The research is clear: employees want employers to invest in their professional development. Sixty-eight percent of workers say they'd stay with their company if they had opportunities to upskill.
Sounds great! You’re onboard! Subscribe to a professional development course library and you’ve checked that box, right?
That course library certainly can be one facet of your talent development strategy. But to make employee development truly valuable, you need to tailor it to each individual.
This is where individual development plans (IDPs) come into play.
Gone are the days when a one-size-fits-all approach to professional development sufficed. Instead, today’s employees expect learning opportunities that support their own unique goals.
In this guide, we’ll explore the concept of IDPs, explore their benefits, and share our step-by-step process for creating them.
An IDP is an outline of an individual employee’s career goals and the specific steps required to achieve them.
The key word here is individual. An IDP is tailor-made for each employee’s unique goals and capabilities. No two IDPs are alike.
We’ll dive into the specific components in our IDP template at the end of the article, but at a high level, an IDP contains specifics on an employee’s:
At its core, an IDP is a concrete framework or roadmap for advancing employee development. This is a win for you, your organization, and your workforce.
On that note, individual career development plans foster a culture of continuous learning and personal advancement. IDPs not only contribute to the holistic development of employees but, in turn, drive organizational success in several ways:
An IDP can take many forms, but let’s break down the key components. You can use this framework to build out your own.
Your employee and their manager should identify several short-term and long-term goals as a starting point to anchor the IDP. These might include acquiring a new skill, obtaining a certification, or stepping into a leadership role. Goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound (SMART).
For each goal, identify the following:
Don’t worry about getting too into the weeds here. You’ll flesh out more of the specifics in the following sections.
Employee self-assessments are a common, and often fruitful performance management tactic, and they have a place in individual development plans as well.
In this section of the IDP, have employees list their top strengths and most important areas of improvement.
Acknowledging both strengths and weaknesses is important. Highlighting where your employees shine is a great way of recognizing past achievements and building confidence. And, since this is an individual development plan, you need to surface areas to develop as well.
Break down the developmental activities, and add more detail. List each activity, describe what it entails, the goal it supports, and how it contributes to the employee’s overall growth.
These could include workshops, training programs, mentorship sessions, hands-on projects, or job rotations.
Once you’ve crystalized the development activities, break down the progression into manageable segments with specific timelines. Assign milestones to measure progress and track an employee’s advancement toward each goal.
List out the resources needed to achieve these goals. Think about resources in two ways:
Add specificity to how your employee can access these. It might be a list of helpful links to bookmark, contact information for experts, or instructions for how to join a professional organization.
For each goal, clarify how you and your employee will measure the success of the goal completion. Be as specific as possible, using real numbers and timeframes where relevant.
To add accountability, indicate when and how the employee will be evaluated on their development. This could be during their regular manager 1:1s or maybe on a quarterly basis.
Ensure it’s often enough to maintain accountability, but not so frequent where there isn’t progress to report.
Again, itemize each goal and indicate which larger company objective(s) your individual goals funnel into. It helps to have clear and established organizational goals already disseminated to the workforce.
This is optional, but you might want to include a space for your employees to add any final thoughts or notes that don’t fit into the template.
Let's now explore a few IDP examples to illustrate the diverse scenarios in which they can help.
As a beginner in the field of software development, Sarah is aware of the need to close the knowledge gap between her current skills and those required by her employers. Although she excels at front-end development, she has little experience with back-end technologies.
Sarah arranges a 1:1 with her supervisor to discuss how she can grow her knowledge and skillset, and together they draw up some IDP goals:
Sarah's IDP helps her acquire the skills she needs to advance in her career and contribute more comprehensively to team projects.
Example 2: Shifting Career Paths
Michael, a seasoned marketing manager, is considering transitioning from traditional marketing to digital marketing to help him stay relevant in an evolving industry. After discussing his needs with his supervisor, they created an IDP focusing on the following goals:
By creating a comprehensive IDP, Michael can strategically transition into digital marketing, capitalizing on his existing skills while acquiring new ones.
We’ve done a bit of the work for you! Copy this sample IDP template and modify it to fit your organization.
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Recruit and retain talent by shaping an environment that makes employees feel valued and engaged. With HR tools built with employees in mind, you can equip your employees to be more self-sufficient and gain valuable insights into what you can automate and where you can strategically focus your resources. You can deliver the experience your employees need to find meaning in their work, and you'll continue improving efficiency.