What Is an Individual Development Plan?

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An individual development plan (IDP) results from a comparison of individual

strengths and weaknesses on the current job and individual potential for

advancement to possible key positions in the future. Preparing an IDP is a

process of planning activities that will narrow the gap between what individuals

can already do and what they should do to meet future work or competency

requirements in one or more key positions.

An IDP is a hybrid of a learning contract, a performance contract, and a

career-planning form. A learning contract is an agreement to learn. Contract

learning has enjoyed a long and venerable history.5 It is particularly well suited

to participative, learning organizations that seek to balance individual career

needs and interests with organizational strategy and work requirements. A

performance contract is an agreement to achieve an identifiable, measurable

level of performance.6 Sometimes tied to performance appraisal, it is directed

toward future performance improvement rather than past performance. Finally,

a career-planning form is a tool for helping individuals identify their

career goals and establish effective strategies for realizing them in the future.

A career-planning form is typically linked to an organizational career planning

program, which can reinforce and support SP&M.

An IDP goes a step beyond performance appraisal for the individual’s present

job and potential assessment of the individual’s capability for future advancement

to other, often key, positions in the organization. It results in a

detailed plan to furnish individuals with the necessary development they need

to qualify for advancement into their next positions.

Developing an IDP usually requires a systematic comparison of the individual’s

present abilities (as indicated by competency requirements, work activities

appearing on job descriptions, and current performance as measured by

performance appraisals) and future capabilities (as revealed through individual

potential assessment). The IDP should narrow the gap between them, pro-

viding a clear-cut plan by which to prepare the individual for future

advancement.