4 Ways to Leverage the Full Potential of IDPs

Dart board with three darts on the bullseye.

In today’s competitive job market, firms prioritizing employee development hold a significant edge over those that don’t. This is because a comprehensive development program keeps employees engaged and motivated, thereby allowing companies to attract and retain top talent.

Among the various approaches to employee development, individual development plans (IDPs) have emerged as a popular choice. By tailoring training and learning opportunities to each employee’s needs and goals, IDPs empower workers to develop new skills, expand their knowledge base, and pursue their career ambitions.

Companies that use IDPs strategically can foster a culture of growth and innovation, building a workforce that is driven, adaptable, and dedicated to delivering top-quality results.

That’s why supervisors and managers need to leverage the full potential of IDPs.

What Is an Individual Development Plan?

An individual development plan (IDP) is a multifaceted tool designed to assist employees in fulfilling their career and personal aspirations. Essentially, its purpose is to serve as a roadmap that guides employees toward achieving their short-term and long-term career goals while enhancing their current job performance.

It is important to note that an IDP is not a performance evaluation tool or a one-and-done assignment. Instead, it should be approached as a collaborative effort between the employee and supervisor, requiring continual preparation and feedback. IDPs are a prevalent practice in many organizations and are even required by some agencies.

In fact, federal agencies mandate IDP completion for both new and current employees, while senior executives are expected to have an executive development plan (EDP).

How Do IDPs Help?

As organizations evolve and expand, employees must be versatile and adaptable. Through the use of IDPs, workers are given the opportunity to assess their strengths and areas of improvement in their current roles.

A well-developed IDP can benefit an organization in numerous ways. When utilized effectively, an IDP can align employee training and development efforts with the organization’s mission, goals, and objectives, resulting in improved productivity, increased job satisfaction, and enhanced employee morale.

Supervisors can better understand their employees’ professional goals and development needs, resulting in more evidence-based staff and development plans. While employees take personal accountability for their career development by enhancing their skills, they need to stay up-to-date with the required skills.

Ultimately, the benefits of an IDP are numerous, making it an essential tool for organizations seeking to promote employee growth and development while achieving their strategic objectives.

Although there is a lack of regulatory requirements mandating employees complete IDPs within the federal government, an emphasis on personal growth and advancement has become a necessary component of work culture.

Consequently, numerous agencies have developed their own IDP planning processes and forms. Though the “correct” form may vary, a comprehensive IDP should include several essential elements, such as:

  • An employee profile
  • Short-term and long-term career goals
  • Development objectives, and
  • Training and development opportunities

What Should IDPs Entail?

Personalization is key to creating successful IDPs. The cornerstone of an IDP lies in its ability to be tailored around the needs and ambitions of each individual.

This means considering factors, such as target positions, learning objectives, details, timelines, and demonstrated success. With a complex and comprehensive approach, IDPs can be immensely effective in propelling professional growth and development. In addition, by creating an IDP specifically designed for your employees, you can rest assured that they are on track to achieving their goals, no matter how big or small.

Lastly, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, it’s about considering each individual’s unique needs and catering to them strategically, thoughtfully, and effectively.

Ways to Leverage The Full Potential of IDPs

Get to Know Your Employees

The first step to developing an effective IDP is getting to know the employee. Supervisors and managers must take the time to understand their team members’ strengths, weaknesses, goals, and aspirations. They should ask questions about what motivates them, what they want to accomplish, and how the IDP can help them get there.

Understanding your employees’ career objectives can also provide a roadmap for effective performance evaluation. Through regular conversations and feedback, managers can ensure that employees’ IDPs align with their individual goals while serving the organization’s needs.

Use SMART Goals

The full potential of IDPs can be harnessed through the implementation of SMART goals. These goals provide a level of precision and focus, which is crucial for achieving success in personal development. It is imperative for employees to have a clear understanding of what they are expected to achieve, as well as how success will be measured.

Furthermore, having a set deadline provides a sense of urgency that can be a powerful motivator. It is important that SMART goals remain relevant to the broader goals of the employee while aligning with the mission and vision of the organization as a whole.

By utilizing such strategies, IDPs can be harnessed to maximize employee growth and achieve success.

Well-Rounded Development

A comprehensive approach to IDPs can be crucial for employees to reach their full potential. While technical aptitude is undoubtedly important, the development of interpersonal and leadership skills is equally important.

Identifying and providing a range of training and development opportunities in these areas can play a critical role in supporting holistic growth and development among employees. The result can be a more engaged and productive workforce with greater potential for career progression.

By recognizing that employee growth occurs on multiple levels, managers and supervisors can leverage IDPs to support their staff’s diverse needs and drive meaningful organizational change.

Monitor Progress and Provide Feedback

In order to fully leverage the potential of individual development plans, it is imperative that supervisors and managers closely monitor the progress of their employees and provide consistent feedback.

This may seem like a simple task, but it requires a level of dedication and awareness that can often be overlooked in the daily grind of business operations. By carefully tracking the progress of each employee on their IDP, supervisors can identify areas where they may be struggling and provide timely support and resources to help them stay on track.

Additionally, providing constructive feedback that highlights progress, improvement, and opportunities for growth can create a culture of accountability and motivation that propels employees toward achieving their fullest potential.

Therefore, monitoring progress and providing feedback is an essential step in the journey toward empowered and successful employees.


As an associate account manager, George is on a mission to become an account executive. Although they have performed well and exceeded revenue goals, there is room for improvement in their customer response rate.

To achieve their goal, George must focus on gaining experience in identifying new business opportunities. To make this a reality, the team has established a set of goals for George over the next quarter, which include:

  • Increasing the revenue goal by 5%
  • Attaining a customer response rate of 100%
  • Meeting with a mentor from the account executive team
  • Enrolling and completing a sales coaching program, and
  • Creating a plan to identify one potential business opportunity

With these steps in mind, George is sure to gain the necessary skills and knowledge to become a rockstar account executive in the future.

Final Thoughts

Effective IDPs are crucial to an organization’s success, and supervisors and managers play a crucial role in their execution. By leveraging best practices that focus on employees, personalization, SMART goals, well-rounded development, and feedback, organizations can equip their workforce with the necessary skills to achieve their full potential.

Investing in employees’ professional growth is not only essential to their career success but also for the organization’s long-term viability.

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Human Capital & Human Resources
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