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Creating Individual Development Plans
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Talent Development

Creating Individual Development Plans

One-Minute Takeaway

  • Individual development plans (IDPs) help employees get back on track if they’re falling behind.
  • IDPs should be tailored to each specific situation.
  • Start with a template to make sure you’re including all relevant details.

Is one of your employees failing to meet expectations? If so, it might be time to give them an individual development plan (IDP).

What is an Individual Development Plan?

An IDP, sometimes called a performance improvement plan, is a roadmap to help employees improve. It’s usually a good idea to try an IDP before you just terminate the employee. For one thing, having documentation protects you from possible compliance issues. IDPs also give your workers a real chance to improve and might lower your turnover rate.

IDPs aren’t just static documents – they’re meant to start a conversation between HR and the employee. In this article, we’ll cover what you need to know to create an effective IDP.

Purpose of an Individual Development Plan

Most IDPs are tailored to your company and to the employee who needs to develop. But all individual development plans have a few common goals:

Supporting the Employee

Don’t think of an IDP as a punishment. These plans should be written in good faith, with the genuine goal of helping the employee improve. A good IDP aligns with their career goals, connects them with employee development opportunities, and helps them learn new skills. This is HR’s chance to invest in them as a person. (Over time, that’s a great way to boost retention.)

Staying Compliant

Depending on how your employee is struggling, you could face certain compliance issues. For example, imagine they just got a new diagnosis. Maybe they need to learn skills – and/or, maybe the company needs to give them additional accommodations. Make sure you’re working with them to meet everyone’s needs, and clearly document every one of your conversations. If things don’t get better and you still need to let them go, that paper trail could become extremely important.

Lowering Turnover

Replacing employees is expensive! Recruiting, onboarding, and training a replacement can cost up to 2x the person’s annual salary (Gallup). All things considered, it might be cheaper to invest in educating your current employees. Of course, there are times when you have no choice but to let someone go. If the quality of their work just doesn’t improve, or if they do something that goes against your company’s values, it could be worth the cost of finding a new employee. But most employers think of that as a last resort.

What Goes in an Individual Development Plan?

There are three main sections of an IDP – but you can add more if they’re relevant to your organization.

  1. Current issues: In this section, describe the employee’s current performance. Include specific examples, instead of just talking about the picture. You can also categorize which areas of work they need to work on – like productivity, teamwork, attendance, etc. Use your HR software to track specific metrics about their performance, so you can clearly track their progress over time.
  2. Goals: Here’s where you write about what needs to improve. Just like section 1, these goals should be specific and measurable. “Improve attendance” is an important goal, but not a measurable one. “Arrive on time every day” would be better.
  3. Action items: For the employee, this could be the most helpful part of the document. In this section, describe what specific actions they should take to achieve the goals laid out in section 2. They should be able to use this section like a to-do list. As always, make these action items as clear and specific as possible.

Don’t reinvent the wheel! Get a FREE Individual Development Plan (also known as a Performance Improvement Plan or PIP) template and save yourself a few steps.

What Makes an IDP Effective?

Individual development plans are most effective when:

  1. They have SMART goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. This makes it easier to talk about the IDP’s goals, because everyone understands what the employee is working toward. It’s easier to succeed when you know what success looks like.
  2. They’re tailored to the individual employee. Everyone’s needs are different. While you can use a standard template to create IDPs, their content will be unique. For example, different people have different learning styles. An employee who loves to read could put together a list of books to learn about your industry. Someone who learns by listening might do better with a podcast.
  3. They align with company values. IDPs are part of your employee engagement strategy. If all goes well, you’ll have a relationship with this worker for a long time. Use this process as a way to reinforce your company’s overarching values. If your organization’s #1 value is innovation, for instance IDPs shouldn’t squash an employee’s creativity.
  4. You communicate clearly and often. Employee growth doesn’t happen overnight. It’s very likely that the person will continue to struggle with some of the steps in their IDP. To work through those issues, schedule regular check-ins where you can offer them more specific support.

How Paycor Helps

Paycor creates HR software for leaders who want to make a difference. Our Human Capital Management (HCM) platform modernizes every aspect of people management. That includes the way you track employee performance. Our tools let you analyze key metrics, publicly recognize employees, and set up regular performance reviews. Career development software and educational tools like Paycor Paths empower everyone at your company to learn and grow. Whether you want to develop your own leadership skills or empower an employee to practice key competencies, Paycor can help you move forward.

This information is not intended for legal advice; if you have legal questions concerning a particular situation, you should consult with a licensed attorney.

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