputting data but hate doing it, this is probably not a career path they want to pursue. Comparing the list of their interests and strengths will help them to come up with the workplace skills they are most interested in developing.

Set up a 1:1

At the initial meeting, go over the list together. Your job is to help connect their skills and interests to your company’s objectives. If they have a knack for languages, they may be a great fit for a team tackling a foreign market.

If they don’t already have some short and long term goals in mind, help them come up with some in the context of your company and team’s objectives. The goals should be challenging yet attainable, providing the right amount of motivation without the risk of getting lost along the way.

With their strengths, interests and goals in mind, offer suggestions for ways they can train, develop and improve their skills. This can include stretch assignments, giving them information about extra trainings they could attend or helping them seek out mentors who can provide them with further guidance.

Help them come up with time frames and measurements for achieving these goals. Remember being too ambitious could lead to disillusionment, while leaving things too open may lead them to get side tracked. As long as the assignments play to your team member’s strengths and are within reach, you should see a significant change in motivation and engagement levels.

A useful method to make sure these goals incentivize rather than discourage your team member is the SMART model, which you can use as a check list. By helping them to link their strengths and interests to attainable goals, people will be able to take ownership of their professional development plan.

Encourage through feedback

After the first two meetings, you want to keep encouraging your team member to continue on the development plan. The best way to encourage them is through continuous feedback. When you see they’ve reached a milestone, be sure to acknowledge their success. When you see them struggling, offer some advice. It’s important that they know you’re taking a vested interest in their development.


Further down the line, schedule another 1:1 to review their progress. Just ensure you give them enough time to meet some of the measurement targets. Hopefully at this point they’ve made some strides in the right direction, now it’s time to check in and make sure they keep it up. Start by discussing the progress they’ve made: understanding what they’ve been doing right will help them continue on the same path. Then help them understand where they can still improve, and provide guidance on how they can accomplish this.

After working on their strengths, they will have the confidence and experience to begin developing other areas they may need more improvement on.

Excited to start, but don’t have the tools or processes in place?

In just 30 minutes, we can help you better understand the tools and processes available to set your people up for success. No strings attached.

Photo by Jared Erondu