What are the Key Components of an Individual Development Plan?

An Individual Development Plan (IDP) helps employees understand their strengths and identify areas for improvement. It’s a tool to help employees excel in their jobs and develop their careers. The plan should include clear, actionable goals and steps. It should be updated as often as necessary, based on organizational changes or changes in an employee’s role or performance. 

Ideally, every employee should have an IDP. However, only 61% of organizations use them as part of their performance-management or career-development process, according to Brandon Hall Group research. 

Most organizations do not use IDPs effectively, according to Brandon Hall Group competency and skills development research. For example, 53% of organizations say absence of competencies and skills and IDPs aligned to career paths are a barrier to career development. 

Manager-employee check-ins, which should be used to coach, provide feedback and assess progress on IDP performance and development goals, are most often deployed to simply check on the status of work and what needs to get done, the research shows. 

Degree to Which Employee Development is Covered in Manager-Employee Check-Ins*

Because of the lack of personalized focus on employees’ development, employers face several challenges: 

  • 59% of organizations say they must improve employee goal-setting in the next year. (Brandon Hall Group Performance Management Study
  • 36% of organizations say they are prepared to develop the skills that will be required by the business in the near future. (Brandon Hall Group Optimizing Learning to Drive Performance Study
  • 36% of organizations ensure high-potentials have well-defined IDPs that align their aspirations with business goals. (Brandon Hall Group Leadership Development Study
  • Are managers focusing enough on developing employees’ strengths to drive their performance and career goals? 
  • What are the barriers to increased focus on an individual’s development? 
  • How can IDPs be implemented or improved 

IDPs should be an integral tool in an employee’s development but are seen as a perfunctory chore and are not embraced by the organization or the employee. The IDP should be a living, breathing document through which managers and employees collaborate on the employee’s development for the benefit of the employee and the organization. 

Ideally, development of IDPs should involve more people than just the manager and employee. Team leaders, team members and even customers can be included to help the employee assess their strengths and development areas and set development priorities. 

Here are questions to consider in developing an IDP: 

From the Employer’s Point of View: 

  • What are your current top 3-5 goals? 
  • Do you think you are meeting the expectations of the organization regarding these goals? (Why or why not?) 
  • What are you uniquely qualified to do? 
  • What goals should be added based on your unique qualifications? 
  • How do those goals align with others’ expectations of you?

From the Employee’s Point of View: 

  • Where do I want to be and when? 
  • What will keep me focused and motivated? 
  • What do I need to learn? 
  • How can the organization help me? 
  • How can I help the organization and myself at the same time? 

It’s critical to remember that goals reflect a moment in time. They can and should change as the organization and the employee change or evolve. Goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-based and reviewed regularly. 

Key Considerations for Goal Setting 

  • Connect individual goals to business goals. 
  • Managers and employees should be partners in setting, reviewing and amending goals. Managers should consider showing employees their own IDPs — it can help earn the employee’s trust and buy-in. 
  • Goals should balance the employee’s personal interests with the manager’s interest in getting things done. 
  • Goals should be clearly defined and transparent about what will or won’t happen if unmet. 
  • Goals should be meaningful and challenging but not impossible. If a situation changes that makes a goal unattainable, amend the goal. Employees shouldn’t be held accountable for things they cannot control that can happen in the VUCA environment most of us work in.

Brandon Hall Group Strategy Briefs answer the critical questions learning, talent, HR and business leaders must address to manage their human capital. To tackle these critical questions in more detail, we built tools, frameworks, research summaries and business builders based on up-to-date research and case studies for you to implement best and next Human Capital Management (HCM) practices. To gain access to these valuable resources, contact [email protected].

Leading minds in HCM choose Brandon Hall Group to help them build future-proof employee-development plans for the new era. For more than 27 years, we have empowered, recognized and certified excellence in organizations around the world, influencing the development of over 10,000,000 associates and executives.

Like what you see? Share with a friend.

Mike Cooke



Stay connected

Get notified for upcoming news subscribing

Related Content

Mike Cooke

Chief Executive Officer of Brandon Hall Group Mike Cooke Prior to joining Brandon Hall Group, Mike Cooke was the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of AC Growth. Mike held leadership and executive positions for the majority of his career, at which he was responsible for steering sales and marketing teams to drive results and profitability. His background includes more than 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, management, and operations in the research, consulting, software and technology industries. Mike has extensive experience in sales, marketing and management having worked for several early high-growth emerging businesses and has implemented technology systems to support various critical sales, finance, marketing and client service functions. He is especially skilled in organizing the sales and service strategy to fully support a company’s growth strategy. The concept of growth was an absolute to Mike and a motivator in starting AC Growth, in order to help organizations achieve research driven results. Most recently, Mike was the VP and General Manager of Field Operations at Bersin & Associates, a global analyst and consulting services firm focused on all areas of enterprise learning, talent management and talent acquisition. Tasked with leading the company’s global expansion, Mike led all sales operations worldwide. During Mike’s tenure, the company has grown into a multi-national firm, conducting business in over 45 countries with over 4,500 multi-national organizations. Mike started his career at MicroVideo Learning Systems in 1992, eventually holding a senior management position and leading all corporate sales before founding Dynamic Minds. Mike was CEO and Co-Founder of Dynamic Minds, a custom developer of software programs, working with clients like Goldman Sachs, Prentice Hall, McGraw Hill and Merrill Lynch. Also, Mike worked for Oddcast, a leading provider of customer experience and marketing solutions, where he held a senior management position leading the company into new markets across various industries. Mike also serves on the Advisory Board for Carbon Solutions America, an independent sustainability consulting and carbon management firm that specializes in the design and implementation of greenhouse reduction and sustainability plans as well as managing the generation of carbon and renewal energy and energy efficiency credits. Mike attended University of Phoenix, studying Business Administration and Finance. He has also completed executive training at the Chicago Graduate School of Business in Chicago, IL.