How to Write an IDP

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An IDP allows employees and employers to track their professional progress.
An IDP allows employees and employers to track their professional progress. (Image: Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images)

An individual development plan, or IDP, is a document that helps employees and managers work together to improve the employees' skill sets and chart their progress as professionals. Managers can also develop their own IDPs to improve their leadership skills and enhance their career prospects. A major advantage of these plans is that they contain specific goals, actions and measurements, which all participants can use to track the employee's achievements.

Identify Strengths and Weaknesses

An effective IDP must start with an assessment of the employee's strengths and weaknesses. This step can be both the most difficult and the most important in the development of the IDP. Employees may not always be accurate in their self-assessment, and they may not enjoy discussing their weaknesses with their managers. However, a major purpose of the IDP is to enhance the employee's strengths and shore up their weaknesses, so a strong understanding each of those qualities is vital.

Determine Goals and Objectives

An IDP must also include the employee's career goals and objectives. These goals should be specific, measurable and attainable with sufficient effort and skill. For instance, stating goals such as "increasing sales" or "advance in my career" are neither specific nor measurable. The goal should be stated as "increase sales by 50 percent in the next five years" or "gain a professional certification in the next three years." Such a statement gives both measurable goals and a specific time frame for achieving those results.

Develop an Action Plan

The IDP also must include the actions the employee will take to achieve those goals within the specified time frame. These actions can include pursuing further education, going to networking events and attending seminars geared toward professional development in the employee's field. Employers can participate in their employees' action plans by giving them more-challenging assignments, recommending educational materials or finding new opportunities within the company for them to reach their objectives.

Calculate Costs and Times

Professional progress is never easy and seldom inexpensive. Employees who develop their IDP documents must determine how much time and money will go into their efforts to reach their professional goals. The plan can include cost estimates and schedules for employees to reach both short-term and long-term objectives. If the plan includes continuing education, the employee must determine if she can afford the time and expense involved in attaining a top-flight university education, as compared to taking a few classes or seminars at a local community college.

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