Have you ever had an Individual Development Plan (IDP)? IDPs are designed to be used by managers and employees to identify developmental assignments and training that will enhance an employee’s performance and/or potential for promotion. If used correctly, IDPs can be an effective tool for career advancement.
Unfortunately, IDPs are sometimes misused in an organization, for example, when all employees are mandated to have one, regardless of whether one is appropriate for them at that stage of their career. Obviously, employees with no performance improvement needs and no desire for promotion do not need to have an Individual Development Plan. Imagine someone who was going to retire in a year or less being required to prepare an IDP. If it were me, I would include (badly needed) golf lessons.
Another way IDPs can be misused by an organization, even with good intentions, is to make an active IDP a requirement before an employee is allowed to attend training. This tends to imply that an Individual Development Plan is simply a tool for getting training. In reality, an IDP should focus on all types of employee development. There are many types of developmental activities that do not require a formal training class.
Let’s look at the good that comes from a proper IDP and then look at ways you can try to get the most from your own Individual Development Plan.
An IDP can improve your performance in your current job. For example, if you are rated lower than you would like in a particular aspect of your job, ask your manager to give you developmental assignments or training in that area so that you may improve and, hopefully, achieve a higher rating. Formalizing such work assignments or requests for training in an IDP will formalize your request and serve as a reminder for your manager that you are interested in development in your current job.
If you are seeking advancement within your agency, an IDP will put your manager on notice that you would like to have assignments or training that that will enhance your promotability.
Here are some ways to get the most out of an Individual Development Plan.
- Don’t wait for your manager to suggest that you develop an IDP. Take the initiative and approach your manager with your desire to improve and/or advance yourself professionally. Ask for a career discussion with your manager. If you don’t tell your manager what you are interested in, he/she might never be aware of your career development desires or concerns.
- Don’t fill your IDP with training courses and not include any developmental assignments. Training budgets are perennially tight, and lack of money in the annual budget should not derail your career. Challenging work assignments can be of equal or greater benefit than training classes.
- Don’t let the IDP gather dust in a drawer, either yours or your manager’s. Schedule periodic follow-ups with your manager on your progress toward your developmental goals.
If you follow these steps, there is a good chance that your Individual Development Plan will be a valuable document that helps you advance in your career.