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Management personal development plan

Redeveloping the Individual Development Plan

TM_1114_Feature2_sidebarIndividual development plans, or IDPs, have become a staple for managers and human resources professionals alike. But the development activity is often steeped in a systematic approach — forms, deadlines, sign-offs and processes — that ultimately dilutes the value it brings to the individual employee. In a similar vein, the stress of following the IDP process and hitting the associated deadlines often leaves managers overstressed.

The advantage of such a comprehensive system in a big organization is that every employee is assured of having at least one development conversation each year. The disadvantage, however, is that too many leaders view the requirement as the ceiling, rather than the floor. What frequently results is that managers only engage in one such conversation each year, instead of using the platform as an invitation to support individual development on a regular basis.

Among other unintended consequences:

Development as a transaction: As development has become increasingly part of a system, it has taken on a very different complexion. Formalizing the process has put greater focus on forms, checklists and deadlines, transforming development into a transactional task to be crossed off to-do lists. This is in stark contrast to what most organizations want and need, which is a perpetual approach to the responsibility of developing a workforce.

Development as a de-motivator: Increasingly, organizations are realizing that development of the “See you this time next year” variety is more dangerous than no development at all. It raises expectations and ignites interestin employees. It starts to open the door to possibilities only to promptly shut it as everyone gets “back to work.” This leads to disappointment and disillusionment, which deplete engagement and motivation.

Development as a tool for misinformation: Busy managers understand how the system works. If they complete the forms on time and check all of the right boxes, they’re in the clear for another year. Compliance becomes more about filling in the proper fields and hitting “complete” than driving genuine development.

Consequently, organizations have a skewed sense of what is happening in their workforce. HR and otherexecutives believe what’s on paper is playing out in real life. They engage in workforce planning, talent reviews, succession planning and other organizational processes — all based on a foundation of information that managers have frequently provided in a hurried fashion just to comply with administrative requirements.

Time for Change

Perhaps a starting point is to redefine the terms. While the individual initials in IDP are appropriate, the words are somewhat misguided given today’s demands.

Consider the “I, ” which stands for “individual.” This term was intended to reflect a special sense that the individual employee was receiving a unique and customized development experience. But given how the process has evolved, “individual” in this regard frequently connotes a singular sense of responsibility targeted toward the managers, not the employees benefitting from development.

What if development became a group activity? What if employees used crowdsourcing to solicit feedback and ideas about experiences that might build new skills and capabilities? With this mindset, development might take on a different complexion and grow beyond the annual-event mentality.

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