What Is an Individual Development Plan (IDP)? Why Do You Need it?

by Srikant Chellappa Dec 17,2023

The People Strategy Leaders Podcast

with Srikant Chellappa, CEO

With the global economy’s massive transformation, upskilling and reskilling have started to rank higher on organizations’ priority lists. Today’s workplace demands that all employees can access abundant relevant professional and personal development opportunities.

Employees seek growth opportunities and stay with employers who can provide them. A recent survey found that 94% of the employees feel that if the company invests in their professional development, they will stay with the company longer. Another poll concluded that 58% of employees (62% of whom were Millennials and GenX) feel professional development opportunities are essential for job satisfaction.

Considering this, employers have started introducing several training and development programs devised especially for their employees. However, sprinkling in a few extra learning opportunities isn’t going to make much of an impact on employee engagement strategies. Organizations require meaningful and sustainable tools that ensure robust learning and development opportunities while reaching business goals and objectives. One such tool is creating an effective IDP (individual development plan).

What is an Individual Development Plan?

An individual development plan (IDP) is a documented process that provides a roadmap for an employee to reach their career goals while contributing to the organization’s growth and success. It is a developmental action plan to encourage and assist employees to guide them from where they are now to where they want to go in their careers.

An individual development plan links the individual’s career interests and goals to organizational goals. It is a systematic approach that aims at improving performance and strengthening employer-employee relations.

The following are the major goals of preparing an individual development plan:

  • Identify and teach new skills to perform a new job role.
  • Fine-tune skills to maximize current performance in the existing job role.
  • Increase job satisfaction and job engagement. A study reveals that organizations that offer development opportunities to their employees are likely to have retention rates 34% higher than their counterparts.
  • Plan employees’ career advancement, prepare for promotion, or plan succession.

Benefits of Creating an Individual Development Plan

For the company:

  • Quick identification and establishment of long-term and short-term goals
  • Understanding the knowledge skill  gap
  • Assist in making plans for the company’s training and development necessities
  • Preparing a talent pool for succession planning
  • Visual representation of timelines for various activities and assignments
  • Building trust and effective communication between the employer and the employee
  • Increased employee engagement, performance, and productivity
  • Assists in the performance evaluation process
  • Valuable insights for training and needs analysis 

For the employee:

  • Understanding personal goals
  • Understanding their contribution to the organization’s objectives
  • Improved mental health in the workplace due to increased job satisfaction and engagement
  • Gaining a sense of direction 
  • Understanding one’s strengths and weaknesses

A study found that 74% of workers feel that a lack of standardized development opportunities keeps employees from performing at their best. By defining clear goals and providing access to training opportunities, the employer gives employees an opportunity for promotion and inculcates a sense of belonging and purpose. These elements are pivotal for fostering a high-performance work environment.

Role of IDP in Performance Evaluation

By combining IDP with a performance assessment system, employers can assist personnel in attaining their optimum potential, leading to a stronger, more capable workforce. Being goal-oriented can help employees become dedicated and driven toward achieving their personal and professional goals.

Managers can use the IDP framework in overall performance reviews to identify and reward high-performers and address the needs of employees seeking improvement. By providing a clear career plan and systematic roadmap, organizations can improve overall employee engagement and retention rates, boost productivity, and nurture an engaged body of workers.

Managers can ascertain employees’ progress by comparing IDP goals and their achievements at the end of the established timeline. It helps pinpoint what’s working and what must be improved.

What are the IDP Goals for Development?

individual development planThe process of IDP involves identifying the strengths and weaknesses of an employee and aligning them with their career goals by providing necessary training and resources. However, the process requires setting two types of goals for the employee – long-term and short-term.

Short-term goals are the outcomes a company would want an employee to achieve in the next few months or years. Long-term goals, on the other hand, are the outcomes expected in the next 4-5 years. Short-term goals can include completing a certification course or classroom training program. The long-term goal can be to get promoted to one scale higher in the organization in the next few years.

These goals should follow the SMART framework. SMART goals are:

  • Specific: Goals must have a specific purpose. For example, increasing loan lead conversion rate to 5%.
  • Measurable: The manager or supervisor should be able to measure the goals. For example, the number of leads converted in a quarter.
  • Achievable: Goals shouldn’t be too easy or too difficult. They should be realistic.
  • Relevant: Goals should drive an organization’s success while helping employees advance.
  • Time-bound: There should be specific timelines for achieving each goal.
Also read: Set SMART Goals and Avoid These 4 Goal-Setting Mistakes

Steps Involved in the Individual Development Plan Process

Here are six steps to preparing an individual development plan for an employee:

Step 1: Conduct Employee Self-Assessment

Self-assessment forms the basic foundation for preparing an IDP. This step aims to discover an employee’s strengths, weaknesses, career goals, and aspirations. To understand this, the employee must highlight their professional experience, qualifications, and specific skills or knowledge.

Step 2: Set Clearly Defined Goals

Once employees and employers know their career goals, they must divide them into subgoals. An employee and employer can also set more than one long-term goal. For example, long-term career planning (promotion, for example) can be clubbed with a few health or fitness goals.

Step 3: Develop Strategies for Upskilling

Employees must be equipped with the requisite resources, skills, and knowledge to achieve short-term and long-term goals. Examine an employee’s current skill set and those required to reach their career goals. These development strategies include on-the-job training, off-the-job training, or both.

Step 4: Set Timelines

One of the major aspects of setting goals is having clearly defined deadlines for each goal. It encourages employees to stay on track and helps managers easily monitor their progress.

Step 5: Follow Up

As employees work toward their goals, they might encounter challenges. Managers play a crucial role in helping them overcome these obstacles by providing necessary resources, knowledge, and support. This ongoing support allows for adjustments to the plan if needed.

Also read: 5 Simple Ways To Build A High-Performance Team

Summing Up

Individual development plans stand as a powerful tool to enhance an organization’s workforce. Providing valuable guidance to both employees and employers, these plans contribute to efficient working. While individual development plans aren’t an instant remedy for talent gaps and employee engagement issues, organizations that invest time and resources in establishing a robust IDP program are likely to witness positive impacts on their workforce and workplace dynamics.

For more ways to effectively create an individual development plan, try Engagedly. The all-in-one software helps employers keep track of their employee’s growth and development while ensuring transparency and efficiency. Additionally, the cloud-based platform offers performance management and employee engagement tools to help teams and organizations define, monitor, and achieve their objectives and key results. Schedule a demo today!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What is an Individual Development Plan (IDP)?

An Individual Development Plan (IDP) is a documented process that serves as a roadmap for employees to navigate their career goals while contributing to the growth and success of the organization. It outlines specific developmental actions designed to encourage and assist employees in progressing from their current position to their desired or necessary future roles.

Q2. Why do organizations need Individual Development Plans (IDPs)?

Organizations benefit from Individual Development Plans (IDPs) as they provide a structured approach to employee growth and contribute to organizational success. IDPs offer clear guidance for employees, ensuring efficient work and skill development. 

Q3. How often should employees update their Individual Development Plans (IDPs)?

The frequency of updating IDPs depends on individual career goals, project timelines, and organizational changes. Generally, it’s recommended to review and update IDPs annually or during performance appraisal cycles.

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Srikant Chellappa
CEO & Co-Founder of Engagedly

Srikant Chellappa is the Co-Founder and CEO at Engagedly and is a passionate entrepreneur and people leader. He is an author, producer/director of 6 feature films, a music album with his band Manchester Underground, and is the host of The People Strategy Leaders Podcast. He is currently working on his next book, Ikigai at the Workplace, which is slated for release in the fall of 2024.

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