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Individual Development Plan (With Template and Example)


An individual development plan is one of the tools employers can use to help employees improve their job performance and achieve their career goals with external encouragement. Individual development plans and their action plans are especially effective when employees and team leaders collaborate honestly in specific ways that benefit the employee, manager, team and the company as a whole.

These plans can be particularly effective if you follow a specific template that you can go through step by step with each employee in your organization. Now, let’s learn about individual development plans, how to create them and how to use provided templates that can help you get started much more quickly.

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What is an individual development plan?

An individual development plan is a customized agreement between an employee and their employer that details new skills to be acquired or learned and how performance can be enhanced within a specific time frame. It also includes an action plan for these goals.

By creating a documented process, the plan lays out an employee’s perceived strengths and weaknesses in plain text that can be referred to later.

Because of its action plan component, a template for an individual development plan creates clear, actionable steps that help employees work on their professional development.

Components of an individual development plan

Woman at laptop drinking coffee. Text reads: Components of an individual development plan. Professional goals & aspirations, strengths & talents, development opportunities, and an action plan.

The structure of an individual development plan can vary in certain ways from one organization to the next, and this customization is useful for making the document into a usable, contextualized template. However, for the sake of simplicity, the essential components of any development plan should include the following:

  • Professional goals and aspirations
  • Strengths and talents
  • Development opportunities
  • Action plans

With these sections, employees and managers can more easily articulate specific qualities or weaknesses and develop clear, feasible goals and what’s needed to achieve them.

For employees seeking advancement, individual development plan templates let them document actionable steps that can help improve leadership and other skills. For employees not seeking promotion, goals can be structured around making improvements in their current role and new contributions they can make to the company.

Development plans are useful tools for managers because they can help determine if an employee has fulfilled certain steps, understand their qualities and identify areas for improvement. All this helps managers assess candidates more objectively.

Here is a breakdown of each basic section of a development plan:

Professional goals and aspirations

A professional goals and aspirations section should list achievable productivity and promotion goals of an employee as well as target and actual achievement dates. It can include specific projects that the employee wants to complete, productivity results they’d like to reach and aspirations they have for promotion to a certain level within the company.

Strengths and talents

Use the employee’s performance review, if available, or a list of core competencies to identify specific knowledge, skills and talents they have. Positive feedback is important and stressing strengths helps employees build confidence and readiness for new challenges.

Development opportunities

List each development opportunity with a corresponding goal. For example, if the development opportunity is “communication skills,” the goal might be a satisfactory grade for a course on active listening or public speaking.

Action plans

Action plans should be specific, individually tailored and achievable. They should also work toward benefiting an employee’s team. Some common actions an employee could include are:

  • Mentoring others
  • Learning from a mentor
  • Completing development course
  • Joining a professional organization
  • Earning professional certifications
  • Leading or presenting at meetings
  • Cross-training for another position
  • Attending professional conferences or seminars
  • Creating learning programs for others on the team
  • Taking on more challenging tasks in their current role
  • Coordinating team-building events
  • Volunteering with community groups

How to implement development plans

You can use a set procedure for implementing individual development plans for your employees. This can start with your own development plan, which you can then apply to your employees as a guide for their own organized improvement. By following these steps, you can implement precise development plans for employees of all types:

  • Develop your own plan
  • Prepare for your conversations with staff members
  • Meet with each of your employees
  • Help them formulate their own development plan template

Start with your own plan

The best managers lead by example. When development plans are required for all levels of the organization and employees see higher-ups working on their own self-improvement, it builds trust and encourages everyone to honestly assess themselves.


Prepare for your conversations with staff members

Give each employee a development plan questionnaire. These forms ask employees to identify:

  • Professional goals and aspirations
  • Things that inspire and motivate them
  • Passions, skills and talents
  • Opportunities for development

Review your employee’s answers and use performance reviews and other materials to prepare for individual discussions. Your goal is to relate your understanding of the employee to ways they can achieve their goals and help your company as well.


Meet with each employee

Employee development plan meetings usually take an hour and generally should be done on an individual basis to create an atmosphere of trust. Generally, let the employee lead the discussion about their goals, passions and skills. Then, work with them to form specific action steps that will help them achieve their goals. The session should be collaborative, enjoyable and meaningful.


Help the employee flesh out a development plan example

When determining the best ways to achieve goals, consider what’s feasible for an employee within the context of the organization, their skill set and your assessment of their abilities. Key questions you should keep in mind include:

  • What can the employee accomplish while carrying out their primary responsibilities?
  • How much can your company afford in terms of budget and the employee’s time?
  • Are the included action steps specific enough and measurable?
  • Which action steps will benefit both the employee and your company?

Development plan templates

You can use the following individual development plan example to help you create and expand your own employee development plan templates:

Employee name:

Position, function, location and title:


Development focus area:

List professional goals and aspirations:

List strengths and talents:

List key development needs:

List development opportunities:

Action plan (Specific steps or tasks to achieve goals):

Action step:


Cost and conditions:

Development plan template example:

Here’s an example of a completed individual development plan using the above basic template:

Employee name: Lee O’Connor

Position, function, location and title: Management, coordinating social media campaigns, New York, NY, social media manager

Date: 03/09/2021

List professional goals and aspirations:

  1. Exceed performance expectations in current role
  2. Advance to a leadership position within the company

List of strengths and talents:

  • Time management skills
  • Organizational skills
  • Content planning
  • Communication skills

List of development opportunities:

  1. Create content that’s more engaging and successful at converting leads
  2. Exceed minimum expectations of client accounts
  3. Become a team supervisor within the social media management department

Action plan (Specific steps or tasks to achieve goals):

Action step: Build a highly talented team of social media staff for each of the major social networks. Coordinate with them to develop targeted customer acquisition campaigns that raise the marketing department’s conversion rates by 50%.

Schedule: Recruit team members and have them develop fully formed campaigns for each network within three weeks. Reach conversion rate goal within three months.

Cost and considerations: Achieve 50% improvement in conversion rates for customer acquisition without exceeding the current social media marketing budget by 20%.

Individual Development Plan template for PDF & Word

Check out our indiuvidual development plan template to help you create an development plan for your employees.

Download PDF for Free
Download Word for Free

*Indeed provides these examples as a courtesy to users of this site. Please note that we are not your HR or legal adviser, and none of these documents reflect current labor or employment regulations.

Individual development plan FAQs

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about individual development plan templates:

How is an individual development plan template different from a performance review?

A performance review is a process of identifying and documenting specific areas where an employee’s job performance is unsatisfactory and listing actions needed to improve it. Performance improvement plans are usually given to employees who aren’t performing well.

An individual development plan is a document that encourages growth and development by identifying career goals and actions an employee can take to meet those goals. Development plans are usually given to everyone within an organization, including satisfactory and high-performing employees.

How are individual development plan examples different from personal development plan templates?

There isn’t really any difference between individual development plans and personal development plans. These terms are often used interchangeably by organizations and both refer to the same template for growth within a company and measurable action plans.

Why create an individual development plan?

Individual development plans are beneficial because the employee and supervisor commit to actions that help an employee grow professionally and benefit the company. Plans enhance employee engagement and foster loyalty because employees see their employers as invested in their success. They also increase productivity and yield benefits for companies, such as more highly skilled employees.

Should individual development plans be mandatory?

If you’re introducing individual development plans with your employees, you should make sure they’re requested of all staff members. Asking certain teams or specific employees to complete a template for an individual development plan could cause anxiety and mistrust. Selected employees might think they’re being singled out due to perceived poor performance.

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