With government agencies facing hiring freezes and reduced training budgets, there is a renewed interest in developing talent internally, as opposed to looking elsewhere. Consequently, more supervisors are being asked to ensure that all of their employees have individual development plans, commonly known as IDPs.
An IDP is a tool that can be used to identify and plan for training and other developmental experiences that meet the goals of the employee and the organization. The IDP focuses efforts and resource investments by aligning and documenting an employee’s goals, strengths, and areas for improvement with the appropriate developmental activities.
Unfortunately, many agencies fail to require high-quality IDPs. It’s not enough to just check the box and ask employees to have an IDP. What’s really important is that employees have plans in place that guide them to achieve optimal levels of performance. Emphasis should be place on having a high-quality IDP that closes performance gaps and enhances employee strengths.
Assessing IDP quality
How many agencies have a standard way to assess the quality of IDPs? I’ve asked numerous federal employees who work in different agencies and have failed to find one person with the knowledge of how to assess IDP quality. Here’s a checklist to assess the quality of agency employees IDPs—since so many employees have difficulty determining if they have “the right stuff” on their IDP.
The checklist has a dual purpose: employees can use it to determine whether or not they are on the right development path for their career, and supervisors can use the checklist to create their own high-quality IDPs in addition to aiding employee development. It also gives supervisors a way to guide employee/supervisor IDP discussions and assess their employees’ IDPs.
Characteristics of high-quality IDPs
So what are the characteristics of a high-quality IDP? High-quality IDPs have five characteristics.
- Robust—Does it include challenging developmental activities?
- Variety—Does it include formal, informal, relationship, experiential, and instructive activities to enhance strengths and address deficiencies?
- Structure—Does it include essential components such as developmental activities, competencies, skills, goals, and resources to accomplish them?
- Alignment—Is it aligned to organizational goals and requirements?
- Actionable—Can the developmental activities and goals be achieved within and for the entire duration of the developmental cycle?
Get the word out
I conducted three Lunch & Learns that focused on employee development: Keep Learning Even with Tight Budgets, Let's Work on Your IDP and Employee Development for Supervisors. Lunch & Learns are designed to assist employees and supervisors with creating high-quality IDPs. Specifically, they cover the agency requirements for creating IDPs, the OPM-prescribed IDP planning process, and IDP responsibilities. During the Let’s Work on Your IDP Lunch & Learn, participants actually use the checklist to assess an actual employee’s IDP.
Employees come to the sessions not seeing the value in creating IDPs because they felt they are a waste of time, particularly with limited training budgets. They leave energized and inspired to create high-quality IDPs that include developmental activities that go beyond training.