The Use of Individual Development Plans (IDPs) for your IT Staff

If your organization already does formal skills assessments (or is thinking about doing them), it can provide management with significant insight to the overall state of your IT workforce.  But it also creates an expectation in your workforce regarding properly leveraging that information, both for the individual’s and the organization’s benefit.

My experience has shown that the creation of individual development plans (IDPs) is an effective means to capture the current state of an individual’s KSAs, and document appropriate actions over multiple years for an individual to reach a set of professional career objectives.

The employee should take charge of creating an IDP, with the first question being, “Where do I want to be in terms of my KSAs and my position in five years time?”  By having an employee answer this question and develop and document a set of actions to advance year by year, the manager and employee can have an in-depth discussion about the employee, their role in the organization moving forward, and support the organization can provide for the employee in obtaining their five-year objectives.  This can be a powerful motivator for the employee, and to the degree the organization is supportive, can be a retention tool for the organization.


IDPs need not be long (recommend under one page), with the focus first on the employee describing their five-year objectives, along with a year-by-year set of tasks to meeting such objectives.  These sets of tasks will generally fall into the following categories:


  1. Formal Education – Certainly obtaining an undergraduate or advanced degree in one’s chosen field is a prerequisite for success in some areas of IT and IT management. If part of an IDP, the employee should not only be specific regarding what degree, but what classes will be taken to directly support increased knowledge that can be used on the job.


  1. Formal Training and Certifications – In many IT disciplines (including management disciplines), one can leverage specific training that can support professional objectives. This can be particularly valuable for someone learning a new technology, or being in a new role in which they need to develop new skills.  While certifications themselves do not demonstrate mastery, they are an important component of a level of capability in many different areas of IT today.


  1. Mentoring – I have become a big proponent of mentoring, as it has helped me immensely in my career. Having a couple of individuals that can help a younger professional with difficult situations can be invaluable, not just in dealing with that current situation, but providing the framework by which a younger employee can learn to deal with complex interpersonal situations going forward.


  1. On-the-job Assignments – While sometimes difficult to define precisely over five years, it can be invaluable for an employee and manager to discuss the possibilities of job assignments over a number of years that can support an employee’s objectives, yet still fit in with what an organization needs from the employee. A key point, however, is that to make it clear to the employee that they need to progress appropriately in obtaining KSAs to earn the right to on-the-job assignments, particularly ones that they are not currently qualified to do.


Once an employee develops an IDP, it can then become a living tool that can be reviewed and updated by the employee each year.  It also becomes a key part of the performance review discussion with one’s manager, both in terms of reviewing performance against the past year’s tasks, and also fostering the review of future development over the next five years.


Related Resources:

IDP Resource – samples >>

Related Skills Assessments Post >>

Workforce Optimization – A Proven Methodology >>

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