How HR Can Support Better IDPs
Although Individual Development Plans (IDPs) are used throughout the Federal government, their usefulness varies greatly based not only on how they are used in the agency but also on the quality of the IDP itself. HR can help managers to change IDPs from an administrative process to an opportunity to improve both individual performance and engagement.
HR plays a critical role to evangelizing the IDP process itself and making sure managers see the value. According to the Journal of Personnel Psychology, employees “who develop and implement strategies to pursue career-specific goals achieve greater career success as measured by salary, promotions, and level of responsibility.” This individual success results from higher levels of job performance, which drives team and organization success – and always reflects well on the individual’s manager.
When counseling managers on assisting their direct reports with IDPs, HR should encourage managers to view the IDP as a call to action rather than just a plan. This is a call to action for both the employee and the manager. The employee is creating a roadmap for success in her current role and for whatever she would like to accomplish next. The manager is committing to supporting the employee in accomplishing the tasks in the plan from the commencement of the plan through success on the job. For example, if training is part of an employee’s IDP, the manager must ensure the employee has both the time to attend the training and an opportunity to practice and demonstrate what he learned back on the job. Finally, the manager should commit to working with the employee throughout the year to track progress and make certain that goals are met.
Before starting the IDP process, HR can empower managers by making sure that the competency model and proficiency levels are both clear and clearly understood. As managers assess employees on competencies to inform plans, HR has a role to play in keeping everyone on the IDP and not drifting into the realm of performance assessment. The IDP is far more effective when viewed as empowering for the employee rather than as an opportunity for the manager to address performance issues that would be better suited as part of the performance management process. HR should be on the look out for IDP that are set up as Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs) and also for IDPs with unrealistic goals.
IDPs are part of the organization’s strategic plan, albeit indirectly, and contribute to addressing organizational needs. HR should be able to trace strategic goals to human capital goals, of course, but HR can also support achievement of the strategic plan by monitoring the alignment of individuals’ goals to those in the strategic and human capital plans. For example, if achievement of a strategic goal requires data-driven decisions and HR is aware that this will require up-skilling within the organization, HR can identify the roles most likely to benefit from development in that area and help managers encourage their employees to include the appropriate developmental tasks on their plans. HR can also provide counsel on the types of development activity must likely to be effective, such as mentoring, coaching, stretch assignments, cross-functional team assignments, job shadowing, job rotations, and training.
Of course, the organization’s needs aren’t the only needs to be addressed by an IDP. The IDP should also support each individual’s self-development goals. These goals should be mapped to competencies and also measurable. IDPs present an opportunity to identify areas for improvement as well as to develop new skills relevant in a new role. HR can help managers to think through whether a low performing employee would excel in a different role and how to use an IDP to prepare that employee for a more successful role, while still addressing performance needs in his current role. In doing so, HR can also ensure that the IDP isn’t used in place of a PIP.
HR’s role in the IDP process is both as the champion and as quality control. Their most important role is aligning individual development with organization’s needs while balancing the employee’s interests and abilities. Finally, HR should make sure that members of their teams have IDPs, too.