Creating Individual Development Plans: Guide + Free Template Download – 2024

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The importance of creating individual development plans has never been more prominent than it is now. Why? We are currently living in a post-quiet quitting era.

Workforces have never been more mobile, more prone to turnover, and more willing & able to switch industries than they are now. Recruiting Gen-Z employees and retaining them for extended periods of time are two entirely different topics of discussion.

One of the most important factors that go into boosting employee retention rates is just how much you are willing to invest in your employees. This is where individual development plans truly shine. Investing in your team doesn’t begin and end with paychecks!

One of the best ways you can show that you are invested in the success of your employees is to show that you are willing to help them grow as individuals and professionals.

When you create an individual career development plan, you aren’t just creating a set of tasks and goals for the employee to follow. What you are really doing is giving the following message:

I see a future with you in this organization and I am willing to do whatever it takes to help you grow.


Now, isn’t that something? We are living in a day and age where employees have no default reason to be invested in your organization blindly. The days of people being “Company Men.” are gone. In order for your employees to see a future in your organization, first they need to be sure that you are doing the same.

That is why in this article, we will be discussing the basics of individual development plans (IDP), their benefits, and the core components of an employee development plan. This way, by the time you are done reading this, you will be able to create an individual development plan template of your own.

But you won’t have to! Because we will also provide you with a stunning free individual development plan download link that you can use right away! Let’s get going!

What is an individual development plan?

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To put it simply, an individual development plan is an agreed-upon strategy that outlines an individual’s goals, objectives, and actions for personal and professional growth. Typically crafted together between a manager and their direct report, the individual development plans serve as roadmaps for the career developments of direct reports.

The purpose of an IDP is to help individuals identify their strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement. It achieves that purpose by not only setting achievable goals for the individual but also reminding them of all the things they are doing right.

They are made up of four key parts:

  • Self-assessment.
  • Goal-setting.
  • Action plans.
  • Progress tracking.

We will go further into detail on just how exactly every one of these four parts functions.

Download a free individual development plan template:

Individual development plan template

This individual development plan template not only lets you create your own mission statement and map out areas of interest but also lets you set short and long-term goals. The best part is, you can download this individual development template for free! So go ahead, download your free individual development template right here!

How to create an individual development plan?

Before we dive into the specific steps that go into creating individual development plans, it is an absolute must to remind you that each employee development plan template is unique. Why? You guessed correctly. Because each and every one of your employees is unique.

While the steps we will be going over to help you create your professional development plan templates are indeed helpful and necessary, just keep the fact that you might have to customize your IDP templates depending on employees. Either way, here are the steps you should follow when creating an individual development plan:

1. Self-Assessment

You think you know your employees really well. Maybe you do, maybe you don’t. Do you know who knows them better than you do? Themselves!

That is why the first step is to encourage your employees to reflect on themselves. Have open conversations with them about their strengths, weaknesses, and future aspirations. Ask questions that help them gain clarity on their current skillset and areas they want to improve.

2. Setting SMART Goals for Individual Development Plans

individual development plans

Only start goal-setting once you have a clear and complete grasp of your employee’s goals and aspirations. Once you’re there, it’s time to collaborate on setting SMART goals. Work with each employee individually to define specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound objectives.

If you have any questions on SMART goal setting, You might want to give our article on 4 Tips for SMART Goals.

3. Identifying Developmental Opportunities

You have an understanding of what your employee wants? Perfect. You’ve corollated with what you need of them? Brilliant. You’ve already set goals? You’re killing it! Now it is time to make sure your employee has the right tools to achieve those goals.

As a leader, you have a wealth of knowledge and resources at your fingertips. Help your employees explore various developmental opportunities. Research and recommend workshops, training programs, industry conferences, or even mentorship programs that align with their identified areas of growth.

Once again, this should be an open discussion where you go over just how these opportunities may benefit your employee and how they can help with the goals you’ve set in your IDP template.

4. Create Your Action Plan

This step is rather self-explanatory, isn’t it? Now that you’ve found out which areas your employee wants to grow in, set goals, and identified how they can grow in those areas, it is time to create a roadmap on how they will be achieving those goals.

Work together with your employees to create a clear action plan for each goal. Break down the goals into actionable steps and determine the resources, support, and timelines needed.

5. Implementation and Tracking

Last but certainly not least, it’s essential to support your employees as they implement their IDPs. Encourage and empower them to take action and provide ongoing feedback and guidance. Regularly check in on their progress, celebrate milestones reached, and address any challenges they may encounter.

You can determine the frequency at which you will be checking in with your employees beforehand. Set a meeting cadance and stick to it. Whether you are conducting daily or weekly check-ins, you should be there to give constructive feedback where needed and give praise when earned.

Performance Appraisals

One of the best areas in which you can integrate individual development plans is performance reviews. Since one of the main goals of a performance review is to help identify areas of improvement and set goals for the upcoming review period, almost all your performance appraisals should end with employee development plans.

That is why you might want to utilize performance review software that lets you integrate development plans into performance appraisals and performance review competencies.

Performance Review Software with Individual Development Plans: Teamflect

Teamflect employee performance review screenshot

Teamflect is the best performance review software for Microsoft Teams. It presents users with an extensive library of customizable performance review templates! Teamflect users can conduct their performance reviews without leaving Teams, integrate individual development plans, and set goals for the upcoming review period!

Looking to streamline your performance reviews?
No sign-up required.
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Sample individual development plan:

We took the liberty of creating a sample individual development plan for one “John Smith” in order to present you with an example of what a complete individual development plan example for employees truly looks like:

Employee: John Smith Position: Marketing Specialist


Strengths: Excellent written communication skills, strong analytical thinking, and creative problem-solving abilities.

Areas for Improvement: Presentation skills and project management.

SMART Goals:

Goal 1: Enhance Presentation Skills

Objective: Improve confidence and effectiveness in delivering presentations to both small and large audiences.

Key Actions:

  • Attend a presentation skills workshop within the next three months.
  • Practice delivering presentations to colleagues and seek feedback on a bi-weekly basis.
  • Utilize online resources and tutorials to learn effective presentation techniques.

Goal 2: Develop Project Management Skills

Objective: Strengthen project management abilities to ensure timely and successful completion of marketing campaigns.

Key Actions:

  • Enroll in a project management course or certification program within the next six months.
  • Actively participate in cross-functional team projects to gain practical project management experience.
  • Seek mentorship from a senior project manager to learn best practices and receive guidance.

Developmental Opportunities:

  • Attend the “Mastering Presentations” workshop by a renowned public speaking expert.
  • Participate in online project management courses such as “Project Management Fundamentals” and “Agile Project Management.”
  • Engage in cross-functional collaboration by volunteering for a company-wide marketing campaign.

Action Plan:

Presentation Skills:

Week 1: Research and select a presentation skills workshop. Enroll and schedule attendance.

Week 2-12: Practice delivering presentations to colleagues, incorporating feedback, and refining presentation techniques.

Week 13: Evaluate progress and identify areas for further improvement. Seek additional resources if necessary.

Project Management Skills:

Month 1: Research and enroll in a project management course or certification program.

Month 2-5: Actively participate in cross-functional team projects, taking on project management responsibilities.

Month 6: Seek mentorship from a senior project manager and schedule regular meetings for guidance and knowledge sharing.

Progress Tracking:

Conduct bi-weekly check-ins with the employee to review presentation delivery and receive feedback.

Schedule monthly progress meetings to discuss project management experiences and provide support and guidance.

Maintain a record of completed milestones, lessons learned, and areas of improvement for future reference.

Manage performance inside Microsoft Teams
No sign-up required.
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How to Make Sure Individual Development Plans Are Followed Through With

Individual development plans are great performance management and talent development tools. 

That being said while creating an individual development plan using an individual development plan template is one thing, following through on an individual development plan is something else entirely. 

No matter how effective and simple an individual development plan template is, it isn’t worth a thing if the IDP isn’t followed through with. 

1. Regular Review and Adjustment

Schedule Regular Reviews: Set periodic reviews of your IDP, such as monthly or quarterly individual development reviews, to assess progress. These reviews allow you to reflect on what has been accomplished, what’s pending, and what might need adjusting.

Adjust as Needed: IDPs need to be flexible. Whether the IDP is your own or a direct report, treating it as a rigid plan that can’t be changed at all costs simply lowers morale.

2. Accountability

Find an Accountability Partner: This could be a mentor, supervisor, or a peer. Sharing the goals with someone else can significantly increase commitment to them.

Professional Support: Implement a mentorship/buddy system for the IDP. This way the person on the individual development journey isn’t alone in it. This is great for the mentor/buddy too because helping others grow is one of the best ways for someone to develop themselves.

3. Integration into Daily Life

Break Down Goals: Translate larger goals into daily or weekly tasks. Integrating IDP goals into the daily routine makes them more manageable and less overwhelming.

Visual Reminders: Keep goals visible. Whether it’s a digital reminder or a physical note on the desk, a constant visual cue can keep you focused. Taking advantage of a task management tool with useful notifications and convenient integration is the way to go.

4. Celebrate Progress

Recognize Achievements: Acknowledge and celebrate milestones. This reinforces positive behavior and keeps individuals motivated.

Reflect on Learning: Regular check-ins where individuals on growth and development paths discuss what they’ve learned throughout their journey can reinforce learnings and make successes permanent.

5. Align With Intrinsic Motivation

Connect with the ‘Why’: Ensure that goals resonate with organizational values and greater objectives. When an IDP aligns with core motivations, objectives, and large-scale goals, following through becomes much more natural.

Incorporate Interests: Whenever possible, align development activities with interests or passions. This makes the learning process enjoyable and engaging.

Written by Emre Ok

Emre is a content writer at Teamflect who aims to share fun and unique insight into the world of performance management.

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