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Work and personal development objectives

As stated previously, appraisal is about helping the appraisee to succeed, and to perform well or better in the future. So it is vital that the appraisal discussion produces a personal development plan (PDP) for the appraisee to take forward into the next review period. The PDP should consist of a set of carefully tailored clinical, educational and personal development objectives.

There  may be a mixture of ‘work objectives’ focusing on the appraisee’s agreed and expected ‘contribution’ to the team’s goals over the coming period and ‘personal development objectives’ based on areas of agreed ‘improvement’ in job performance in clinical and non-clinical contexts. The word ‘improvement’ can, unfortunately, suggest that objectives are purely about correcting poor performance. In fact, personal development objectives can be used to manage performance in a number of ways:

  • remedy – to address poor performance
  • consolidation – to maintain and push forward an ‘acceptable’ level of performance
  • growth/diversification – to encourage and ‘stretch’ individuals who exceed normal performance standards.


The general emphasis when setting objectives should certainly be on seeking improvements. However, ‘continuous development’ is as much about maintaining standards as it is about ‘more, better, faster, smarter’. In this context, the term ‘improvement’ should be viewed widely to incorporate the three development areas: remedy, consolidation and growth.

Much has been written about how to write good, effective objectives. The SMART or SMARTER acronym is well known and provides a valuable aide-mémoire for those with the challenge of composing them. Three of the letters are particularly key: the ‘s’ for specific, the ‘m’ for measurable and the ‘a’ for agreed or achievable.

  • Be specific: it is very important to be completely clear regarding the improvement area the objective is focused on – ambiguity will make the objective very difficult to review at a later stage (e.g. at the next appraisal)
  • Make it measurable: be clear about how the improvement will be reviewed and recognised at some future point – how will we know it’s been achieved?
  • Ensure it’s agreed (or at least accepted): working from an agreed basis for regarding the improvement as desirable is the best way of approaching the drafting of any objective. Check with the appraisee that it is something that they are likely to be able to achieve and break the process down into small steps.


It is up to the appraisee to ensure objectives are reviewed. Writing and agreeing objectives that are never referred to again is a supreme waste of effort. Ideally the appraisee should look at them and discuss them in a timely manner as events arise; amend and update them as circumstances change; and above all keep them alive and current as a useful and relevant tool helping to guide their performance. Remember, appraisal should be a process and not just an event.

See Setting Learning Objectives for more details on setting learning objectives and Assessing Educational Needs for more information around personal and professional development plans.

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