Individual development planning: from isolated to inclusive


Many leaders – even those deeply committed to the growth of others – feel fearful as the annual Individual Development Planning (IDP) season approaches. And they are not alone. Employees often experience the same sense of dread as they prepare to sit down and re-chart their goals, their path to learning and advancement.

Standard practice, standard problems

My field research with hundreds of organizations confirms that nearly 90% offer an annual exercise process of meetings between managers and employees to plan development actions for the coming year. Yet despite the diversity of sectors, interests, sizes and approaches of organizations, they share a common challenge with their current practices: development planning is more mechanical than meaningful.

Executives and employees alike find that internal programs, systems, forms, and deadlines come to the fore, in many cases eclipsing the kind of constructive dialogue they both seek. This turns what could very well be the most important interaction of the year into an administrative task to accomplish.

Typical approaches focus squarely on the document rather than on the day-to-day development experience. In today’s fast-paced, ‘check it off my list’ climate, it’s no surprise that the IDP form requirements end up producing something that might meet documentation requests, but is not a tool. enabling regular and ongoing commitment to (and progress towards) the growth goals of the individual.

And finally, more and more organizations are realizing that development is a relationship that extends beyond the leader and the employee. To hijack an overused expression:

It takes a village to optimize employee development. And that’s why it’s time to evolve the entrenched model and thinking that’s been in place for decades – to transform today’s isolated and individual focus into a more inclusive and impactful one.

From individual planning to collaborative development

Inclusive and impactful development planning requires changing the fundamental dynamics of the lonely one-on-one IDP. It involves opening the door to a larger contribution and establishing a collaborative rather than individual mindset for employee development.

A collaborative approach to development planning assumes that more minds will lead to better plans and greater growth. Because, let’s face it: under the old model, the employee had his own limited perspective on himself. Meanwhile, leaders (especially with expanding scopes of control and distributed workforces) often have less day-to-day knowledge about employees – their strengths, contributions, development opportunities – than those they work with on a daily basis. outside.

A collaborative approach to development planning also recognizes that day-to-day development requires day-to-day support – something that most leaders find themselves woefully ill-prepared to provide. Distributing the planning role is the first step towards distributing the support role to a wider audience, which has the power to exponentially improve the development available throughout an organization.

Cancel the IDP meeting and call a growth rally instead

Collaborative development planning is easier than you might think, primarily because much of it is owned and managed by employees who:

  1. Identify four to six members of the Collaborative Development Planning (CDP) team – colleagues, employees, customers, suppliers or others who know them and are ready to support their development.
  2. Plan the growth gathering with their team, inviting CDP team members to consider issues such as:
  • What is my unique value proposition? What are some of my greatest strengths, talents and contributions?
  • What is the skill or competence that could most significantly improve my ability to contribute optimally and why?
  • How are business changes (inside and outside the organization) likely to affect me – negatively or positively with new opportunities?
  • What could / should I do to grow taller?
  • What career advice do you have for me?
  1. Call the meeting. Bring prospects together with the team, reconcile them with their own definitions of success, get agreement on their future direction, and create a draft action plan.
  2. Present the draft plan to their leader for approval, support and resources.

Think about it. When your organization is faced with a difficult problem, what does it do? Gather the best minds to solve problems and craft a resolution. When you face a product failure, what do you do? Bring together those who know best to troubleshoot and resolve the issue.

So when it comes to one of your most vital challenges – developing your people – why continue to struggle in isolation? Instead, tap into the talents that exist and are positioned to help co-create development plans and support the growth of every employee. Trade an individual for collaborative development planning for a more inclusive and impactful approach.

Julie Winkle Giulioni works with organizations around the world to improve performance through leadership and learning. Named one of Inc’s Top 100 Leadership Speakers. Magazine, Giulioni is the co-author of the Amazon and Washington Post bestseller “Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Organizations Need and Employees Want”, You can read more about her talk, training and blog at

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