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

April 11, 2022

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.

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The shelf-life of employee skills is shortening, and our methods to upskill them today aren’t meeting our needs. This gap is leading to new ways of thinking about L&D and, with it, new tactics and strategies. We upack those strategies in our e-book.

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 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.

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:

Productivity - 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. 

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. 

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 up 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. 

Getting started developing your employees

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 our what learning and development will look like when it includes mentorship.

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