The Individual Development Plan (IDP) is a tool to organize and target your professional and personal development.  Its primary purpose is to help you reach short- and long-term career goals, as well as strengthen current job performance by providing a structured approach.  IDPs are beneficial in aligning learning activities to specific competencies, such as the CU Boulder Core Competencies, or with the mission, goals and objectives of an organization.  With goal setting at its heart, a professional development plan organizes your ideas into a cohesive plan that starts with short-term goals and moves to mid-range and long-term goals. You then link what you want to achieve, or the competencies you want to develop, with the activities that will help you get there.

Areas of the IDP

Employee Strengths

  • While the employee will do their own self-assessment, this is the time to provide your own assessment of the employee’s strengths and development needs. These may be areas that were identified in a performance appraisal, a 360 leadership assessment, or feedback from others.  Don’t forget to take the opportunity to recognize and reinforce strengths. Strengths will often be enhanced and also be leveraged in order to address development needs.  (Strengths Quest through CU)

Areas For Improvement or New Skills Needed 

  • Address skills needed that would enhance job performance.

Professional Development Plan Part I – (Short Term Goals)

  • Goals you will work to achieve in the next 6-12 months
  • Here are some questions to ask when setting short and long term goals:  “What needs to happen first? Next?”  “What is my timeline?”  “What resources are available to assist me?”  “How will I measure my success?”  “How will I overcome challenges?”

Professional Development Plan Part II – (Long Term Goals)

  • Goals you will work to achieve in the next 3-5 years

Employee Plan

  • Work to set SMART Goals (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely)

Here are some possible action plans to address set goals:

  • Take on a challenging assignment within your current job.
  • Learn from someone else (your manager, a coach, a subject matter expert or role model).  Participation in the I&S Mentor Program is a great way to connect with someone who can guide you.
  • Get educated on the topic: Take a class, course, attend a training, or read up on the topic.
  • Job shadowing
  • Research positions, departments, projects and/or initiatives that interest you and align with your goals.

The IDP is a tool for creating a personalized plan that best reflects your career aspirations, whether you want to plan for professional development, promotional opportunities or retirement in the next few years. The IDP can help facilitate your development within your current job and/or for future potential roles. It is a commitment between you and your supervisor on what you will do to grow, and what the supervisor will do to support you. It gives opportunity for dialog and idea sharing, and sets up a framework to achieve future goals. It is up to you to start the ball rolling.


  • Think about your current job along with future aspirations. A good development plan often address both current job and potential future roles.
  • Involve your supervisor. Be willing to listen to feedback, and ask for their support.
  • Identify, outline and use resources.
  • Create an action plan that is clear and achievable.
  • Evaluate your plan along the way and modify it as needed.
  • Expect obstacles and work to overcome them.
  • Celebrate your successes along the way.
  • Remember that any costs to the organization need to be approved by your supervisor.


  • View the IDP as a guarantee for promotion
  • Be vague in setting goals
  • Wait for your supervisor to take action – you are responsible for your own IDP

Schedule an hour with your manager to discuss. Go through each section of the plan, first presenting your ideas, and then asking your manager for feedback and his/her ideas. It’s important to listen, and be ready for feedback that may surprise you. Again, self-assessments are usually inaccurate, so your manager may have important information about your strengths and weaknesses that you didn’t realize.

Your manager may also have development action ideas to add to your plan as well. Or, he/she may need to approve or modify the ideas you came up with. When you come to an agreement on your goals and plans, decide and agree on completion dates and follow-up dates. Sign the form, with copies for both of you. By both of you signing the plan, it’s a symbolic two-way commitment. The IDP should be a “living document”, and a catalyst for ongoing discussions about your development.

Have an IDP of your own. Showing your employee your own plan, or referencing your own IDP sends a message that development is for everyone and that you are invested in the program. This also gives you the chance to reflect on the form questions, allowing you to better assist your employee if the need arises.


  • Provide clarification or additional feedback
  • Provide additional development ideas
  • Offer to open doors and make connections
  • Be supportive and encouraging
  • Be available for follow-up, keep your commitments
  • Ask questions – coaching questions force an employee to think and figure things out for themselves


  • Treat this like a performance review
  • Insist on all of your own ideas
  • Be vague when asked for clarification

When you come to an agreement on goals and plans, decide and agree on completion dates and follow-up dates. Sign the form, with copies for both of you. By both of you signing the plan, it’s a symbolic two-way commitment. Your follow-up discussions with your employee will help them reflect on what they learned, and the two of you will assess progress and come up with any modifications to the plan. The IDP should be a “living document,” and a catalyst for ongoing discussions about your employee’s development.