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Individual Development Plans: What, Why & How?

What are individual development plans?

In considering all of these factors, heres how a couple of high-profile organizations define development plans:
U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Human Resources Management

While the nuances of individual development plans (IDPs) vary from organization to organization, an IDP is simply the steps a person can take to improve their professional performance and set themselves up for future career success through educational means. In general, an IDP should address: The individuals career goals The individuals goals as they relate to the goals of the organization Short- and long-term development needs Actions needed to develop skills and knowledge (competencies) that will impact performance in present and/or future positions

The IDP is a personal action plan, jointly agreed to by you and your supervisor that identifies your short and long-term career goals. An IDP also identifies the training and other developmental experiences needed to achieve those goals, for the benefit of the individual and organization, within a specified time frame.
The Royal College of Surgeons of England

How do IDPs improve the organization as a whole?

Individual development plans can have a positive impact on organizations in several critical ways.
Reduce turnover. According to a study published in 2009 by Bersin & Associates, companies that implement high-quality development plans have a 27 percent lower turnover rate than companies that scarcely utilize IDPs.1 Improve revenue per employee. According to the same study, organizations that use IDPs have nearly double the revenue per employee. 1 Create an environment for sustained success. IDPs help create an environment conducive for development by training and equipping front-line managers to provide feedback and coaching in a practical and relevant manner. By encouraging these interactions, youre setting up a constant process of self-improvement within every department and level of the organization. Engage a largely unengaged community. Performance management and succession management programs generally focus on the top 20 percent and bottom 10 percent of an organizations workforce. This leaves 70 percent of the talent pool unengaged and largely disenfranchised from processes that drive the success of the organization. IDPs bridge that gap and engage employees at every level. 2

A personal development plan [IDP] is a tool that can identify areas for further development and encourage lifelong learning. An IDP can identify goals for the forthcoming year and methods for achieving these goals. IDPs have been advocated as a basis for continuing professional development The IDP is simply a means of identifying your development needs and will help determine the best way to satisfy these requirements and ensure you are able to demonstrate a commitment to lifelong learning.


allow for effective succession planning. Succession management hinges on putting the right people in the right places. This means quality development planning is not just important, but critical for a succession plan to be effective. In fact, nearly 39% of respondents to an ASTD Research Study 3 cited a lack of robust development plans as the most common inhibitor of effective succession planning. Improve personal earnings. IDPs are all about attaining your goals, and according to a long-term study conducted by the Harvard Business School, 13 percent of the class who had goals ended up earning twice as much as those who did not. More impressively, the 3 percent that had written goals ended up earning 10 times as much as the other 97 percent in the study combined. 4

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Steps to building an effective IDP

While the concept of an IDP is very basic, building and executing an IDP can be as intricate as you choose to make it. Regardless of the detail of the plan, a manager or supervisor should be present to provide relevant insight into the employees strengths and weaknesses. This will help the employee as they go through each step of the process. Here are the basic considerations to make when constructing an IDP: Identify the reasons for creating your IDP. When youre done, you should be able to answer the question, What do I hope to accomplish and why? Define the goals of the individual and compare them to those of the company. Its important to strike a balance between the two. Rate mutual goals as higher-priority. Determine which competencies the individual will need to improve upon to accomplish these goals. These include job-specific competencies (knowledge of the companys products, for example) and general competencies (being a better communicator, for example). Determine the resources you will need to execute the plan. These can range from elearning software to actual people within the organization. (This phase should answer the how of the IDP.) Set deadlines and assessment standards. When should each part of the plan be complete and how will you judge or rate success? Execute, assess, adjust, repeat. Development is an ongoing process. You may or may not get it right the first time and goals can change. Dont be afraid to adjust the plan to meet the dynamic needs of the workplace.
1 2009 Talent Management Factbook: Best Practices and Benchmarks in Talent Management. Bersin & Associates. 2009. 2 Kaye, Beverly. IDP 2.0: The Future of the Development Dialogue. T & D, December 2010. 3 Improving Succession Plans: Harnessing the Power of Learning and Development. The American Society for Training & Development. 2010. 4 McCormack, Mark H. What They Dont Teach You At Harvard Business School: Notes From A Street-Smart Executive. Bantam. 1986.

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