People’s Development: Why Does It Matter? How Can You Support It?

Gary Stringer
March 11, 2024
March 11, 2024
Learning And Development

Good salaries and benefits alone won’t cut it!

People want purpose. They want a work-life balance. And they want progress.

The trouble is, in most companies, they’re not getting it:

  • 75% of employees would prefer to advance at their current company.
  • But only 48% currently see a path.

Companies who provide that path, stand the best chance of winning the talent war.

That’s why people’s development matters, the question is how we deliver it?

Three reasons people’s development really matters

“Ah, it’ll be ok - we don’t have an issue with employee turnover.”

If that ☝️ is your mindset, you’re in big trouble.

In the world we’re living in, people’s development has never been more important.

And never been more influenced by the context of these fast changing times…

1. If they’re not growing here, people will go somewhere else.

We’re in a talent shortage, with companies struggling to find talent for their skills gaps.

And it means that skilled employees are in-demand.

So, if you’re not the place to develop, your employees are in a great position to find somewhere that is.

“Now is the best time for the people with the right skills if you're not supporting their career growth. Because they can keep walking until they find a company that is going to support their growth. 

“And because there's so much opportunity out there, it really puts the pressure on companies to help them build the skills they need.” - Nelson Sivalingam, HowNow CEO.

edX’s data from the end of 2023 proves this perfectly:

  • “In the last 12 months, 57% of employees paid for external learning content out of their own pocket.”

If you’re not helping, you’re in the way.

And people will pay to get you out their way - to get the development they deserve.

People's development matters for these three reasons.

2. Skills are becoming redundant pretty damn quick

X million people need to be reskilled by [insert year number here].

You can’t move for headlines like this at the moment.

And for good reason: the skills landscape is changing at breakneck speeds.

  • 94% of UK workers will need reskilling by 2030 - that’s 30 million people (CBI).

And it seems that two things are happening.

☝️ Demand for in-demand skills continues to outpace supply.

✌️ The digital skills shortage and rise of AI are changing the skills we need.

But it’s what happens when we don’t address this that should scare businesses most…

3. Companies who lack skills, miss opportunities

When disruption happens, it creates opportunities.

Companies who seize those opportunities can go on to do great things.

BUT you need to have the right skills to grab those opportunities.

And if you don’t, you miss out:

  • CBI stated that 30% of businesses said they couldn't grow over the last 12 months because they didn't have the right skills.

When COVID hit, restaurants took a massive hit.

Well, some did.

A bunch of pizza restaurants seized their slice of the opportunity pie by pivoting to DIY kits, delivered to your house.

The ones who did made sure they didn’t take a loss on stock and created an alternative revenue stream.

The key was striking fast, and only those with the logistical and operational skills were able to do so.

Focusing on people’s development, and linking it to skills and performance, can give us that platform 👇

How to drive people’s development and drive business success

Let’s stick this one in the not rocket science column.

🚀 People want progress with purpose, and to build skills that keep them relevant.

🚀 Organisations want skilled people to help them reach goals and respond to change.

Enter…people development 🤝 aligned to the organisational goals.

Here are five ways you can do that, starting right now.

1. Bring meaningful career conversations back to the fore.

When Lattice asked 1,000 employees a list of which 14 factors were offered by their employers, here’s what came bottom:

  • Career conversations.
  • Career paths.
  • Development budgets.

We asked their VP of Marketing & Insights, Jules Strong, why this might be happening:

“It's not that it's no longer important in the business, but with everything that's been going on in the world, HR teams have had to index on areas that needed additional focus.

“HR teams are trying to grapple with the development of a high-performance culture in the workplace, but they've also got to support teams through factors like the cost of living crisis or the fact that they need more flexibility to be able to achieve a balance between work and home.” 

The good news is that half of HR leaders surveyed confirmed that talent development would be a key part of building a high-performance culture in 2024.

Make sure you’re riding that wave.

And that your performance conversations are meaningful.

❌ Rather than once per year, where you decide on arbitrary learning activities.

✅ Ensure they’re frequent, performance-driven, and focused on building skills.

2. Give people purpose by linking development to performance

The worst development conversations are the ones where people feel there’s no real purpose.

You’re close to the yearly performance review, you’ve got budget left, and you’re asked…

“What do you want to spend it on?”

Spending for the sake of spending isn’t what that development budget was meant for!

So, what’s the better way to do it?

1️⃣ Start with clarity around the team and organisational goals.

2️⃣ Have a conversation about an employee’s role in reaching those.

3️⃣ Work out which skills and knowledge they need to achieve that.

4️⃣ Build development pathways that provide skills and knowledge.

5️⃣ Measure success through their proficiency and role in reaching those goals

It’s slightly more nuanced and complicated than that, but these are the steps that take you from clarity around performance to development that supports it.

Five simple ways to drive people's development.

3. Ensure there’s good internal mobility and knowledge sharing

Our last step does miss something slightly crucial…

What is it that motivates that person?

Because we’re not all here to provide shareholder value.

In those career conversations, we have to get a handle of what motivates that person. 

Where do they want to go in their career? Which interests do they want to follow?

Once we know that, we can try to support it!

Internal mobility and knowledge sharing are great ways to provide that more personal support for people’s development.

Let’s imagine two people:

🙋‍♂️This is Steve. 

Working in the marketing team, but the data analysis part interests him most.

He thinks that might actually be where he wants his career to go next.

But he has doubts, and he doesn’t want to make the jump just yet.

If we have the right relationship and learn this, we can set Steve up to join the data team for a particular project.

Clear timelines, clear outcomes, clear skills for Steve to build.

If he excels and confirms that this is his passion, we could potentially speak with the manager of that department about future collaborations, job shares and even permanent roles in the team.

🙋‍♀️This is Denise.

She currently works in our customer success team but has always been intrigued by marketing.

The art of persuading people to take action is something she’d love to know more about.

And we’ve got a whole team of people who know the subject inside out.

But are we capturing their knowledge? And making it available to others?

In most companies, no. 

And it means people can’t find information when they need it to solve a problem, and they can’t learn from the subject matter experts in the business.

If we know Denise wants to enter a particular marketing role, we can pair her up with someone who knows how to do it and is willing to impart that wisdom.

And if we can capture it and make it available to others, we’re on our way to buiding a knowledge-sharing culture.

4. Provide the autonomy, trust and flexibility to own and try new things

To develop, we need to do new things.

Doing new things comes with the risk of ‘failure’ - which is often how we learn and grow.

And we need the right environment for this to happen.

Which means giving people the autonomy, trust and flexibility to try new things, and the psychological safety to know that it’s okay if it doesn’t work out - we’ll still develop from it.

In Lattice’s research, flexibility came second in the top five factors employees need to do their best work.

As Adam Lacey, Co-Founder at Assemble You, puts it:

"And whether you're an individual or manager or whatever, you need an environment where it is safe to fail. Otherwise no one will try anything new.”

You want to make sure three things are in place:

  • Clarity around what we’re trying to achieve or build.
  • Conversations around the best way to get there.
  • An understanding of what success looks like and potential ways it might not work.

This gives us a clear goal, a shared vision of how we’re getting there and clarity around potential success and failure.

Then we set people free, to use this as a platform to try new things and develop.

5. Deliver L&D around skills, not content

Most L&D content sucks, because building content was the first step.

Not the problems. Not the person. Not the company goals we’re trying to hit.

We call it skills first L&D, and it’s why stats like this keep popping up:

“McKinsey found that only 12% of employees reported using any of the skills they got from internal L&D, and that shows a lot of wastage. 88% didn't acquire any relevant skills as a result of what was on offer. 

“So, as L&D teams, we really need to ask ourselves some serious questions about whether what we’re doing helps people build skills and drives impact!” - Nelson Sivalingam.

The alternative is skills-first L&D.

Where we start with the skills we need to reach goals, and build the content needed to do it.

  • Does the business have the skills required to achieve that business objective? 
  • Which skills are missing? 
  • And now how do I align that learning to the skills that we need to bridge the gap?

Answering these ensures that the content people receive is relevant and, therefore, engaging.

And it also means that development is linked to building skills and hitting goals - purpose and growth are driven by this approach.

When we spoke with Nelson, he explained the impact moving from content-first learning to a skills-first approach had at Deloitte.

“They saw a 37% increase in employee retention. Why? Because what employees want to know is whether they are building the skills they need to be able to progress in their career? 

“And the reality is you talking about content completion and time spent learning doesn't answer the question they need to answer. Skills, however, allow us to align directly to the business objectives.” - Nelson Sivalingam.

Three quickfire bonus tactics to drive people’s development

Small tweaks today can mean big development tomorrow, so here are a few bonus tactics that improve people’s development:

Remove the friction for people to develop

Whether it’s finding the right information or knowing the person to speak too, a lot of people’s development is currently limited by unnecessary friction.

Speak with them and observe their workflows to understand where it exists, and try to reduce and remove it!

Offer tech knowledge

According to CBI
, “Unfortunately, many employers are also failing to appreciate more than 50% of current jobs will require new skillsets by 2027, with poor digital skills affecting +33% of the entire UK labour force.”

If you can work out where people are lacking those digital skills and help build them, you’re futureproofing them to some extent.

When people do great things, tell their story

The goal is to create positive feedback loops around people’s development.

If I build this skill or knowledge and it goes on to have solid impact, it’s recognised and celebrated.

Learning and developing takes energy, vulnerability, time and effort - and we don't want people to feel like any of that is wasted or unappreciated.

What if one click could start your journey to exceptional people development…

It could! Because that’s all it takes to get our free guide:

Build A People Development Strategy That ACTUALLY Develops People