Individual Development Plans (IDPs)

Understanding the IDP Process

Federal Employee's Career Development Center

Preparing Your IDP Plan

After completing your assessment you will discover several desirable career paths to explore and it’s time to develop your Individual Development Plan (IDP). IDPs are designed for federal employees who want to improve performance in their current position, develop skills/abilities that could enhance their promotion potential in their career field or another career field, or prepare them for managerial/supervisory positions.

An IDP is a written plan and schedule designed to meet employee’s particular developmental goals. They provide a systematic method of planning for training and gaining experience in order to develop specific skills and knowledge needed to meet your short and long term career goals.

IDPs will be used by you and your supervisor to plan training and related developmental experiences (details, special projects, on-the-job training (OJT), etc.). They can change from year to year, and their primary purpose is to help you establish reasonable goals, assess your particular strengths, and evaluate progress relative to those goals.

IDPs are not mandatory except for certain supervisory and development programs including perspective Senior Executive Service (SES) applicants. However, all agencies encourage employees to participate in the IDP process. It is, however, required that supervisors advise, discuss, and participate in the development of IDPs with their employees who do not specifically decline it. Supervisors also:

  1. Brief employees about the IDP process
  2. Provide opportunities for employees to participate in this program

IDP Menu

Career Development Checklist

The following steps will help you develop a realistic career development plan. You already completed some of the steps in the first three chapters.


Evaluate the following areas:

  • Experience (Work Experience Profile)
  • Achievements
  • Skills
  • Education and Training
  • Personal Characteristics and Attitudes
  • Strong points
  • Weak Points
  • Short/long-term career interests

Agency Needs (Examples)

  • Anticipated program changes
  • Projected vacancies
  • Competencies which will be required in such a position.


  • Gathering information – Analyze all of the gathered information in order to make some tentative decisions about career goals and developmental objectives. Chapter Two and the KSA Comparison Charts in Chapter Three were designed to help with this process.
  • Draft your IDP Document – After weighing all of the facts and deciding on specific career goals write out your plan following the outline provided in this chapter.
  • Supervisory Review – Discuss the draft, the self-assessment, and information gathered with your supervisor/manager.
  • Follow-up – On a scheduled basis, review, and if appropriate, modify your IDP. This is a very important step. It’s not enough to have a plan. You must work through the steps and schedule reviews at least quarterly to insure that you are on target and to modify the plan as circumstances change.
Use a daily planner or desktop planner to track your progress. Annotate your key IDP review dates and scheduled activities. Successful people PLAN to get ahead. Expand this feature to your daily activities as well. When you write something down, check it off when completed, it gives you a sense of accomplishment. There are many electronic planners available including planning software packaged with most cell phones.

The IDP Process

The IDP allows you to chart and plan your development over the next several years. According to each person’s goals and how those goals fit into your agency’s plans and programs, the IDP will help you and your supervisors establish specific training and experience to help you achieve your goals. This process affords supervisors the opportunity to understand and support  employee goals and how they can complement the organization. Employees and supervisors can use the IDP Worksheet to develop a comprehensive and workable plan that both can support.

Initial Development

Employee Preparation:

  • Determine exactly where your are in your career.
  • Understand the importance of personal choice, directions determination, and agency needs.
  • Conduct a self-evaluation (input can be obtained from supervisor and peers).
  • Determine if performance in your present job is at a satisfactory or better level. If not, you must work toward that goal.
  • List short-range goals: i.e., goals to attain within the next year or so. Based on these goals, you should also make a list of the particular knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) needed to accomplish these goals. Guidance on identifying KSAs is contained in Chapter Two and Three of this workbook.
  • Next, write down long-range goals; i.e., goals to attain within the next 2 to 5 years. After the long-range goals are evaluated, identify a list of KSAs necessary to attain these goals.
  • Evaluate the KSAs needed to reach each goal, long and short range. Identify and separate the ones you already possess from those that need development. The KSAs needing development will provide the basis for the IDP.
  • Write down the KSAs you need in priority order, and list what training and experience you think will give you the KSAs. Include both development assignments (special projects, OJT, details, self-study, individual reading plan, etc.) and formal training (courses).

Supervisory Preparation:

Once you inform your supervisor of your intent to develop an IDP, each supervisor shall:

  1. Consider their employees’ current job and the standards for doing that job. Consider the KSAs most necessary for employees to perform their jobs well and their particular strong and weak KSAs.
  2. Determine the organizational needs over the next several years, the mission changes, changes in technology, expected turnover, staffing needs, program plans, and future needs for particular skills.
  3. After determining projected needs, each supervisor will consider the overall potential of each of their employees to meet these needs and the employees’ potential to perform different responsibilities or higher level responsibilities.
  4. Each supervisor will assist the employee in developing long-and short-range goals and in identifying tentative training courses or work experiences to develop the needed KSAs.

Employee/Supervisory Discussion

Both the supervisor and employee are now ready for the employee/ supervisor discussion. The discussion is very important because it gives the both of you an opportunity to jointly discuss the needs and goals of the organization and where the employees’ skills fit in. As a result of this discussion, the employee with input from the supervisor will develop the IDP.

Evaluating Your Present Position

Ask yourself these questions about your current position before meeting with your supervisor. Be honest and candid. This is for your benefit and the answers to these questions will help you prepare for the supervisory discussion.

  • Which of your responsibilities need to be clarified?
  • What are some of the things you like most about your present position?
  • What are some of the things you like least?
  • How much opportunity do you have in your job to do the things you do best?
  • In which areas of your position do you want more experience and/or training?
  • What changes might be made to help you do your current job better? (Consider things like instruction, communications, procedures, coordination).
  • What must YOU do to get your suggested changes implemented?
  • What opportunity does your present position give you to learn things which might be useful in preparing you for another position? If there is little such opportunity, what might you do about it?
  • What other comments or suggestions can you make about your present position as it relates to your career plan?

During the discussion the employee and supervisor shall:

  • Discuss every aspect of the proposed IDP as thoroughly as possible. Both the employee and supervisor will come to the meeting with an outline of the IDP.
  • Be open, honest, and frank when discussing present performance, strengths, and weaknesses.
  • Allow enough time to fully discuss career development and to complete the IDP.
  • Establish priorities and arrange a timetable for completion of the IDP process or IDP activities.
  • Pursue the program with a positive attitude.
  • Consider long-term goals and develop short-term requirements for reaching them.
  • Discuss future organizational changes and needs.
  • Discuss how the work experience or training will lead to improved job performance and what the employee as well as the organizational benefits will be from this developmental experience.
  • Keep the tone of the discussion informal. It is not a performance appraisal.
  • Develop the IDP by establishing the developmental objectives and assignments, record them on a blank IDP form. (Table 4-3)
  • Develop a practical and feasible plan. Both the supervisor and employee may find they have to rethink some of their original priorities.

Goals and Objectives

A goal for the purposes of the IDP is something pertinent to your work and your career that you see as worthwhile to strive for, either the improvement or mastery of some skill in your current job, a new responsibility in your current job, or the attainment of some other position. Goals should be realistic and attainable, your goals should imply some work and challenge, but shouldn’t be set on something so high that getting there will be almost impossible. In preparing goal statements, be as specific as possible. For example:

  • To be project leader in the next year.
  • To become an Accountant, GS-510-12.
  • To take on new work responsibilities. (List responsibilities)
  • To learn Microsoft Office 7. (Be specific)
  • To improve my skills for the position I now occupy. (What skills?)
  • To continue my formal college education.
  • To become proficient in budget analysis and administration.

You must develop a plan that has a reasonable chance of attaining these goals. Realistic goals include consideration of:

  • Your other commitments. Family, your current work schedule, hobbies- community obligations, etc. Don’t outline a program with lots of self-study and formal courses if you know you have a heavy work schedule including a good deal of travel.
  •  It’s easier to start a university program if you’ve been to formal college courses in the past. If not, it might be better to try just one course, or a short course or seminar before embarking on a complex curriculum.
  • Your desire to achieve your goal. Don’t set goals simply for the sake of setting a goal. Be realistic and work on achievable desirable goals within your capabilities and agency resources. If you overextend yourself you ultimately may end up disappointed.
  • Your knowledge of the organization. This is very important. Find out as much as possible about career ladders, forecaster staffing needs, expected vacancies and reorganizations, and what skills your organization will be needing. The great value of the employee/supervisor discussion is that you have a chance to explore the organization’s perspective about its needs. Also, keep as many options open as possible. Make yourself valuable to the organization by developing skills that are in demand.
  • Your honest self-appraisal. No one has to know exactly what your self appraisal is, but being honest here really helps to avoid disappointment. Use all the feedback you can get from supervisors and peers to come up with a real picture of your strengths and weaknesses. Your goals should play up your strengths. If you are weak in some KSAs critical to reaching your goal, ask yourself “How genuinely feasible is it to develop these skills and overcome weakness to the point of reaching the goal?”

Don’t worry about differentiating between knowledge, skill, or ability. Generally, a skill pertains to a physical competence or physically doing something; a knowledge pertains to mastery of a subject matter area; while an ability pertains to the potential of using a knowledge or skill when needed. Describe objectives in terms of KSAs.

You should work with your supervisor to prioritize the KSAs required to attain your goals. The advantage of this approach is that you will have the benefit of a second opinion regarding your strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, your supervisor may be very helpful in assisting you to determine what the most valued KSAs are for a particular position or career path.

Once you have the important KSAs you need, you can decide on a plan of action. You have some control now, you know whether the training or experience is going to meet a specific need. You can ask, is this training going to provide me with the knowledge (or skill)?

by Dennis V. Damp
Career Exploration Blog:  https://www.federaljobs.net/blog
Federal Employee Retirement Planning Site: https://www.federalretirement.net

Download Personal Goals Worksheet (Word Doc)

Training or Developmental Assignments

Before completing the following Developmental Worksheets you need to be aware of the alternatives that are available to you. There are many options other than formal training courses and often people learn better if their training includes a variety of learning experiences. Alternative training can be a good, if not a better, way to learn required skills efficiently. Budget and time constraints, as well as your particular needs, make it undesirable to limit yourself to formal training.


  • On-the-Job Training (OJT). OJT is an option, provided there are specific learning objectives and the OJT trainer has assembled a guide or training plan for your assignments and to track progress.
  • Details or Rotational Assignments. Details and rotational assignments are excellent ways to develop KSAs. Some departments may have more trouble arranging these then others, but where it can be done, details are invaluable for gaining new skills.
  • Self-Study. Self-study is often desirable to obtain technical knowledge. Useful especially if you have a mentor, someone already with the knowledge who can outline a program of reading and assignments and check your progress. Your training office can tell you about programmed self- instructional packages that are very useful.
  • After Hours College Program – Agencies can pay tuition for federal employees if the courses support the agency’s mission and concurrently help the employee achieve their career goals.
  • Correspondence Courses. Check out available catalogs from the USDA online at https://graduateschool.edu/.
  • Special Projects, Assignments. A form of OJT, but worth mentioning separately, since a project might not be part of the regular job but can be assigned to impart skill sets that you need to achieve your goals.
  • Attendance at Conferences, Seminars, etc. Attending conferences, seminars, etc., are essential for keeping up to date and learning what’s new.

Once you’ve isolated your goals and identified needed KSAs, see how many of these KSAs can be gained via alternative developmental assignments. Include alternative training resources to maximum your learning experience. You may be surprised; excellent training is often obtained in unexpected ways right in your own organization.

Suggested Developmental Activities

Initiative is evident when the employee does that which is necessary to achieve their goals. Joining an Employee Participation Group, Human Relations Committee or participating in facility collateral assignments, displays initiative. Participating in these activities is an excellent way to enhance many of the skills needed for career enhancement. Following are some suggested activities that you may take to pursue or participate in activities that will help your self-development efforts:

  • Attend workshops, seminars, conferences
  • Take college or university classes
  • Create job enrichment possibilities
  • Participate in cross training, job rotation
  • Take correspondence courses
  • Participate in a detail or temporary reassignment
  • Read
  • Elicit coaching or feedback from your manager
  • Seek observation and feedback
  • Create opportunities for practice
  • Talk to an expert
  • Seek exchanges with colleagues
  • Observe others
  • Visit the library
  • Deal with your barriers which prevent you from taking action
  • Participate as an EEO Counselor
  • Conduct team briefings/group presentations
  • Become a member of the Toastmasters organization
  • Participate in professional organizations
  • Perform volunteer work
  • Participate as a Union representative

Discussion between you and your supervisor may quickly identify apparent developmental assignment and training opportunities. In other cases, the supervisor should suggest an approach that he/she believes would satisfy the short and/or long-term goals of the employee.