How To Create An Individual Development Plan

Akshit Dangi
Published on 
April 27, 2023

Talent waste remains one of the issues managers struggle with the most. Having the right person in the right role sounds simple, but most managers tend to get it wrong.

Here’s the thing, though—how do you ensure you’ve got the right fit for the role and responsibilities you’re trying to fill? The answer is pretty simple—you create an individual development plan for your team members.

An individual development plan can help you align your team member’s career goals with your key results. Not to mention, it can also assist you in honing the skills of your team members as per their potential and performance.

Keeping that in mind, let us understand how you can create the perfect individual development plan for your team and more importantly, how these plans can help boost your organization’s performance.

What is an individual development plan?

An individual development plan (IDP) is a plan of action that managers create for their team members to help them enhance their abilities and put their efforts in the right direction so they can also progress in the right manner. 

It identifies your team member’s strengths and weaknesses based on their performance and potential. This helps you create goals to help them utilize their skill set to the best of their abilities. The information gathered from conducting talent reviews comes in handy during the process.

A well-designed IDP can improve retention, increase productivity, build trust between you and your team members, and support your people’s long-term professional development. Not only that—but combining and integrating aspects of your IDP within your performance management activities will ensure your team member plays a key role in building a high-performance culture at the workplace.

With all that praise given to IDPs, though, one must ask—what constitutes such a magnificent plan in the first place? Well, four pillars contain all the key elements of an individual development plan. These are:

  1. Professional goals and aspirations: These contain the complete profile of your team member along with their long-term and short-term career goals.
  2. Strengths and talents: These contain the current set of competencies that your team members possess along with a brief description of their past performance.
  3. Development opportunities: This pillar includes aligning your team member’s development goals with their career path and the training required to make that happen.
  4. Action plans: These are the steps required from your end to harness the development opportunities and provide the required coaching for the same.

So, whenever you prepare an IDP with your team member, ensure that you build the plan around these four pillars.

Now, let’s look at how you create an IDP for each team member.

Steps for creating an individual development plan

#1. Schedule a meeting with your team member

Before anything else, your first step should be to know the kind of person your team member is. To get there, we can boil down the previously mentioned elements into six key questions you and your team member must discuss:

  1. Where does your team member want to be?
  2. What are they great at?
  3. What do they actually love doing?
  4. What is it that motivates them?
  5. What is essential for them to learn or improve?
  6. What does your organization need from them in the grand scheme of things?

Pair this with the information collected during talent reviews. Remember not to rely solely on your talent reviews as they are a subjective assessment of your team members. Here’s a guide that tells you how to conduct effective and efficient talent reviews, in case you need one.

#2. Establish and communicate development opportunities

Once you’ve successfully identified your team member’s strengths and weaknesses, there are three key things that you must complete:

  1. List out the goals and key results your team member is a part of.
  2. Analyze the list to see how well the goals align with your team member’s career path.
  3. Create strategies and development opportunities that align with the organization's goals, and simultaneously, your team member can pursue them with absolute motivation.

Once you’ve done so, prioritize each goal and opportunity and create a timeline for each. You only need to communicate these objectives through a formal meeting or document. Viola! Your IDP is now ready.

#3. Identify roadblocks and follow up with 1:1

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again—without regular 1:1s that involves following up with previously established objectives, your plans and strategies may not work out as intended

That said, ensure you follow up with your team member to identify any possible obstacles in the development plan and realign your opportunities, timelines, and goals if needed.

#4. Create IDPs for managers and leaders

One thing that rarely gets discussed around IDPs is the process of creating one for managers and leaders. The thing is, as people move up on the job ladder, the focus on career paths decreases and is replaced by a newfound focus on leadership development. Due to this, career progression takes a backseat as other responsibilities take priority.

However, by developing plans that emphasize leadership objectives, the IDP can improve their delegation skills or increase their responsibilities as a manager. These objectives can be along the lines of:

  • Conducting meetings effectively
  • Improving team morale and productivity
  • Carving out a career path
  • Learning change management techniques
  • Improving feedback quality
  • Identify more mentoring opportunities

Follow the same process as any other IDP but ensure having objectives such as these in it. With this, honing and polishing their leadership skills would be a piece of cake for any manager.

4 Common mistakes to avoid when preparing an individual development plan

It goes without saying that a plan that serves as a guide for you and your team member should be prepared with a ton of care and caution. One wrong move and the IDP may not work out as intended. To avoid these, take care of the following mistakes that managers and their team members make when preparing an individual development plan.

#1. Not tying the plan to any critical competencies

It’s a tale as old as time—people invest heavily in a team member's career path and goals without tying them with their organization’s goal-specific competencies. This creates a problem, as the team member may be working towards their short-term and long-term goals but not performing remarkably well.

To overcome this, ensure that team members are focusing their efforts on building core competencies that benefit them and boost the organization’s performance.

#2. Not focusing on behavioral expectations

It’s common to see IDPs focusing solely on skill development and nothing else at all. That shouldn’t be the case, as these plans are meant to mix skill development and behavioral expectations. Including this bit will ensure that your team members engage in a manner that is favorable to the company’s values and culture.

#3. Having rigid plans and leaving no room for flexibility

An individual development plan should constantly be evolving and should be flexible enough to accommodate any unforeseen changes within the organization or your team member’s work. Not having so is essentially a sure-shot way of having the plan fail and not help the individual it's meant for at all., Hence, ensure that it’s not the case with the IDPs you create.

#4. Abandoning an individual’s existing skillset

Sure, your team member may need many different skills along their career path. But that does not mean that the IDP should simply abandon their existing skillset to pursue new ones. Try to ensure that the plan builds on the individual’s existing set of skills and connects them with any new skills that need to be acquired.

Summing it up 

Remember that IDPs, when designed well, can do much more than simply boost the number of competencies an individual may have. It’s that and much more—a way to track engagement, increase productivity and retention, and maximize your organization’s performance. Do it well, and your team member will achieve their career goals in no time. 

Is there anything more gratifying than ensuring so? Nope, so sit with your team members and ready up those plans.

About Author

Akshit is a valued contributor to our guides, with a passion for sharing insights and expertise from top leaders in the art of creating high performance. As an author, Akshit is dedicated to fostering a deeper understanding of performance management principles, offering readers the guidance needed to navigate today's ever-evolving business landscape.
Akshit Dangi
Content Marketer

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