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Individual Development Planning: From One-on-One to a Team Sport

By | Julie Winkle Giulioni |

Many leaders – even those deeply committed to the growth of others – find themselves cringing as the annual individual development planning (IDP) season approaches. And they’re not alone. Employees frequently feel a similar sense of dread as they prepare to sit down and plot out their goals, learning, and advancement trajectory yet again.  With employee retention a top priority for many organizations, the time is now to shift our thinking about development.

Standard practice, standard problems

My field research with more than 100 organizations confirms that nearly 90% offer a process for annual development planning. In some form or another, leaders and employees meet to plan development actions for the upcoming year.  Yet, despite the diversity of the organizations’ industries, focuses, sizes and approaches, many share a common challenge with their current practices: Development planning is more mechanical than meaningful.

Too frequently, leaders and employees alike find that internal programs, systems, forms, and deadlines are in the foreground, eclipsing in many cases the kind of meaningful dialogue both crave. This transforms what could very well be the most significant interaction of the year into an administrative task to be completed.

Typical organizational approaches place their focus squarely on the document rather than the day-to-day experience of development. In today’s fast-paced, “check it off my list” climate, it’s not surprising that the requirements of the IDP form end up yielding something that might meet the documentation demands but fails to be a tool that drives a regular and ongoing commitment to (and progress toward) the growth goals of the individual.

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