Individual Development Plans for Soldiers

Individual Development Plan

Organizations must create a culture that encourages, supports, and invests in the short- and long-term development of their employees. Professional development should be an ongoing process to ensure Soldiers are staying current—if not one step ahead—in their fields and mission-critical competencies. Planning for continuous development must be anchored to the organization’s mission, goals, objectives, and needs, as well as being tied to the Soldier’s work and career goals.

This tool contains the following information and guidance:

  • Purpose and benefits of individual development planning
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Individual development planning process
  • Key elements of an individual development plan.

Individual development planning helps identify the employee’s career development goals and the strategies for achieving them. Typically, the Soldier will complete an Individual Development Plan on an annual basis. This plan is intended to:

  • Encourage the Soldier to take ownership of his/her career development
  • Provide an administrative mechanism for identifying and tracking development needs and plans
  • Assist in planning for the agency’s training and development requirements.

Individual development planning benefits the organization by aligning the Soldier’s training and development efforts with the mission, goals, and objectives of the Army and the unit. Leaders develop a better understanding of their Soldiers’ professional goals, strengths, and development needs—which can result in more realistic staff and development planning. Soldiers take personal responsibility and accountability for their career development, acquiring or enhancing the skills they need to stay current in required skills.

Supervisors and subordinates work together to complete the Soldier’s development plan, but Soldiers are ultimately responsible for taking the initiative for their professional development.

Soldiers should:

  • Assess their level of competence vis-à-vis the competencies, skills, and knowledge required in their jobs
  • Identify their professional career goals and development needs and various training and development opportunities that will help them achieve those goals and meet those needs
  • Periodically assess their progress toward reaching their goals.

Supervisors should:

  •  Realistically assess employees’ strengths and development needs vis-à-vis organizational requirements
  • Provide regular (e.g., annual) opportunities to discuss and plan for employees’ development
  • Ensure the alignment of employees’ career goals and development needs to work unit goals/objectives
  • Help employees identify appropriate training and development opportunities
  • Evaluate outcomes of employees’ training and development efforts.

The individual development planning process requires communication and interaction between the supervisor and the employee. It involves five phases:

  1. Pre-Planning – Supervisor and employee prepare independently for meeting
  2. Employee/Supervisor Meeting – Discuss employee strengths, areas for improvement, interests, goals, and organizational requirements
  3. Prepare Individual Development Plan – Employee, in consultation with supervisor, completes plan for individual development
  4. Implement Plan – Employee pursues training and development identified in plan
  5. Evaluate Outcomes – Supervisor/employee evaluate usefulness of training and development experiences

Effective plans should include the following key elements:

  • Soldier data – name, position title, office, grade/pay
  • Career goals – short-term and long-term goals with estimated and actual completion dates
  • Development objectives – linked to work unit mission/ goals/objectives and employee’s development needs and objectives
  • Training and development opportunities – specific formal classroom training, workshops, rotational assignments, shadowing assignments, on-the-job training, self-study programs, professional conferences/seminars, boards, etc., that Soldier will pursue with estimated and actual completion dates
  • Signatures – including supervisory and Soldier signatures and date