Individual Development Plan

Brent Watson
Brent Watson
You want to take your organization to the next level and ensure that all employees are engaged in their work. How can you accomplish this goal? This article will introduce you to the individual development plan (IDP) which can create greater focus and commitment and reveal new opportunities in your company.

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What Is an Individual Development Plan?

An individual development plan (IDP) is a resource, directed by the employee and company supported, to help employees meet personal professional goals and organization needs. The plan lists out the employee’s current knowledge, skills and abilities and compares them to their desired position. The plan then details time-specific action steps to decrease the gap of where they are to where they want to be. We’ll take a deeper dive into these steps in this article.

IDPs identify win-win situations for the employee and company. This is accomplished by meeting the company’s short and long-term goals while also providing stretch assignments for the employee.

Why Is an Individual Development Plan Important?

Since there are several important business priorities that are clamoring for your attention, here are a few reasons why you should make IDPs a priority in your schedule:

  • Direction. IDPs provide employees with greater focus, determination and purpose. Their job transforms from solely a paycheck to a step in obtaining their professional goals. Your employee’s supervisors also benefit in the sense that they better know how to support this individual in reaching their goals. It also allows them to keep an eye out for opportunities where they can be an advocate for a specific employee.
  • Commitment. Employees notice when the company invests in their professional development. This investment builds morale and a desire to stay with the organization. Your employee will become a more well-rounded leader that can analyze a situation from different angles. Their knowledge stays within the company which can then be passed onto new hires.
  • Opportunities. Your employees were hired to fulfill specific company needs. By identifying the current knowledge, skills, abilities your employees want to have, as well as the direction they want to pursue can provide you with an opportunity to meet future company needs. Rather than investing time and resources in hiring, you can use them for an internal employee that has interests in that area. You have encountered a win-win situation for them and the company.

How Do I Create an Individual Development Plan?

You may be wondering about the basic principles of an IDP and how to create one. Here are six characteristics to consider in crafting an IDP that you can share with your employees:

Step 1: Write Down Professional Goals

A critical part of the individual plan is knowing where you want to go. That doesn’t mean that it won’t change over the years, but it at least gives you some focus to begin planning. Never forget that just writing down goals increases the chance of accomplishing those goals.

Step 2: List Current Skills

You know where you want to go, but it is just as important to know where you currently are. Take some time for self-reflection. Talk with co-workers and supervisors who can help you identify skills if you are having a hard time getting started.

Step 3: Identify Resources

You know where you are and where you want to go. Now take time to write down specific resources that can help you achieve your professional goals. These resources can be training, seeking a mentor or pursuing specific job experiences that will get you to your destinations.

Step 4: Talk With Your Supervisor

Now that you have a basic outline, set aside some time to talk with your supervisor. Your company may not be able to provide you with all the financial resources to accomplish your goal, but they may surprise you. At the end of the day it never hurts to ask.

Step 5: Create Milestones

The purpose of this step is to create time specific actions to help you evaluate your progress. Share these milestones with your mentor and supervisor so they can help you with accountability. If you need to make adjustments, don’t get discouraged. Readjust your milestones and keep moving forward.

Step 6: Review Frequently

Set aside time to review how your progress is going. It could be once a quarter, once a year, or a more specific time suited to your schedule.

How To Implement Individual Development Plans For Employees

You have a greater understanding of the benefits of IDPs, but you may still be unsure of where to begin. Here are five steps that can help you get started implementing IDPs in your workforce:

Step 1: Talk with Your Employees

A baby step to implementing IDPs is having conversations with your employees about their career goals. A great time to start having these conversations is around the same time you are having annual performance reviews. The key component for success is having these discussions at a time that works for the employees and the company.

Step 2: Document Knowledge, Skills and Abilities

One function of human resources is talent management. One function of this duty is to be aware of your employees’ knowledge, skills and abilities. The method of documentation varies by company, but you know what does and doesn’t work for your organization. Draw on this knowledge to find the best method for your specific situation.

Step 3: Identify Talent Gaps

As you assist your organization in fulfilling talent needs, take time to review if any of your current employees’ IDPs can help fill those gaps. This simple step can reduce hiring outside talent to bring into your organization and get the individual up to speed with company goals.

Step 4: Create Time-Specific Action Steps

Whether you are developing a plan for yourself or the organization, taking action is a critical part. You will not gain the full benefit of IDPs if it is only a step to increase greater self-awareness. While increasing self-awareness is a good thing to do, the best thing is to apply it.

Step 5: Evaluate Your Progress

With any initiative, take some time to evaluate progress. You can look at how many employees have IDPs submitted, how many positions have been filled using knowledge gained from IDPs or your return on investment of resources set aside to increase your employee’s skills.

Examples of Individual Development Plans

Let’s look at a few examples to help you get started with developing your own IDP.

Example 1: A Future Consultant

John is a project manager for an HR consulting firm and he wants to be a consultant himself one day. He mentions this goal to his supervisor during his annual performance review. They list out the following strengths- detail oriented, strong communication, and can see the big picture.

A main function of the firm’s consultants is leading presentations and performing their own analysis to find their client’s strengths and weaknesses. John has sat in several of these presentations, but he has never led one. He also wants to be better at data analysis utilizing Excel and R.

During a follow-up meeting, John and his supervisor set the following goals. John will ask the consultants he partners with to co-present over the next month. The supervisor commits to setting up shadow sessions with a consultant highly skilled in data analytics. These sessions will happen once a month over the next three months After three months, they will evaluate progress and establish next steps.

Example 2: A Mortgage Loan Officer in the Making

Tamal was hired as a bank teller at Awesome Credit Union three years ago. During a 1:1 with his supervisor, he expresses that he wants to be a mortgage officer one day.

They review the requirements to be a mortgage officer together and identify that the only qualification that Tamal lacks is the licensure. Obtaining this license requires passing an exam.

The supervisor asks some internal questions about staffing needs for mortgage officers and finds out that one of their current employees will be leaving for a different company. The supervisor presents Tamal as a possible candidate and suggests that the company helps pay for the licence. With company help, Tamal schedules his exam to happen four months out.

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Questions You’ve Asked Us About Individual Development Plans

How is an individual development plan different from a performance improvement plan?
The individual development plan is for employees currently meeting their job expectations. This specific tool is to help them obtain the knowledge, skills and competencies to meet their short and long-term professional goals. A performance improvement plan (PIP) is for employees who are not meeting expectations and could be terminated if overall performance does not increase.
Should every employee have an individual development plan?
Every employee can benefit from creating an individual development plan. However, it may not be realistic for your company to provide resources to help employees fulfill their plans. Take baby steps and make sure that all employees are aware of the IDP principles, and then work with your company’s specific needs.
Brent Watson
Brent Watson

Brent Watson enjoys problem solving, analyzing data, team building, and becoming an HR Guru. His work experience comes from the employee experience, recruiting, and training arenas. After attending a local HR conference, Brent knew that he had found his people and the problems he wanted to solve for in the business world.

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