- Building a communication cadence to support successful IDP achievement (2:03)
- How IDPs can open up new discussions and career paths that support both your team members and your organization (8:51)
- IDPs are great tools for individual development, but they also ensure organizations can maximize their agility (11:00)
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Related Episodes: Listen to Episode 6 and learn more about navigating change with agile teams
Listen to Episode 11
Episode 11 Transcript
Luis Wilson (00:34):
Hi, everyone. Welcome to Building Teams with TEAMES & CO. I'm Luis Wilson, and I'm sitting down with Tracy Eames. How are you, Tracy?
Tracy Eames (00:41):
I'm doing well, Luis. How are you today?
Luis Wilson (00:43):
I'm doing great. For today's podcast, we have the topic of individual development plans. I'd like to talk about what they are, why they're such important tools for leaders and teams, and how folks can go about using them and some of the best practices that we're going to share. So let's get started. What is an individual development plan?
Tracy Eames (01:01):
An individual development plan is a document that you can use with your team members to help them plan out where they want to develop their career. When you think about our goals, our goals are a list of actions we're going to take, probably within a given year, to support the strategy of the organization. The individual development plan is really a document led by the employee to say, "Here's where I see my career developing." and then the leader can help map out what that could potentially look like in terms of developing skills, core competencies, and experience, so that way they can develop within the organization. So it's a little bit of a longer term compliment to a set of goals that a team member may have.
Luis Wilson (01:46):
Okay. So that's the actual tool, and then there's a cadence that goes along with it. We don't just have short-term goals, we'll have short and long-term goals. How do you see the review process and how often leaders should check in on those individual development plans with their team members?
Tracy Eames (02:03):
That's a great question. We usually do them with kind of the annual review process in terms of making sure ... that's a good checkpoint to make sure you have a development plan. The way that we advise companies to set their goals is that they share the strategy and the team goals with their team members, and then their team member leads creating their individual goals. Then that's a conversation between the team leader and the team member in terms of tweaking those goals, making sure that they're really succinct, and that you agree on the milestones and the timing, et cetera. So having an individual development plan at that same time is really convenient because you're all thinking about what the year looks like, and then what the future could potentially look like. So it's a nice build in terms of having those conversations together in terms of setting out the individual development plan.
You can think about this year, but you can also be thinking long-term of, "Okay, where do I want to develop my skillset to be more successful within my role?" and then, "Where do I also want to continue to develop, to be able to take on bigger or broader projects or roles in the future?" So we kind of kick it off usually with the goals and the review process is constant, similar to goals. It's a living, breathing document that’s not meant to be a one-time event. You're going to want to check in with your team members on it, I recommend once a month, just to kind of give folks enough time between the meetings to be taking action on the development items.
You don't want to meet so often that nobody has any time to make any progress or come up with different questions. Once a month within your one-on-one meeting with your team members is a great way just to check in and say, "Hey, does this still feel like the right individual development plan action items? Are the things that we outlined working for you? Are there other things that you might want to substitute? Are there opportunities that have come up in conversations that you'd like to explore?" So that monthly cadence works well in terms of staying up to date and staying aligned with each other.
Luis Wilson (04:15):
Great, so that's what an individual development plan is, some of the processes and cadence around it and how we review them. Next I'd like to really talk about some of the benefits that teams get from using this, right? We have this tool, which individuals identify the competencies they want to develop and the goals that they want to set out for themselves, and align those with both their development and the company. But this whole process of creating the individual development plan, like you said, at first begins with this conversation. You want to get an idea. You want to engage the team and yourself, if it's for yourself and your leadership, as to where you want to go in the future.
Luis Wilson (04:54):
I think there's a lot of value in that initial conversation, both from having the career conversation with the employee and then giving them a path forward on how they're going to develop. They see their place, not just in the organization, how they fit into the company strategy and the team goals, but also where they are going to evolve into their next role, perhaps in the next year or five years. Could you talk about some of those conversations you have if you're starting on an individual development plan?
Tracy Eames (05:20):
Absolutely. You're exactly correct. The individual development plan helps the employee have that line of sight for, "Where could I potentially be developing my career with this organization?" As so many companies are struggling to figure out how do they keep their employees engaged, how do they empower their teams, how do they create that long lasting relationship with their employees, individual development plans are a great way to do that. It gives the employee and the team members a vision for what the future with that organization could look like. It's not meant to be an exact roadmap of, we're going to definitively do X, Y, and Z. It's meant to be a conversation starter between a leader and a team member around, "What do you think that your interests are? Where do you potentially want to develop? And how do we work together over time to progress your development plan as you see it?" Obviously it has to tie into the business strategy in one way or the other, but it doesn't have to be a fully mapped out plan.
Tracy Eames (06:26):
I'll give you an example of that. Some people when they think about it, they think about, "Okay, what is the definitive role I want next?" It doesn't have to be that. You don't have to sit down with your team member and say, "Do you want to be the director of marketing?" It can just be, "I have an interest in leading teams. I have an interest in the commercial side of the business. I love working with customers. I have an interest in further developing my financial acumen so I could manage a P&L one day." So your team member might not have an exact role in mind, they might just have an idea of where they want to start to develop their skills. Likewise, as the leader, it's an opportunity for you to say, "Hey, we have these kinds of projects that are potentially coming up on the horizon, and in order to be able to contribute or lead one of these project teams, here's where I see maybe there's some opportunity for skill development."
So it becomes a nice back and forth conversation versus, "Definitively, we are preparing you only for this one role, and that is it." I would advise leaders and team members to really think about it as more of that evolutionary process versus, "I'm picking a specific role description that I want." because the other benefit that comes out of that is, if you're building an IDP to build your core skillset around leadership opportunities, if you define that one role and that one role doesn't become available, or within the organization that's not a role that's needed per se, you kind of closed down the development conversation. And you don't want to do that. This is meant to kind of keep that development conversation open. So if you pick around, what are the kinds of skillsets that may apply to a lot of different roles? If I build them, I have some opportunities. You may actually be presented with some opportunities that you didn't expect right off the bat, but actually help you develop a really well-rounded skillset.
Luis Wilson (08:31):
Got it. So you really want to take advantage of the check-ins and the career ... or the performance and career discussions to have them be a catalyst for getting your team members engaged, and really, clarity around their goals and where they're developing. Even if they don't know, "Hey, I want to be the director of operations or marketing in a certain number of years," but they have a more loosely defined goal. Like, "Hey, I want to learn more about production, or I want to learn more about packaging or marketing." Right? Thank you for that.
Tracy Eames (09:03):
Exactly. I think it's really valuable. I think that there's been times in my career, even thinking about roles that I was asked to take on, that I wouldn't potentially have imagined as an opportunity, I just didn't know that they existed as an opportunity. They maybe came out of a senior leadership discussion, a shift in strategy, but my leaders were able to recommend me for them. And they were able to talk to me about them in terms of my development plan, because we had a development plan in place. They knew what I was interested in. And then they were able to translate why that role would help me achieve and learn the skills that I was looking to develop, while also, why my current skillset was going to be effective in me doing that role.
Tracy Eames (09:51):
So by having these development conversations on an ongoing basis, you're able to be more agile as an organization because leaders know what their teams are interested in taking on, they know where their core competencies lie today, and they're able to better adjust as strategy adjusts. And potentially, present some really exciting opportunities to team members that maybe you wouldn't have had that conversation before because you didn't know it was where they were looking to develop their career. So it opens up some great opportunities for organizations and for team members as you're growing together over the course of a career.
Luis Wilson (10:32):
So really, the benefit's not just to the team member, but the leader also working on the IDP with them really gives them visibility into what opportunities that team member might be a good fit for, along with also helping them develop along the way. I really think that's a leadership challenge in itself, right? I mean, sometimes leaders might have to go outside of their own working area to identify job rotations or job shadowing opportunities for folks on their team. So really helping out the whole organization.
Tracy Eames (11:00):
We often speak about cross-functional teams. There's going to be situations as a leader where you might be speaking to one of your counterparts. Potentially you're leading a sales team, but you're speaking to the person in marketing or operations, and they might be opening up a role for something that could be a really great opportunity for one of your team members. And again, as a leader, it's a great opportunity for you to be able to present a person on your team as a possible candidate for that. While you might "lose them off of your team", the organization is gaining something great because they're gaining the ability to have a current team member take on new or different responsibilities, gain that broader skillset across the organization, and ultimately be able to build into senior leadership and understand a few different functional areas. So it becomes a really powerful tool between counterparts as well, because you're able to understand what other teams might need in the organization and then be able to have real discussions around potentially how your team member might be able to support that.
Luis Wilson (12:08):
Really becoming like a common language across the organization and different teams, where you can be saying, "Hey, we're speaking the same competencies or the same needs and find those opportunities." Well, thank you so much, Tracy. I think we've done a ... we've walked through what the development plan is, why it's such a valuable tool and how to use it. Is there anything else that we want to discuss on individual development plans?
Tracy Eames (12:30):
In terms of starting the development plan, again, I would start with a concept of where the individual is and have the individual map out where they would like to see their career going. Again, it doesn't have to be a specific role. It might just be an idea of what part of the business they want to work in. Or, potentially it could be a role and then you could work with them around, "Okay, maybe this role is not the definitive endpoint, but if it were this role, here would be the competencies that you would need for that role." And then you can kind of work through the more tactical steps of an individual development plan. I know that you have some great ideas around how people can break those steps down into more manageable action items.
Luis Wilson (13:16):
Yes. We'll discuss quick steps to how to create it. Just like you said, before anything you have to really sit down and have that career discussion of, where do you want to go? Off that, like you mentioned, you should have some competencies that you want to develop. They should be a mix of what is essential for you to be successful in your current role, and what you will need to be successful in the future on.
Next, after you have your competencies, you really want to boil down what the development options are for you in a specific competency, which could really be in three areas. It could be a sort of experience learning, learning from others, or also just the traditional training and development resources. On the experience learning, that's where you're going to really work with your leadership and other teams to see where there's opportunities for you to take on, perhaps, a stretch assignment or a more full on rotation. On the learning from others, that's more of seeking out mentors and perhaps networking and having some coaching discussions. Then on the training and development, you can always have the resources that are available to you by your organization, or things that you could find that you're self-guided online.
Lastly, just want to see if I identified what those competencies are, grounded on where you want to go and where you are now. You have the tools that you're going to use to deploy them, the actions you're going to take. It's just ensuring that you have this written down in the smart format, and keeping up the monitoring and the review with your leadership that we mentioned. So having that cadence of maybe having a formal review, once a year, perhaps where you take that opportunity to update them. But really checking in on a more informal basis monthly, to make sure that you're pressing on the goals, but you also have the time allowed to take actions on them.
So those are some quick steps you could take to re-energize your process. As part of your organization, you want to revisit this and reengage the team around it. Or also, just start it out now, so you could take these steps with your team. Thank you so much for talking about development plans with us today, Tracy.
Tracy Eames (15:16):
Correct. I think that this has been a really great discussion. One note I would love to add from your tactical layout of an IDP, which I think was great - it touched on two things that I want to highlight for smaller organizations. Sometimes as a smaller organization, you may not be able to have a rotational program, like the one you mentioned, in terms of giving somebody experience of different projects. For those of you who are not familiar with a rotation program, it basically just means somebody rotates from functional area to functional area. There's usually three or four project assignments they have across different areas of the business over the course of a year, or two years, and it's meant to give new leaders a wide view of the business and how different functional areas work.
For smaller organizations, you may say, "We just don't have the capabilities or the resources to be able to create a rotational program." but I think it ties into your other point, Luis, which is mentors become incredibly valuable in those situations. You can have an employee who potentially wants to increase the scope of knowledge around the business, maybe they work in sales today, but they want to understand that full customer journey. Maybe they are assigned to a cross-functional project led by the operations director, and that person becomes kind of an informal dotted line mentor to them over the course of that project. So they're still reporting into you, but they're the sales representative on this operational project. It gives them visibility into operations and what the customer experience and how that affects the customer experience, but it's more mentorship and informal versus their job description changing and them rotating through roles over the course of a year or two.
So I would just suggest that you've thrown out a lot of good ideas and there's some ways that they can all be combined, as leaders are thinking about innovative ways to help their team members be exposed to the different functional areas within the organization.
Luis Wilson (17:16):
Great, so more options for folks to develop those competencies, but always, what your team looks like, what your organization looks like. So thank you for that. Really appreciate the conversation this week.
Tracy Eames (17:29):
No, thank you. I think this has been a really fun conversation, and I hope that folks are able to think about individual development plans in a new way now. If you have any questions, we would love to chat with you further about it. Please feel free to reach out. We look forward to the next topic next week.
Luis Wilson (17:47):
Absolutely. See you next week.