Frequently Asked Questions

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About PDRs

What is the University's PDR Policy?

The University's ‌PDR Policy outlines the purpose, practicalities and other key information regarding the PDR process.

What does PDR stand for?

Performance and Development Review. This was the case prior to a review of the PDR process and has been reaffirmed through the review. 

Why do we want all staff to have a PDR?

It is more than just a contractual obligation.  We want all our staff to engage in PDRs and to have a quality discussion with their manager/supervisor that recognises their contribution over the past year, agrees on priorities for the next year and identifies career goals and any development needs. 


See our People Strategy 2020 to see the aims and goals we have for our employees.

Are values/behaviours taken into consideration in the PDR?

Yes, it is important to assess the way you achieve your objectives alongside what you have done so relationships with colleagues and the way you deliver your work are as important. 

What are 'SMART', 'stretch' and 'career' objectives?

The SMART checklist is as follows:

  • Specific – what is the end goal? How will you know when you get there?
  • Measurable – what is the standard that needs to be attained?
  • Achievable – is it feasible? Who else will impact on this and are they committed to success?
  • Relevant – how will achieving this impact on the University and your area of work?
  • Time-bound – what are the start and end dates, and checkpoints along the way? 

Stretch or Career Objectives:

All staff should have some protected time during the PDR to discuss ongoing career aspirations and development should they want this and this may result in agreeing “stretch” objectives or goals that will enhance readiness for career progression along with any associated development activities.  

What is the interim PDR?

The interim PDR is a formal part of the process that ensures objectives, expectations and development activities are either on track or enable changes to be made. This could be as simple as a good conversation in a scheduled one to one, the date of which is then recorded and any comments if required. 

Is my PDR confidential?

Your manager’s manager in your line management structure can also view your PDR documentation.

Academics may also want to include their PDR or aspects of it in a promotion case. 

PDR Practicalities

When should my PDR take place?

The senior staff PDRs (including Deans and Professional Services Directors) need to take place (March to May) and all other staff should normally have a PDR between 1st June and the end of September.

How often should I have my PDR?

All staff should have a documented annual PDR conversation and an interim PDR (not necessarily documented). For details of the interim PDR, please see 'what is the interim PDR?'.

I have more than one role at Lancaster University - do I need more than one PDR?

If you work in 2 or more distinct roles you should have separate PDRs or agree that one manager will obtain feedback to enable a combined PDR covering all roles. 

What preparation should I do beforehand?

As a reviewee:

Everyone should take time before their PDR to prepare. This will include reflecting on things that you are proud of, things that have gone particularly well, as well as things that didn't go as well as you had hoped and any challenges or issues you have faced in the past year. You should consider how well you think you have performed overall and have examples of why you believe you have been working at that level.

Academics should review the metrics that have been collated for them, check they agree with the data and make comments about the information. Professional Services staff may want to collate examples of feedback they have had throughout the year.

Everyone is encouraged to think about what objectives they feel would be relevant for them to be set for the forthcoming year (could be longer in the case of academics). You should also give consideration to what development needs you might have to support you to achieve these objectives.

As a reviewer:

Ensure you have feedback to hand (metrics for Academic Staff) and reviews of work completed and feedback obtained from colleagues in line with objectives and ongoing work.

Consider draft objectives for the next year and what development may be required by the reviewee to achieve these objectives.

For more help, read the  Document.

Visit the 'What do I need to do' webpage for more information, or start the PDR e-learning for a more in-depth understanding of what to do before your PDR

Is the overall summary of performance linked to pay?

Not directly although cases for accelerated increments and ex gratia payments will require PDR evidence to support the case and PDRs also contribute to the trajectory in promotion terms. 

Are there limits on how many staff can receive the "exceeded" overall summary of performance?

No there are no limits. 

How much of the PDR is reviewing the past compared with planning for the future?

The PDR should be mostly about planning for the future, as a benchmark 70% of the time should be spent looking at future objectives and discussing career aims. The remaining 30% is spent reflecting on progress against previous objectives. 

I'm on a fixed-term contract, do I need a PDR?

Yes, the PDR is required and reviewers are asked to ensure that PDRs fit within the cycle as much as possible. The PDR can help to bridge the different contracts and enable development to be planned in line with short and longer-term goals. It may also be useful to identify a mentor who can remain constant throughout a series of short-term contracts to provide continuity and assist in discussions around longer term career development. For more information, find out about the Odyssey Mentor Programme.

I'm on probation, do I need a PDR as well?

Yes, you need both, however, the objectives can be the same for both the probation agreement and the PDR.

New members of staff in professional services roles can have an initial PDR as part of their induction process, with development objectives aligned to the support they need in their new role.

New members of academic staff will have objectives and development activities that are set as part of the probation agreement and are transitioned into the PDR process for the PDR cycle that follows the start date. 


For advice, tips and direction on the PDR process, read the  document to help you prepare for your PDR - whether you're a reviewer or a reviewee.

What tools are available to identify development needs?

In identifying development needs, reviewees should consider development that will enable them to:

  • Improve and enhance the way that they work
  • Undertake new expectations/objectives
  • Comply with legislation
  • Support their career goals

The Planning your Personal and Professional Development Guide provides comprehensive guidance on how to plan your development and further information, and case studies are available in the PDR e-learning resource.

Have a look at the development options outlined at Lancaster University. 

How do I access Development and Training opportunities?

As an organisation, we have a responsibility to ensure you have the training and development you need in order to fulfil your role effectively. Line managers or PDR Reviewers will agree with their colleagues what development is most appropriate to support them in performing in their role and in developing individuals. This is not always training courses; it could involve job shadowing, mentoring or coaching, working on projects etc.

There will also be the opportunity to discuss development that supports their career progression and career goals. Depending on what their aspirations are, this will be supported as far as is practical, whilst ensuring operational needs are covered. When individuals show motivation, commitment and ability to develop further in their role we are committed as an organisation to developing our staff. This requires commitment from both reviewer and reviewee.

Navigate through our Staff Development and Training webpage to search and access the various opportunities for you at Lancaster.

Is there a budget for Development and Training opportunities?

Each department and faculty have budgets for specific training needs that cannot be met through other means such as job-shadowing or personal research. Normally the process is to present a short case for funding to the budget holder, which will be assessed on merit in line with PDR objectives. 

If you agree on new development that your department needs to pay for, make sure you read the Professional Development agreement/contract webpage.

How do I ensure my objectives are meaningful to the organisation and my role?

Start with the Lancaster University Strategy document and then your Faculty/Divisional strategy/priorities to ensure your objectives are in line with what is really important. Your reviewer will also help you to align your objectives/expectations with the University and Faculty/Divisional priorities so that you understand how your work contributes to the wider success of the organisation.

What PDR training is available?

For reviewers:

Your Dean, Head of Department or Director (depending on local structures) will provide briefings to explain local arrangements and expectations and to clarify the process.

All Reviewers should complete the e-learning resource, which covers all aspects of the PDR process and supports a ½-day Skills Development workshop for reviewers.

For reviewees:

The e-learning resource and online materials support reviewees in understanding the PDR process and in preparing for their PDR. Your reviewer will confirm local arrangements and respond to any queries that you may have about the process.

Reviewers should also sign up and attend a 1/2 day PDR Training Workshop.

You can also find various support and guidance on the PDR webpages.

Where do I download template forms for my PDR?

Downloadable PDR templates are available on the PDR Forms page.

How do I create a development contract when a reviewee requires funding or work cover from my department?

See the Professional Development agreement/contract webpage for more information on when you need a contract, how to set one up, and for a template to create your own.

PDR Issues

What happens if I don't want to have a PDR?

It is a contractual obligation and important that all staff have a PDR to enable their contribution to be properly assessed, get feedback on your performance, agree your ongoing objectives / expectations, talk about development needs, give feedback to their reviewer/line manager and talk about things that are relevant to them, such as career opportunities, personal well-being, workload etc. A PDR can also be used to support cases for promotion in the case of academic staff or to discuss an application for a new role, secondment or involvement in a working group/project.

This is not an optional process; it is seen as a very important part of being a member of staff here at Lancaster University. If you have concerns about having a PDR meeting then you need to raise your concerns with your reviewer as soon as possible, as refusing to take part in the PDR meeting could impact on you negatively and could in some cases result in disciplinary action. Where staff are going through probation there should be no need to duplicate effort or set separate objectives, the two processes can be dovetailed.

What if I want to change my reviewer?

If your PDR reviewer is your line manager then you will have your PDR with that person. They are the one most suited and able to give your feedback on your performance and identify your development opportunities with you.

If your allocated reviewer is not your line manager (more likely to be the case for academic PDRs) and you feel strongly about not having a PDR with them then you can discuss this with your Head of Department or Director, however, there would need to be clear and substantial reasons to change a reviewer once they have been allocated.

What if I don't agree with my manager's rating of my performance?

If you don't agree with your rating then you should discuss this during your PDR, your comments can then be noted by your reviewer and taken into consideration. Where there is a case of an individual disagreeing with their rating the Dean or Director can review the case and recommend that the rating stays the same, is reduced further or is increased. The Dean or Director then make their final decision and feed this back to the reviewee (and original reviewer) as appropriate.

On the rare occasion where a reviewer and reviewee do not agree on a significant issue which prevents the PDR being signed off, the issue should be brought to the attention of the appropriate senior manager/Head of Department. 

What happens if there are issues that cannot be resolved during the PDR meetings?

On the rare occasion when a reviewee and reviewer may disagree on a significant issue raised during the PDR you can request that your reviewer raises the matter with your Head of Department or you can raise the issues directly with the Head.

If issues cannot be resolved by your Head, you should refer the matter to your Dean, Faculty Manager or Divisional Director (as appropriate). At any stages, reviewees and reviewers can seek guidance from Human Resources.