Learning and Development

A guide to people development: 8 Examples and strategies

People development is about helping employees develop the capacities the organization needs to succeed. We break down 8 examples of ways you can close skill gaps and accelerate employee development.

Ryan Carruthers

Published on 

April 13, 2023

Updated on 

Time to Read

mins read time

People are our greatest asset. But are they prepared to take our organizations to the next level? The McKinsey Global Survey showed that leaders might not think so. The survey showed that 9/10 “executives and managers say their organizations either face skill gaps already or expect gaps to develop within the next five years.”

This is a big problem for organizations that want to avoid technological disruption or be pioneers in their industries. The prevailing sentiment is that employees need to continue growing just to keep up with the rapidly changing business landscape. But to thrive, we need to do even more as people leaders and human resources managers. 

We need to rethink how we develop our people.

What is people development?

People development is the process by which human resource departments equip employees with the skills, knowledge, and attitudes they need to reach business goals. People development is often used interchangeably with employee development which is about helping employees advance up in the organization. In contrast, people development is more so about closing skills gaps in the organization.

People development is a holistic approach that encompasses four key areas:

  • Employee onboarding – equipping your new hires with the necessary tools and resources to help them seamlessly acclimate to their role, the company’s philosophies, and what the company has to offer – and making them feel like a team member.
  • Training and development – investing in ensuring your employees acquire new skills, sharpen existing ones, perform better, increase productivity, and ultimately become better leaders.
  • Effective performance management – dedicating time regularly to provide an avenue for both the employer and the employee to exchange feedback,  gain insights, and make employees feel highly valued by voicing their thoughts.
  • Career progression – mapping a structured plan for opportunities such as advancement and succession for employees within the organization.

People development is part of a wider people strategy that the Academy to Innovate HR describes: “Your people strategy should unite your business and HR strategies.”

Interestingly, the University of Cambridge’s Human Resource Office developed a Behavioural Attributes Framework that identifies four different levels of people development. The levels are summarized as follows:

  • Level A: A leader creates an environment where employees are motivated to achieve the organization’s goals and their own personal development goals. They also continually look for ways to improve the organization’s performance through its people.
  • Level B: A leader who encourages employees to pursue learning opportunities and invests time in helping them close skill gaps. They also give clear direction and guidance to help employees grow.
  • Level C: A leader who doesn’t take an active role in people development but encourages employees to pursue learning opportunities they’re passionate about.
  • Level D: The leader takes ownership of their own performance and is willing to help others if the opportunity presents itself.

Obviously, we want our leaders, managers, and influential employees to be somewhere between levels A and B. 

An effective people development manager would focus on initiatives that don’t just enroll employees in courses but create a learning culture. Let’s unpack the benefits of this kind of people development plan on an organization.

eBook Employee Engagement: A Practical Guide 

Why is people development important to employee development? 

There are several key reasons why your HR department needs to understand people development and how it relates to employee development. Some of the advantages of employee development include:


Demonstrating to employees that you care about their growth and development will boost their morale and willingness to work harder for your company. And better productivity means more revenue for your business. According to recent statistics on productivity in the workplace, employees who find satisfaction in their jobs show a 20% increase in productivity over those that don’t, which leads to those productive companies boasting 30 - 50 percent higher margins than their less-productive counterparts.

Talent attraction

Job seekers are searching for a company where they can develop their skills. Research by Gallup found that 59 percent of Millennials want to work for an organization that offers development opportunities. If your business builds a reputation for people development, more candidates will want to work for you. 

Reduce turnover

For the past decade, career development has been one of the top reasons that employees leave organizations. By investing in opportunities for your employees to develop their skills, you can save your company a lot of money, time, and hassle by reducing the turnover rate. When you consider that companies lose approximately 4,700 dollars – the cost of fully onboarding a new employee and getting them up to speed – every time they lose a worker, people development becomes more critical than ever.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)

With 75% of potential new hires seeking to work for diverse and inclusive companies, the importance of DEI in the workplace cannot be understated. When a company has incorporated DEI practices into its culture, it leads to greater innovation and improved financial performance. Studies have even found that diverse companies enjoy cash flows nearly three times higher per employee than non-diverse businesses. 

Build workplace relationships

Building strong workplace relationships is essential for people development and engagement. According to the Gallup organization, having a best friend at work can result in a seven-fold increase in job satisfaction and productivity. But it doesn't have to be all or nothing – even having one good colleague with whom you share a connection will help you stay motivated and engaged in your work. These results remain true even for companies with a remote or distributed workforce.

There are many other benefits to people development, and your HR team must encourage employees to take advantage of development opportunities. This can increase the rate of participation and success and lead to better outcomes for your employees and your organization.

8 examples of people development strategies

To help your company get started, here are eight examples of people development strategies that you can use. 

Conducting a skills gap analysis

A skills gap analysis can help your company know what capabilities employees need to develop to be competitive for the future and changing face of business. To complete the analysis, your HR team will need to understand the skills that current employees have and compare those to the necessary knowledge and capability. It is a key step in developing the right training course to equip employees. 

Planning job shadowing events

Job shadowing can help employees learn about different roles in the organization. This understanding helps them decide on a career path. It can also be beneficial for collaboration, as your employees will gain an understanding of how different company departments work and contribute to the overall goals of the business. 

Pairing employees for peer coaching

Peers are more likely to ask each other for advice or information than they would seek it from a manager. They’re more comfortable going to one another for help, and our people development strategies should reflect that. So, it makes sense to encourage peer coaching in your organization. By pairing employees together, you can help cultivate knowledge-sharing and build a learning culture in your workplace. 

Mentorship programs

Workplace mentoring programs are an incredible way to connect employees to accelerate their development, close skill gaps, and build a culture where employees are motivated to continue growing. It’s widely known that over 70% of fortune 500 companies have internal employee mentorship programs. 

The benefits of mentorship extend beyond just the employee receiving guidance from someone more senior than themselves. Organizations benefit too.

  • Retention rates increase: employees are unlikely to leave when they have mentors who help them grow and open doors for their advancement.
  • Productivity skyrockets: a mentor passes on critical know-how and experience. This propels employees forward as they learn from their mentor’s experiences, not just their own.
  • Skill gaps close: L&D programs should be more than boring courses. Mentors make learning relevant and hold their mentees accountable for growing.
  • Cultures become more inclusive: mentors make space for employees to have a voice. And that boosts visibility. Mentoring organizations have greater diversity, equity and inclusion. 

Upskilling or reskilling programs

Technology changes quickly, and staying on top of all the new products and developments can be challenging. By identifying the critical skills that your employees will need, you’ll be able to help them focus with upskilling or reskilling programs. Helping your employees learn new skills and develop capabilities can provide them with the confidence to take on new roles in your organization. 

Knowledge sharing activities

Create a culture that values knowledge-sharing by organizing activities to cultivate it. For example, your company intranet can help facilitate knowledge-sharing among employees. You can also plan specific training sessions where employees share what they know about a particular topic. This can also help employees develop their presentation skills. 

Corporate training days

When there is something that your whole organization can benefit from learning, you can organize corporate training days. For example, sessions on how to be a more inclusive workplace or training on new software your company will be implementing. 

Online learning courses

Providing options and opportunities for remote employees or those who want to work at their own pace can be included in people development. There are a number of ways to provide online training for employees, such as creating courses in-house or buying a subscription service for employees. 

5 steps to create your employee development plan

There are many factors you should consider when creating an effective people development strategy. Let’s unpack some steps to help you in the process.

1. Identify employee development goals 

The first step in developing an effective people development strategy is to identify the goals that you would like your employees to reach. These can be short-term and long-term objectives, such as improved job performance or greater professional skills. Take time to consider what you’d like your employees to achieve, as well as how well their goals align with the organization's mission so that you can create a realistic plan for their growth.

2. Assess your employees' current skillsets 

Once you have identified the goals you want your employees to reach, you must perform a skills gap analysis to determine how they can best achieve these goals. These assessments are a great way to assess the strengths and weaknesses of your employees, as well as any areas that need improvement. This will help you create a practical people development plan tailored specifically to their needs. 

3. Create a plan of action 

Now that you know what goals you’d like your people to reach and how they can best get there, it’s time to develop a plan of action that outlines how they should achieve those objectives. Consider things such as the necessary training or resources – like mentorship programs – needed for them to reach their goals. Remember to set clear, realistic deadlines for when specific objectives should be completed. 

4. Implement the plan 

Once you have created a plan of action, it’s time to implement it and ensure that your employees can reach their goals. Provide easily accessible training opportunities and materials – like pre-prepared templates – for them to achieve their targets, and offer continuous support and guidance along the way if needed. It’s vital you follow through with every step of your action plan, or you risk losing your team's confidence.

5. Monitor progress and adjust as necessary 

Finally, keep track of your employee's progress throughout their development journey to ensure they are on a path toward achieving their goals. This should include both short, casual, weekly check-ins and longer formal sitdowns. 

The most important thing is to give employees your full attention so they feel comfortable enough to give clear, honest feedback.  If any adjustments need to be made along the way, take the time to do so to ensure your people can reach their goals. 

12 Essential people development skills

You may have heard the term ‘soft skills’ when discussing business management, but don’t be fooled. These skills are anything but soft in terms of their importance for professional and organizational success. People development skills refer to a set of essential abilities that help an organization or team manager develop and maintain successful relationships with their employees. 

And let’s not forget organizational leaders with strong people skills can lead their workforce effectively and efficiently toward business objectives. Identifying these key people development skills is essential for both organizations and individual employees looking to improve performance, job satisfaction, and employee retention. 

1. Communication

Communicating with your team effectively is essential for successful people development. Good communication means listening, comprehending, and responding in a clear, concise, and meaningful way. It also involves understanding the needs of each individual on the team and how best to facilitate their growth. 

According to SalesForce, nearly 90% of executives attribute business failures to ineffective communication and collaboration in the workplace, highlighting its importance.

2. Empathy

Showing empathy toward team members helps build trust and encourages collaboration within the group. Demonstrating an understanding of another person's feelings or perspectives helps foster a sense of inclusion and respect. It also helps create an environment where team members feel comfortable expressing their ideas and opinions, leading to innovative solutions.

3. Leadership

Developing leadership skills is vital for successful people development as it involves setting clear expectations, inspiring others to take action, and helping them reach their goals. As a leader, you should strive to be authoritative and supportive so that your team has the guidance needed to succeed while still feeling empowered in the decision-making process. 

4. Mentoring

A mentor has expertise in the field and serves as a role model for others on the team. Mentors provide support, share experiences, offer advice, and serve as an example of professional excellence. Access to mentorship programs can be incredibly beneficial for those looking to develop their skills or transition into new organizational roles.

5. Team building

People development isn’t just about individual growth; it’s also about helping teams work together effectively. Team-building activities and initiatives can help foster collaboration, communication, trust, and respect among team members. Some examples of team-building activities are: 

  • Team-building retreats: Taking a few days off to build relationships and trust amongst team members can be a great way to get to know each other and work together more effectively.  
  • Problem-solving activities: Activities that focus on problem-solving can help teams learn to think through complex issues and come up with creative solutions. 
  • Social activities: Doing fun activities together can help teams bond and build trust.  

6. Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EI) is an essential skill for people development as it involves understanding one’s own emotions and being aware of how others are feeling to manage interactions and relationships with colleagues better. Those who possess EI skills are often more successful in their careers due to their ability to build strong interpersonal connections with peers and leaders in the workplace.

7. Conflict resolution

People development isn’t just about fostering collaboration and communication; it also involves managing disagreements and resolving conflicts. People with strong conflict resolution skills can help resolve disputes between colleagues, mediate conversations, and help team members come to a consensus.

8. Adaptability

The ability to pivot quickly when necessary is critical for successful people development. People should be agile and open to change to handle unexpected events or new opportunities as they present themselves. Adaptability also involves taking on different roles within an organization when needed, which can help teams stay productive even during times of flux.

9. Active listening

Active listening is essential for relating to employees, as it allows you to truly understand what the other person is saying. It involves making eye contact, being attentive, and not interrupting or forming premature judgments. By actively listening to someone’s point of view, you can address their needs and concerns more effectively. 

10. Trust

Trust is the foundation of any successful people development strategy. Without trust, it’s nearly impossible to create an environment where everyone can feel comfortable being open and honest with each other. 

To foster trust within your organization, you need to be transparent in your communication, show respect for all team members, and practice active listening when addressing concerns or issues from your staff. 

Organizations with higher levels of trust among their employees experience increased engagement rates, leading to improved productivity and better long-term results for the business overall.

11. Patience

Patience allows you to stay calm and collected when dealing with difficult situations or challenging conversations, which are common occurrences in leadership roles. Patience can also help foster a strong relationship between yourself and the people you’re working with, as it shows that you’re willing to listen, understand and be open-minded to their ideas and opinions. 

12. Organization

Organizing is critical to any successful people development strategy. It involves not only setting goals and objectives and creating a plan of action for achieving them. Organization includes prioritizing tasks and using resources efficiently to reach desired outcomes. It can be difficult to effectively manage people development initiatives without proper organization.

Bottom line

Start your employee development program

Focusing on people development holds a number of benefits for your organization. It can help you cultivate a strong skillset in your employees, reduce turnover, and improve productivity.

The key is to personalize growth and development to meet your employees’ talents and interests. This can improve employee morale and create an atmosphere of learning and knowledge-sharing at your organization. 

Together's software helps companies run internal employee mentoring programs at scale, from registration to reporting. Our software ensures that every employee is matched with the best peer, mentor, or expert to learn from. 

Find out more about how mentorship can improve your people development strategy by checking out what learning and development will look like when it includes mentorship.

About the Author

scrollbar code:
close button

Hear how they started with Together