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Ramp Up Professional Growth with Individual Development Plans

The changing nature of economic competition and globalization requires knowledge workers, professional exempt-level employees who arrive in a role fully trained and willing to work aggressively, to expand their knowledge, skills and abilities continuously. Today’s dynamic, fast-paced world creates the opportunity for self-motivated learners to accelerate their professional growth through self-directed, lifelong learning.

As adult learners advance through the cycles of life, learning becomes self-directed, self-initiated, self-regulated and self-motivated. To accelerate the pace of employees’ learning, corporations use an individual development plan (IDP). This document details an employee’s intentions and learning outcomes as well as support necessary to meet his or her tangible growth goals.

The IDP of tomorrow should incorporate components of adult learning, organizational development and corporate culture. Professional development comprises an individual’s formal course work and educational programs of study as well as the formal and informal development of professional skills that occur in the workplace.

Beneficial IDPs reflect adult learning strategies, experiential learning and symbolic interaction. The first action, or andragogy, acknowledges that adults:

  • Are self-directed.
  • Need to understand context (why they learn).
  • Learn through problem-solving.
  • Learn best when the topic is of immediate value.

Adult Learning Tools, Techniques

Case studies and role-playing can serve adult learning well. Competency development that incorporates cognitive skill development, intrinsic motivation, self-awareness and communication skills often is customized to meet the needs of the corporation and the IDP learner. Deliberate role modeling, coaching and mentoring also strongly support IDP development.

Experiential learning is grounded on the common sense view that ideas are being formed and reformed constantly by life experiences. Instead of the standard corporate development response (i.e., just call HR and take a course), experiential learning encompasses the 70 percent component of the classic 70/20/10 corporate development models; that is, 70 percent of workplace learning includes efforts on the job, in the role—efforts that are self-directed in the current context of the situation.

Influenced by our learning style, experiential learning incorporates the Kolb learning cycle, moving from concrete experience to observation and reflection. Learners then progress to generalization and abstract conceptualization and finally to active experimentation. The learning style is the manner in which an IDP learner perceives, interacts with and responds to the learning environment. The learner advances by incorporating natural style awareness as determined by various assessment instruments, such as MBTI, DiSC and Insights Discovery.

Third, symbolic interaction includes the importance of self-awareness, self-image and self-esteem. We construct and deconstruct our “self-system” as we achieve IDP growth through personal change. Learning suggests that we are self-motivated and extends to our beliefs, values, emotional maturity, ethics and integrity as a whole person.

Years ago, change and transformation was prescriptive. Employees could depend on their employers to provide necessary training in the form of subject matter knowledge, using predefined, fixed methods of training. Training in many organizations is still defined as the delivery of events, not as holistic learning. Training as an organizational function across some companies remains stuck with the fundamental weaknesses it has had for decades: a fixed body of knowledge, competency deficiencies, knowledge transfer for passing tests and teachers responsible for what adult learners should learn.

IDP learning, on the other hand, is holistic. Most employees will grow and develop through their jobs and throughout their career. Learning from the IDP is a complex process influenced by the conditions under which it occurs. IDP growth incorporates fear, worry, anxiety and stretch as a normal part of any change cycle. Delivered strategically and managed tactically, IDP learning is viewed as an enduring change in behavior or a capacity to behave in a given fashion that results from practice or from other forms of experience. The proverb “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” fits neatly into today’s emphasis on IDP learning, self-development and career resiliency.

John T. Mooney is principal of the training and coaching firm Consultive Source, based in the Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, area.

Adapted with permission from John T. Mooney – Consultive Source.

© (2010) John T. Mooney– Consultive Source. All Rights Reserved.


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