Guide: How To Create An Individual Development Plan

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 17 October 2022

Published 12 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Individual development plans (IDPs) are tools that aid a professional's growth and career development. An individual can assess their strengths, weaknesses and career goals and create an IDP with the help of a supervisor. If you are creating an IDP for the first time, it is important to know the different steps and processes involved in it. In this article, we examine what an individual development plan is, how to create an individual development plan and what benefits the exercise can offer.

What Is An Individual Development Plan?

IDPs are customised schedules and plans that describe an employee's specific objectives and activities that align with career growth and development. It is a systematic tool to plan your training, skill development and professional growth. An IDP lists goals and the activities you can perform to achieve those goals. An employee can set time-bound goals while their supervisor helps them list the developmental objectives. This is a document that helps employees define their path towards excellence and success in their current and future roles. If you are moving to a new company, you can carry an IDP with you and customise it for the new position.

How To Create An Individual Development Plan

Consider the following steps to learn how to create an individual development plan:

1. Understand where you are and where you want to be professionally

Before writing the IDP, it is important to do an honest and critical assessment of your current situation and future aspirations. It is also necessary to know what skills you lack or require to give your best performance. If you have your previous performance appraisal report, you can compare it with your current job description and identify the differences between the two. You can do a self-assessment to determine your strengths and the areas where you may need to improve. You can also ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I satisfied with my job?

  • What do I value in this job?

  • If I want to change something, what can I change?

  • Where do I see myself five years from now?

  • What kind of professional do I want to be?

  • What makes me happy in this job?

  • How do colleagues and peers view me as a professional?

  • What can I do to understand my job and to improve my performance?

  • Who are the mentors who can help me develop my technical skills?

  • What are the organisational goals that can match my interests, education and preferences?

You can note the questions down in a questionnaire format and answer honestly. You can consult your manager, team leader or supervisor for guidance and assistance in forming questions and answering them. Once you have answered the questions, you can use the information to start creating your IDP.

2. Identify short-term and long-term goals

Once you have answers to where you are and what you want to be, you can identify short-term and long-term goals. Short-term goals are outcomes you want to achieve in the next two years and long-term goals are outcomes you want to achieve in the next three to five years. It is good practice to review or revise your IDP every 5 years. Put in the required amount of thought and effort to identify goals and pursue them consistently. You can limit an IDP to three achievable goals. Goals for an IDP can follow the acronym SMART:

  • Specific: Write what you want to accomplish using specific action verbs.

  • Measurable: Set measurable criteria to evaluate and track your progress.

  • Achievable: Set attainable goals that you accomplish within the time-period using the resources you have.

  • Relevant: See if the goals align with your career goals and professional growth.

  • Time-bound: Goals are time bound and include a systematic path towards them.

Short-term goals could be like Complete certification in Big Data by the end of the year, Learn to delegate effectively or My goal is to be an effective public speaker within the next six months. Examples of long-term goals are, Earn an on-site opportunity after completing four years in the company, Become the youngest supervisor in the next five years and Achieve a cumulative sales target of ₹1,00,00,000 within five years.

Read more: SMART Goals: Definition and Examples

3. Identify your developmental objectives

Once you have a clear list of short-term and long-term goals, you can identify your developmental objectives, which are the areas in which you want to improve. Research the knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) required to meet your short-term and long-term goals:

  • Knowledge: is the extent of the information you possess related to a domain, like nuclear science, big data, archaeology, operating systems, engineering or administrative practices.

  • Skill: is your proficiency, expertise or competence in a given area like writing, coding, photography, machine operation, linguistics or HVAC maintenance.

  • Ability: is a person's capacity to perform any physical or mental activity using knowledge and skills.

Developmental objectives could include activities like training, attending seminars or joining a certification course that can bridge a KSA gap.

4. Meet with your supervisor to discuss the IDP

Discuss the points you have gathered for your IDP with your supervisor. The supervisor may then identify if they are in line with the organisational goals of the company. They may also share what the organisation needs regarding new projects, recruitment, technology, skills and expertise. You can get suggestions on other developmental objectives like training, job rotation or sabbaticals to help you perform better at your job. You can consider a combination of learning on the job from other professionals and pursuing formal education.

5. Identify learning opportunities that are in sync with your developmental objectives

Make a list of learning opportunities like diploma programmes, training programmes, job rotation periods or seminars, that can help you reach your short-term and long-term goals. You can pursue formal training to improve your knowledge, skill and competency. You can also list your learning opportunities for specific skills, with realistic timelines.

List activities that are specific and can complement the developmental objectives. Focus on cost-effective, challenging activities you can complete within a specific time frame. An example of a learning opportunity could be Working in a client site for one month from Jan 2022 to Feb 2022 to understand their processes or Joining advanced SQL classes on the weekend, from Feb 2022, for 2-3 months.

Related: Learning Styles For Career Development

6. Draft your IDP

Your company may have a pre-formatted template for an IDP. You can download it and write down the points that you have listed. You can discuss with your supervision and if required, edit and make revisions before you finalise your IDP.

Related: How To Write an Action Plan (With Template and Example)

What Are The Benefits Of An IDP?

An IDP offers significant benefits to an employee and their manager. Since an IDP is a self-assessment tool, it creates awareness in an employee about the gaps in their learning and career goals and helps them improve, learn and be more productive. Since it targets behaviour and skill-building, IDP improves employees' ability to succeed in their current and future jobs. Since many organisations make an IDP an integral part of their Human resource development process, it can increase an employee's marketability and build their career potential. Employees create their goals and outcomes are hence accountable for their professional development.

Since a manager is integral to creating an IDP, they become more involved in an employee's development and growth. It builds employee engagement and career growth potential within a company. A manager helps tailor an employee's growth in line with the company's vision, growth plans and expectations. An IDP is an important relationship-building exercise for any organisation.

More Information About IDPs

Here are some pointers with useful information about IDPs:

  • You may be required to create an IDP within 45 days from the commencement of a performance year.

  • The IDP is usually a two or three-page document.

  • It is ideal for scheduling about three tangible outcomes or goals.

  • You can change your goals in the middle of a performance year and inform your manager about the change.

  • If your goal is to change a behaviour, be patient and optimistic as behavioural changes take time and perseverance.

  • Ask for feedback from colleagues or a supervisor or manager.


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