• Awatif Yahya

Individual Development Plans Are Misunderstood

I was recently approached by a close friend who was crying profusely because her manager recommended a development plan. She took it as an insult to her skills rather than an opportunity to develop and expand on her skill set. This short interaction with my friend was the motivation to write this blog.

Development plans seem to be misunderstood by some employees. In my past capacity as Head of HR, I believed, and still do, every employee needs to maintain an Individual Development Plan (IDP) to progress in their careers.

IDPs present an opportunity to learn something new, enhance an existing skill, or open doors to career opportunities currently unknown. The mentality around IPDs boil down to three key factors:

1. How IDPs are communicated throughout the organization

2. Growth mindset vs fixed mindset of employees in an organization

3. Development channels available to employees in an organization

Let’s tackle each factor!

1. Communicating IPDs

The way an IDP is communicated to employees differs from one manager to another. The intention, tonality and words used to convey the need to the employee are extremely important.

If the manager’s intention is to demoralize or frustrate the employee it will show, and ultimately lead to rejection. If a manager is intentionally suggesting development knowing that the employee does not need development in said area of expertise, then he/she is wasting time and company resources.

Managers need to ask themselves one question prior to talking with direct reports about their development: “Am I suggesting this development because I do not like the way the employee carries out his/her work, or is it a true development need to help achieve the company’s strategic goals?”.

We all tackle tasks differently. This is absolutely normal and encourages creativity. Managers need to be certain their development recommendations are for the benefit of business progress rather than personal preference on how the work should be carried out.

2. Growth Mindset vs Fixed Mindset

A growth mindset would embrace challenges, welcome feedback, and look at failure as a chance to learn and pivot. A fixed mindset is simply the opposite. When failure is looked at as a permanent state defining abilities, and feedback is taken as a personal attack then the chances are this mind is in a fixed state.

The way employees look at development depend on the culture of the organization as a whole. How do executives define development? How do executives handle employee mistakes? Do executives encourage identification of learning opportunities? Is improvement rewarded?

Answers to those questions would determine the mindset an organization is operating in.

3. Development Channels

There are many ways to develop employee skill sets. It would serve the organization well to have a mix of channels to pick from.

Mapping the best channel for an employee is an important task for the manager and employee to tackle together. Here are some development channels to consider:

1. Conventional Classroom Training Programs

2. External Workshops/Conferences

3. On-the-Job Training

4. Buddy System/Shadowing

5. Role Swap

6. Coaching

7. Project Work

8. Research

9. Leverage External Networks

10. International Secondments

Lastly, it is important to remember that not all development would lead to an upward promotion. Some of this development could open doors for lateral moves within the organizational structure, deepen knowledge of current role, or explore roles within different functions in the organization. It all depends on the organization’s viewpoint and attitude towards employee development.

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