Whose Responsible for Developing an Individual Career Plan?

During the recent economic crunch, many companies have placed Learning and Development on hiatus as a way of channeling available coffers into more short-term activities. Ironically, this temporary abandonment of training initiatives comes at a time when leadership development is most needed.  As millions of Baby Boomers prepare for retirement, organizations are scrambling to prepare for the giant vacuum of experience and wisdom about to envelop the corporate landscape.  Succession planning and Individual Development Planning are returning to the forefront of business survival strategies. But whose responsibility is a career plan for development: the individual, the manager, or both?

Naturally, every person needs to actively engage in their own career planning. Who better knows the aspirations, inspirations, and values of individuals than themselves?   A leader cannot read minds, nor force an unwanted career direction for very long.  In order for individuals to have realistic chances at maximizing their potential and achieving their goals, they must first become clear about what their goals are, both short and long-term, and design a detailed map on how to reach their dreams.

No amount of direction, ambition, or planning by an individual can lead to success without the support and guidance from the manager.  It is the responsibility of the manager to understand individuals’ visions of their relationship with the organization, and positively influence effective career planning.  While the individual must be clear about who they are and where they want to go, the manager must see the bigger picture, and find avenues that best capitalize on the individual’s strengths and passions in the context of the organization’s best interests.  Managers play a critical (and sometimes delicate) role of channeling individuals’ inherent talents into pragmatic applications.  Managers cannot blaze the trail for the individual, but they can help illuminate the path.

There are myriad tools to assist managers and individuals with career planning, from self and 360-assessments to old-fashioned reflection and analysis. But the best place to start is always with a simple, honest conversation.  Who is the individual? What matters to him or her? What is their vision of the ideal future? What about the manager, where does he or she see the greatest potential for development? Does the manager’s vision align with both the individual’s personal growth and the future success of the organization? These are important questions, and the result of the conversation should be the synergistic linking of goals to action plans.  Once the vision is clear and the plan is set, the individual’s development will foster greater engagement and loyalty.  The individual understands that he or she is not stagnant or adrift, but highly focused and actively influencing the future.  People may not stay with a company forever, but while they are there, the organization has their hearts and minds.

So whose responsibility is an Individual Development Plan? Everyone’s.