Structuring a Performance Development Review (PDR)

employees during a PDR

A performance development review (or PDR) is considered to be a critical part of a mature performance management cycle. But, what is it, how does it work and how does it help your employees grow in their role — moreover, how does it help your organisation succeed? Let’s get into it.

Employee performance is a critical topic. Discover performance with Personio today.

What Is A Performance Development Review (PDR)?

A performance development review, also known as a personal development review, or PDR, is a formal process scheduled to take place as infrequently as once a year or as frequently as once a month. PDRs provide a helpful and documented snapshot in time about how well an employee is doing.

In fact, many businesses to help employees set SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Bound) and work towards achieving them.

Dive into the four key stages of a performance management cycle right here.

What Is The Purpose Of PDRs?

PDRs are an important part of many organizations’ employee development plans and can form a key part of a strategic HR approach to hiring, motivating, and promoting employees. When HR team members use PDRs as part of their performance management processes this can benefit employees’ careers, and evolve your organization.

A good PDR process also provides a regular, confidential basis for employees to speak with their line managers about where they’re struggling, and how they can get help.

PDRs help both employees, and managers communicate clearly, and set realistic expectations, about:

  • Corporate goals, and how personal objectives align with the bigger picture.

  • Opportunities for career development, or career progression.

  • When an employee might be entitled to a bonus, promotion, or even have to face compulsory redundancy.

  • Help employees know whether they stand and how well they’re performing.

Start writing your next professional development plan by clicking here.

How Do PDRs Differ From Staff Appraisals?

Organizations that use the term ‘performance review’, or PDR, tend to be more people-focused than goal-focused. They use PDRs as a helpful, forward-looking tool to help employees and organizations make improvements in the future.

In the UK specifically, HR Grapevine explains that the term ‘performance review’ is more commonly used in the public sector and not-for-profit sector, and the term ‘appraisal’ is more common in other business sectors.

Here are the four most common mistakes when it comes to performance reviews.

A Single Source for Every Employee Evaluation


Automate your PDR cycles, get feedback from employees and managers and drive performance to new heights.

What Happens In A PDR?

In a typical PDR, managers and employees sit together in a 1:1 setting and go through a list of agreed questions that they have answered separately, in order to compare their answers, address differences, review achievements, and discuss next steps.

Looking for some inspiration? Check out our article on performance review templates now.

What Are Some Common Mistakes In The PDR Process?

Employees are also often not fond of documenting their achievements because:

  • If PDRs take place too infrequently, it’s not always easy to remember accomplishments between one and the next.

  • There’s a balance to be struck between honesty and the desire to exaggerate or amplify one’s own importance, in achieving company-related goals.

  • The metrics are not always available, could be interpreted in different ways, or it may be difficult for employees to explain how they contributed to achieving these broader goals.

So, while PDRs are important, they’re not often very popular. That’s why it’s even more important to do them regularly and to ensure that PDRs are used as a part of a structured career development framework. It’s not fun, but it’s important – the evidence agrees.

Research by Robert Walters revealed that nearly two-thirds of UK professionals (60%) consider career development to be an important part of their initial job offering. But, often, once employees are forging ahead with their work and managers are preoccupied with other tasks, everyone forgets that employees want to learn, progress, and evolve.

Boost performance with Personio performance management software here.

Why Do PDRs Matter For Employee Performance?

The whole idea behind staff appraisals or PDRs, whatever you choose to call them, is to provide an opportunity for managers to discuss issues beyond the day-to-day, and help employees look ahead to the future.

Good PDRs help facilitate an exchange of ideas between a manager’s expectations, plans, and goals (including, but not limited to, any monetary goals), and the employees’ goals.

Employees who are motivated, and believe that their professional development goals are met, often go on to achieve great things – contributing both to their own, and the organization’s success.

On the other hand, when employees are not meeting their goals or targets, it’s important to ensure that their lack of performance can be managed appropriately – often by using a performance improvement plan (PIP).

How Can HR Conduct A Great PDR?

Employees crave feedback. Their research says that 83% of employees really appreciate receiving feedback, regardless of whether it’s positive or negative. This can be a great opportunity to introduce 360 reviews into your business.

A great PDR needs to address employees’ human failings, and show how improvement can be made, too. In this way, they can become a very useful tool for future success.

How Can HR Software Help Facilitate PDRs?

When the time comes to do PDRs, it’s far easier to have a solid starting point by using common, indisputable facts or metrics. That’s why the CIPD factsheet on appraisals says that reliable and relevant data can be a valuable source for performance reviews. When the data is available through real-time dashboards, that’s even better.

In short, research shows that regular PDRs are critical. 31% of employees wish their manager communicated more frequently with them, according to research conducted in May 2021 – one of the ways to formalize this communication, and enshrine it in the HR calendar is by scheduling regular PDRs.

HR software, like Personio, allows HR teams to work with managers to schedule automated performance cycles, a single source of truth for employee data, and even a secure place to house feedback on performance (both from an employee and their manager).

If you’d like to find out how Personio can help improve HR for your business, book a demo. Or just get in touch – we’ll be happy to answer any questions you have about making HR easier for you.

14 days of Personio. For free.

personio software free trial