PDR essentials

A PDR is a once a year (or an agreed longer term interval) conversation between a reviewer and a reviewee. PDR prompts reviewer and reviewee to:

  • reflect on what has been achieved since the last PDR
  • plan ahead over a longer time period, taking into account the group, department or faculty priorities
  • identify learning and development needs and solutions
  • discuss any career aspirations that the reviewee wants to share
  • consider any other work related issues that need to be addressed (such as barriers to achievement, resources, buildings, working relationships or suggestions for process or system changes)
  • follow up with regular one to one conversations during the year

The PDR process is based on a set of overarching principles agreed by Personnel Committee. Departments/faculties are encouraged to develop their own PDR schemes based on these principles and using their own paperwork or online formats. This PDR sample form (Word) is available for departments/faculties to use as a starting point.

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All support and academic related staff at Oxford are expected to have a PDR once a year. Academic staff who have been appointed to retirement should be invited to have a conversation with an appropriate colleague on an agreed regular basis.

Staff who are in their probationary period, and academics in their Initial Period of Office, do not take part in PDR. 

Probation, and the Initial Period of Office, have their own review processes in which assessment, reflection and identification of learning needs happens.

PDR takes place between a reviewer (e.g. Head of Department, Faculty Board Chair, PI, manager, supervisor or an appropriate academic colleague from a ‘pool’) and a reviewee (typically a member of the reviewer’s group, team, department or faculty).

In some departments/faculties, the reviewer’s reviewer will also have a role to play and will see the outcomes of relevant PDR conversations. Please check your department’s/faculty’s process for more information. Your Department Administrator or HR Officer should be able to advise you.

The following details a typical PDR process for support and academic related staff.

Processes for academic staff may differ considerably from this and be locally determined. However, an effective process will be likely to include some opportunity for prior reflection and preparation, and an agreed, confidential, record of the discussion.

Before the meeting 

  1. PDR meetings arranged at least two weeks beforehand
  2. Reviewer arranges the meeting and invites the reviewee to attend
  3. Reviewer asks reviewee to complete a meeting preparation form, often referred to as part one of the PDR form. This is the draft agenda for the meeting
  4. At least a week before the meeting the reviewee sends this draft agenda to the reviewer
  5. Reviewer looks at the proposals and sends any amendments to the reviewee before the meeting. The reviewer keeps a copy of the form for themselves. As a result of this process there should be no surprises in the meeting

The meeting and afterwards 

Meeting happens

  1. Both reviewee and reviewer take notes
  2. Reviewee writes up the agreed objectives and any learning and development plan and sends to the reviewer for agreement
  3. Both parties agree the meeting outcomes
  4. These are used in subsequent one to one meetings to review achievement and rewrite objectives as needed
  5. In some departments/faculty, the reviewer’s reviewer will sign off the meeting outcomes (check with your Department Administrator or HR Officer)
  6. Some departments/faculties ask for all PDR outcomes to be copied to the Department Administrator or HR Officer in order to track completion rates

Benefits for Individuals

The University has adopted a PDR process in order to give members of staff the opportunity to:

  • understand what is expected of them and hear feedback on how they are doing
  • have protected time to discuss achievements and have their success recognised
  • have a clear and valued role in achieving the University’s Strategic Plan and Department or Faculty’s plans
  • discuss their career aspirations
  • discuss and agree relevant training and development for the coming year
  • have an agreed record of that discussion and a personal development plan 

Benefits for Reviewers

PDR gives reviewers the opportunity to:

  • increase motivation and job satisfaction of staff by providing protected time for listening, reflection and support
  • get to know an individual’s interests, motivations and aspirations
  • recognise achievement
  • ensure that their groups/staff are working towards agreed objectives that collectively contribute to the University’s Strategic Plan and the department or faculty’s goals
  • invite feedback on your own contribution to the individual’s work during the year
  • hear the individual's ideas about how the department/faculty could support them in their role and incorporate these in future planning
  • prioritise and plan development needs for individual and groups

Benefits for the University

In implementing a PDR process, we:

  • ensure clear and effective communication of strategic and personal objectives in a two way conversation
  • maximise the impact of training and development so that we equip staff appropriately for their roles
  • give everyone the chance to learn from colleagues

The University’s written commitment to Equality and Diversity, contained in the Equality Policy, states that:

The University embraces diversity amongst its members and seeks to achieve equity in the experience, progression and achievement of all students and staff through the implementation of transparent policies, practices and procedures and the provision of effective support.

PDR supports the Policy by promoting access for all staff to protected time for personal, professional and career development conversations. PDR has a significant role to play in encouraging staff to reach their full potential.

The staff experience survey reveals that one of the most common concerns about PDR is the difficulty of keeping it "live". Once the meeting has happened and we have agreed objectives and development needs, how do we make sure we continue to work on these? It can be tempting to put the meeting outcomes in a drawer and carry on without looking at them again until next year.

Regular catch up conversations between managers/supervisors and their people are valuable on a number of fronts, and are particularly helpful in keeping PDR "live".

 Regular one to one conversations allow us to:

  • check progress on tasks
  • problem solve
  • re-set objectives in the light of emerging opportunities
  • coach and develop people

Take a look at these tips on effective one to one conversations.

PDRs can sometimes seem a little overwhelming to reviewers and reviewees: you may find it helpful to think of PDR simply as a "big" one to one conversation.