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Division of Human Resources

Individual Development Plan (IDP)

An IDP is a personal action plan that identifies short and long-term goals that benefit both the employee and the organization.

IDPs have long been used as a tool to help employees develop their skills by setting goals and then organizing those goals into a cohesive plan with defined timeframes and expected results.

Employees and managers are encouraged to work together to create an IDP that is uniquely tailored to the needs of the individual and the organization.

The Planning Process

There are four steps in the individual development planning process. Use the IDP form [pdf] to help document each step along the way. Review the non-supervisory [pdf] and supervisory [pdf] IPD as examples to help you get started.

Step 1: Analyze Development Needs

The first step to developing an IDP is to determine individual development needs. Employees should ask themselves the following questions:

  • What are your future career aspirations?
  • What skill(s) would you like to develop?
  • How can you broaden your experience?
  • What learning or training would help you prepare for your future aspirations, or perform better in your current job?
  • What advancements or changes are occurring in your department – do you need to learn new skills to help you adapt?
  • What interests you?

Step 2: Set Goals

Now that you have a better idea of individual development needs, it’s time to set some specific goals. Focus on areas to develop which are critical to employee performance – select one or two areas to work on at a time. We recommend starting with a long–term (3-5 year) goal first, followed by a few more specific, short-term (1-2 year) goals. Employees should work with their managers to determine what their key accomplishments should be in the coming year. Make sure to consider how these goals will contribute to the organization.

A useful way of making goals more powerful is to use the SMART mnemonic:

S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Achievable
R – Realistic
T – Time-bound

Why Set Goals?
Goal setting, when done well, is a very powerful strategy for personal and professional success. It’s one of the most effective methods for changing behavior, and it motivates employees to improve job performance and productivity. 

Managers who take the time to set goals for their employees send a clear message that they are committed to employee development. By setting sharp, clearly defined goals, managers get much better results from their employees than just saying “Do your best!” Plus, it clears confusion about priorities and reduces stress and uncertainty.


  • Personal goals – those skills or activities you want to undertake because they will improve your personal life (e.g. time management skills in order to improve your work and personal environment)
  • Professional goals – those activities which will contribute to the effectiveness of what you are currently doing and will help your college and/or department (e.g. improving your computer skills so you can develop spreadsheets)
  • Career goals – activities you undertake to advance your career beyond what you are currently doing (e.g. obtaining a degree for advancement or earning a certification)

Step 3: Identify Activities, Training and Experiences

The third step in the IDP process is to identify specific activities, training and experiences needed to accomplish the goals you set. Determine what resources, support, or potential costs may be required for each one. A few examples of development opportunities to consider are:

  • Education (college courses, degree attainment, technical updating, etc.)
  • Challenging work assignments or projects designed to promote growth
  • Workshops, seminars and training classes offered through the Organizational and Professional Development Office or Center for Teaching Excellence
  • Professional certification prep such as Project Management, Microsoft Office and PHR/SPHR
  • Audio Books
  • Professional conferences (seminars, discipline-specific, etc.)
  • Service for college committees, professional associations or clubs
  • Professional organization membership
  • Other special projects, in-house training programs, mentoring, research, book clubs, etc. (list other activities to pursue towards goals)

Step 4: Define Success Criteria and Time Lines

Goals that can’t be assessed can be very hard to stay motivated to work towards. Determine exactly how success will be measured by defining success criteria for each goal, and then set target dates that each goal should be completed by.

The Evaluation Process

Once an IDP is in place, it's important to monitor and evaluate the results. Just taking a course or completing and assisgnment doesn't neccessarily mean the plan was successful. The crutial step is applying what is learned to the job and practicing it. 

Use the results section of the IDP form to monitor any progress. Note when tasks are completed and if the new skills have been applied, make suggestions for improvement, or provide words of encouragement.