Skip to Content

Division of Human Resources

Individual Development Plans

An Individual Development Plan (IDP) allows you to develop your goals and establish your own action plan; identifying short and long-term goals that benefit you and USC.

Work with your manager to create an IDP that is uniquely tailored to your needs and supports your school, college, or division. Include your IDP in your EPMS-Planning Stage to ensure it is a priority for your development in the coming year.


There are four steps in the individual development planning process. Use the IDP form [pdf] to document each step.

For examples to get you started check out the non-supervisory [pdf] and supervisory [pdf] IDPs.

The first step to developing an IDP is to determine your individual development needs. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are my future career aspirations?
  • What skill(s) would I like to develop?
  • How can I broaden my experience?
  • What learning or training would help me prepare for my future goals, or perform better in my current job?
  • What advancements or changes are occurring in my department – do I need to learn new skills to adapt?
  • What interests me?

Now that you have a better idea of your individual development needs, it’s time to set some specific goals. Focus on areas which are critical to your performance – select one or two areas to work on at a time. We recommend starting with a long–term (3-5 year) goal first, followed by a few specific, short-term (1-2 year) goals.  Work with your manager to determine priorities for the coming year. Make sure to consider how these goals will contribute to the organization.

The most effective goals are SMART:

S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Achievable
R – Realistic
T – Time-bound

Why Set Goals?
Goal setting, when done well, is a powerful strategy for personal and professional success. It’s one of the most effective methods for changing behavior, and it motivates you as an employee to improve job performance and productivity. 

Managers who set goals for their employees demonstrate Thier commitment to employee development. By setting defined goals, managers get better results from their employees than just saying “Do your best!” Goals clarify priorities and reduce stress and uncertainty.


  • Personal goals – skills or activities you undertake because they improve your personal life (e.g. time management skills to improve your work and personal environment).
  • Professional goals – activities which contribute to the effectiveness of what you are currently doing and will help your college and/or department (e.g. improving your computer skills so you can develop spreadsheets).
  • Career goals – activities you undertake to advance your career beyond what you are currently doing (e.g. obtaining a degree for advancement or earning a certification).

The third step in the IDP process is to identify specific activities, training, and experiences needed to accomplish the goals you set. Determine what resources, support, or potential costs may be required for each one. A few examples of development opportunities to consider are:

  • Education (college courses, degree attainment, technical updating, etc.)
  • Challenging work assignments or projects designed to promote growth
  • Workshops, seminars and training classes offered through the Organizational and Professional Development Office or Center for Teaching Excellence
  • Professional certification prep such as Project Management, Microsoft Office and PHR/SPHR
  • Audio Books
  • Professional conferences (seminars, discipline-specific, etc.)
  • Service on college committees, professional associations or clubs
  • Professional organization membership
  • Other special projects, in-house training programs, mentoring, research, book clubs, etc.

It is difficult to sustain momentum towards goals that can’t be assessed. Determine how progress will be measured by defining success criteria for each goal; then set target dates by which each goal should be completed.


Once an IDP is in place, it's important to monitor and evaluate the results. Just taking a course or completing an assignment doesn't necessarily mean the plan was successful. The crucial step is applying what is learned to the job and practicing it. 

Use the results section of the IDP form [pdf] to monitor any progress. Note when tasks are completed, how new skills have been applied, identify areas for improvement, and provide words of encouragement.  

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.