PDR for reviewees

Skills guides

Making the most of your PDR - reviewee (PDF)
Career conversations for individuals (PDF)

These FAQs have been written chiefly with professional services staff and researchers in mind. Academic staff may find some useful ideas here, and general guidelines for academic staff may be found on the PDR principles page.


FAQs for reviewees

Expand All

You should. Preferably 60/40 in your favour, at worst, it should be 50/50. Remember, it is your PDR. Having said that, everyone is different, and some people find it easier if their reviewer takes the lead.

There may be good reasons why what you want isn’t feasible. Time, budget, whether or not your learning solution is the best fit and the fact that there may be higher priorities for development for the department are just some of them.

Remember that meeting learning and development needs is not only about attending a course. There are lots of activities you can do either within or outside the workplace to learn and develop your skills and knowledge. Examples include: work shadowing, secondments, serving on committees, coaching, job rotation, project work or volunteering. You may find it helpful to look at our developing myself resources.

Yes. Even if your job is fairly repetitive and there’s not a lot you can change, you can still help your reviewer identify things that could be improved, or at least let them know everything is working well. And even if you don’t want promotion, it’s still valuable to discuss what goes well and less well in your job, and hear what the priorities will be for the year ahead. You may be close to retirement, in which case looking ahead to how you will be stepping out of your role and into a new future are valuable topics to explore in PDR.

The PDR annual review meeting should not be used as the main place to address a performance issue. Performance concerns should be addressed as and when they arise. In PDR you can cover progress made and any work still to be done, but it is not the place to raise an issue of poor performance for the first time or to go over exactly the same ground that has been discussed in another meeting. It’s the place to sum up what happened, what was agreed and what else needs to be done, and to identify any further development needed.

Generally, the line manager/supervisor is responsible for ensuring that the PDR meeting takes place, but more than one manager can be involved. If there is more than one line manager, then both may participate. Your reviewer might seek feedback from other managers involved in managing you, or even hold a joint review meeting. Both of these options should be with your agreement.

They should be agreed jointly. You should take responsibility for thinking of possible objectives, and then forward these suggestions to your manager in advance of the PDR meeting. Your reviewer should ensure that you know what the team and department objectives are, and any likely changes for the team or the department, so these can be taken into account. The final set of objectives is then discussed and agreed in the PDR meeting.

Agree new or updated objectives in your regular one to one meetings. Make sure you take your PDR objectives with you into every one to one so that you can amend objectives together. This will mean you are less likely to get to your next PDR and find that the objectives you agreed last year are not relevant to what you actually did. PDR outcomes are only irrelevant if you allow them to be.

PDR is a requirement in some departments. In others it's optional. Check your department’s policy.

There are a number of reasons why people aren't keen on PDR. It may be that you don’t feel comfortable with the idea of your work being "measured" in some way. Perhaps your previous experience of a review process has been difficult. Or perhaps you can’t see the point because your work doesn’t change much and you can’t see how objectives can be set.

Remember that the opportunity for a regular and structured discussion with the person who has line management or leadership responsibility is fundamentally good practice. Institutions that give their staff an opportunity to talk about their work, offer and hear feedback, set realistic objectives and discuss their development are likely to be more effective workplaces. (MacLeod, D. & Clarke, N. 2011, Engaging for Success, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills)

And at the very least, PDR gives you the chance to talk about yourself, how you feel about your job and any factors that affect your work.

Only if you want to. You may prefer to talk about your career aspirations with a critical friend or mentor. It’s up to you. PDR prompts you to consider talking to your reviewer about your aspirations.  Your reviewer can only help if they know about these, but it is up to you to decide whether you want to talk about them.

Remember that aspirations are many and varied. They can include looking for promotion, thinking about a sideways move, changing your working hours or planning to retire. If you are still thinking about what next, you may find our developing myself resources helpful.

Managers are encouraged to ask for feedback. If your manager is carrying out your PDR, and both you and they are unsure how to structure that part of the conversation, try thinking about one thing that you might suggest each other stop, start or change.

Remember to keep feedback focussed on one or two things at a time and constructive. You might find our Giving feedback (PDF) guide helpful.

There are other processes for deciding if and when a change in remuneration is warranted (e.g. the University’s recognition and reward scheme). PDR may well draw on the same evidence and is a good way for you to think about what this evidence might be.

Many organisations are now separating PDR type processes from their reward schemes. There are indications that staff find it problematic to discuss achievements and development needs openly in a pay related review process on the basis that sharing reflections on what could be done better and what learning would be valuable could be judged as 'weaknesses' and may jeopardise their chance of reward.

A PDR discussion shouldn’t be used to discuss re-grading of a post. This should happen in a separate discussion that is just about the prospect of or the case for a regrading. Having said that, if it becomes clear in the PDR meeting that the role has changed significantly during the year, or is likely to change significantly, submitting an application for a post to be re-graded might be one of the agreed outcomes of the discussion. You may wish to schedule a separate, follow-up meeting to discuss this further. (See the University’s advice on re-grading procedures).

Staff who are in their probationary period do not take part in PDR. Probation has its own review process in which assessment, reflection and identification of learning needs happens. (See the Personnel website, A-Z, Probation guidelines)

As you complete probation, and provided probation is completed satisfactorily, your final probation review discussion should agree your objectives for the next period and the timeframe for your PDR.

Not unless you want them to be. Nor is there any agreed timing for these. As a result, there is a danger they are forgotten, or irregular. Some managers put one-to-ones in their diary at regular intervals (e.g. every 6-8 weeks) to make sure they happen and that all staff get them. See our guide on effective one to one conversations.

The University does not have a single, mandatory system. Instead, Personnel Committee agreed a set of principles for departments to follow, and these principles allow for some local variations to meet the needs of the department. In practice, the differences tend to be minor and anyone moving from one department to another would see many more similarities than differences.

The majority of departments do have PDR. Some are still introducing or refining their PDR schemes.  External funders and awarding bodies are keen to see PDR schemes in place as one of the mechanisms that support a diverse, creative, high achieving workplace.

Managers and leaders design organisational structures to deliver the work that needs doing, so the structure where you work has been created for a purpose. There may be no obvious way for you to be promoted within your team unless someone on a higher grade leaves. There may not be a job in the team at a higher grade that would match your skills and aspirations. That doesn’t mean to say that progression isn’t possible. Think laterally about what is possible outside of your team: it may mean applying for a job elsewhere in the University or perhaps making a sideways move to broaden your skills and prepare you for a promotion in a related area.

Having said that, if you want to talk about what is possible within your team, then PDR is a useful place to start that discussion. You won’t know what is feasible unless you ask.

Take a look at our developing myself guide for some suggestions on thinking creatively about your development and progression and the skills guide on Career conversations for individuals (PDF) to help you prepare for this part of your PDR.

Ask for some help from a critical friend. Try to work out why you think it will be unwelcome. What will make it difficult for the other person to hear? How could you make that message at least palatable?

If it’s about feedback, take a look at our Giving feedback (PDF) guide. If it’s a really difficult message, try our Difficult conversations (PDF) guide on the subject.

Reviewees may find the idea of PDR uncomfortable. Reviewers may too, for all kinds of reasons. They may be worried that you are going to ask for something that isn’t within their gift or that they won’t know how to answer a question you raise or that they will find the process complicated and make a mistake. In fact, they may be worried about the same things that you are.

In his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven R Covey suggests that we “seek to understand before being understood.” If you think your reviewer finds the idea of PDR uncomfortable, then:

  • Ask open questions so that you get to understand their point of view before putting forward your own (I'd be interested in hearing your views on… what options might there be to…)
  • Make an effort to listen so that your reviewer knows you hear and acknowledge what they are saying
  • Bring solutions and options rather than problems – make it easy for your reviewer to have that conversation with you

If you think the problem is time, then make an extra effort to keep your PDR on track. Do your preparation thoroughly, know what matters most to you in the conversation and don’t waste time on topics that don't need a lot of scrutiny. A short but effective PDR may give both you and your reviewer what you need.

It’s your role to write up the outcomes of the meeting and send them to your reviewer for agreement.

You and your reviewer should keep a copy of the final written record. In some departments, the reviewer's reviewer also sees/signs off the meeting outcomes. Some departments ask HR Officers or Department Administrators to collect completed PDR forms so that they know PDR is taking place.

Ask your HR Officer or Department Administrator for information on what happens in your department.

You will usually be assigned a reviewer and this will usually be the person who supervises or manages you or has some recognised leadership role in relation to your job.

Whether or not you can change your reviewer is up to your department. It may be, for example, that you work to more than one "manager" and that there is room for discussion on who should be your reviewer and whether another manager should take part in some way in your review.

If you want to change because of the quality of the working relationship, then changing reviewer might be a short term solution, but it won’t resolve the longer term issue of a dysfunctional relationship at work. If this is the issue, talk to your local HR Officer, Head of Department/Unit or Department Administrator for advice and support.

Once you have drafted the PDR outcomes, send them to your reviewer. Your reviewer may come back with suggestions or a request for items to be changed. This doesn’t have to be an issue. It may be that you simply have different recollections of what was discussed (we suggest that you both takes notes in the meeting to limit the likelihood of this happening), in which case you can meet again, or speak on the phone or by email to come to an agreement. Assumptions can be powerful: it is worth going into discussions like these in a neutral frame of mind that looks first for areas where you both agree rather than for differences. Don’t begin with an assumption that your reviewer wants to change or divert what you think you agreed.

It may be that, after discussion, you can’t agree. In many departments, the reviewer’s reviewer is available to help you arrive at a resolution. Ask your HR Officer or your Department Administrator for information on your department’s scheme.