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Individual Development Plans: What are they and why are they important?

individual development

If you’re researching Learning Management Systems (LMSs) you’ve heard the term “Individual Development Plan” or “IDP.” So what is an Individual Development Plan, why

is it important, and who uses them?

Let’s search on the web to find out. Hundreds of links are referenced for government, education and corporate organizations so IDPs must be important! Where to start? How about at the beginning of the search results, which is at: OPM is the US Office of Personnel Management so their definition should be accurate.

OPM defines an IDP as:

“An individual development plan (IDP) is a tool to assist employees in career and personal development. Its primary purpose is to help employees reach short and long-term career goals, as well as improve current job performance. An IDP is not a performance evaluation tool or a one-time activity. It should be looked at like a partnership between the employee and the supervisor. It involves preparation and continuous feedback. Many agencies require IDPs for new and current employees. It is encouraged throughout many organizations. Many Federal agencies require their employees to complete an IDP, annually. All Senior Executives are required to have an Executive Development Plan (EDP) (5 CFR 412.401).”

Let’s summarize the OPM definition:

  1. It’s a tool to assist employees in career and personal development to help employees reach career goals and improve current job performance.
  2. It’s a partnership between the employee & supervisor and involves preparation and continuous feedback.
  3. Many public and private organizations encourage the use of IDPs.

With point #1 in mind, career and personnel development are critical functions of LMSs so including IDP capability into an LMS makes sense to optimize the process of employees reaching their career goals and improving their job performance.

For example, a core feature of the GyrusAim LMS is the “IDP Screen” which employees use to manage their personal development. On this screen all training is shown including required training, completed training, and even recommended (but not required) training. Also all methods for acquiring the training is displayed, from eLearning, scheduled instructor-led training, virtual classrooms, and more. So it’s extremely easy for employees to find and acquire those skills needed or recommended for them, for their job, or for their department! Employees can concentrate on obtaining their skills instead of figuring out how to use a complicated LMS just to manage their personal development.

Point #2 is the “Partnership between employee & supervisor.” This natural partnership must be maintained, even within a computerized LMS. To accomplish this, the GyrusAim LMS includes a “Manage My People” screen which managers use to review their employee’s IDP screens. This allows for easy analysis of their employee’s developmental progress, which promotes focused and easy communication between both parties. Other developmental details can also be accessed from the Manage My People screen such as employee enrollments, skill gap analysis, training transcript, and pending training approvals so that an open communication process is fostered between supervisors and their employees, enhancing their “partnership.”

Lastly, because many public and private organizations encourage the use of IDPs, it is a consistent concept for personal development which once an employee is familiar with it, they can use it for the rest of their career in other organizations too.

For these reasons, using an IDP approach is an excellent idea for employee personal development and when researching LMSs pay particular attention to those systems that use this technique.


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