What Is People Development? The Definition If You Don’t Have Time To Waste

Gary Stringer
March 4, 2024
Learning And Development

Your people want meaningful development and you know it!

Otherwise, you wouldn’t be here…

The question is, how do you go from token gestures to meaningful career paths.

This isn’t the guide to that, this is 👇

Get your free guide to people development

Well what on earth is this blog post then? 

The definition. The foundation. The ‘let’s get it all clear before we start building a people development strategy’ post..

So, here we go - what is people development? Answered in a no-nonsense way…

An introduction to people development

People development is our process of supporting employees in improving their skills, knowledge, and competencies. 

And it can be done in a number of ways.

Training, coaching, mentorship, career paths and growth-driven learning.

And it extends beyond competencies too, including communication skills, leadership abilities, and emotional intelligence.

The aim is to create a workforce that is not only competent but also adaptable and ready to meet the challenges of an ever-changing work environment.

The Importance of people development

The importance of people development cannot be overstated - it’s a key driver of organisational success and employee satisfaction. 

Through people development, businesses can build a workforce that’s proficient now and primed for future challenges.

And that’s as important in a fast-changing world as you’d expect it to be! 

Especially as we simply cannot afford to lose knowledge, because people development positively influences employee engagement and retention too.

It leads to increased job satisfaction, higher levels of engagement, and better career prospects. 

When individuals grow, they are more likely to contribute positively to their teams and the broader organisation and less likely to seek opportunities elsewhere.

Understanding the people development process

Techniques for effective people development

Context, context, context.

This is the basis for effective people development! 

We have to use the right techniques for the individual in question, how they support company goals and their own goals too.

Here are some of the ways you can do that:

  • Creating practice and low-stake scenarios for practical learning.
  • Teaming people up with internal subject matter experts.
  • Workshops and seminars with people who have the skill or knowledge they need.
  • Mentoring and coaching, to deliver personalised guidance.
  • Cross-functional collaboration, where new skills or areas of expertise are of interest.
  • Empowering people to find knowledge they need independently, by centralising resources and information in one place.

The role of leadership in people development

Effective leadership practices for people development

People development is ten times more difficult without good leadership involvement.

Good leaders recognise the importance of investing in their teams and adopt practices that support growth. 

Starting with leading by example! If they’re not prioritising their development, what message does that send to everyone else?

The other is to provide clear goals, based on that context, and driven by more than one token performance conversation every year.

The goals should be achievable and leaders should help map the path to achieving them.

And regular check-ins should be used to keep that on track. Is it working, good? If it isn’t, how do we change course to ensure development is happening.

Recognising and rewarding progress and achievements on that journey should be happening to. 

No ifs, buts and maybes.

Development can be hard. Learning needs us to be vulnerable. And people need positive reinforcement to keep them going.

Finally, a good leader is a facilitator. A connector between their employee and other people who can help them grow.

They should cultivate a supportive network by connecting employees with mentors and peers who can offer guidance and encouragement. It's through these collective efforts that leaders can foster an environment that drives people development.

The impact of leadership style on people development

We hope you’re not bored of the word context yet?

Because good leaders need to adopt a people development style that fits:

  • The organisation
  • The individual
  • The situation

Why? Because a leader's style can significantly impact the effectiveness of people development initiatives. 

Authoritative leaders who command and control may stifle growth by not allowing employees the freedom to explore and learn. 

Transformational leaders, who inspire and motivate, can drive development by fostering a supportive climate that encourages personal and professional growth.

Leaders who adopt a coaching style, focusing on personal development as much as performance, can empower employees to take ownership of their learning journey. 

By asking questions and facilitating self-reflection, these leaders help individuals identify their development needs and how to address them.

Participative leaders who involve employees in decision-making processes also contribute to development by giving them a sense of ownership and responsibility. 

When employees feel their opinions are valued, they are more likely to take initiatives for their development.

In summary, leadership styles that prioritise empowerment, collaboration, and continuous feedback tend to be more successful at promoting people development.

Establishing a culture of people development

Building a workplace that believes in people development

A workplace that’s centered around people development begins with a few core components.

  • Are we building a space where people can try, fail, learn and grow from those experiences?
  • Is there a shared vision and clarity around what learning and growth means?
  • Providing relevant resources and information that allows people to develop.
  • Clear feedback channels for lessons learned from development and what can be improved.

Another key element is something we mentioned earlier - recognising and celebrating achievements. 

This can be done through awards, public acknowledgements, or simple thank-you notes. The core idea is to reinforce the importance and impact of personal growth, motivating others to pursue their development.

By taking these steps, organisations can cultivate a workplace where people development is not just an initiative, but a core part of the culture.

How to promote a culture of continual learning

If there’s a culture or perception that learning is a one-off thing, this is where you start.

In too many companies, it’s one course, training session or event each year.

And that is - quite simply - not continuous learning. It’s definitely not the type of learning that fuels people development.

So it starts with setting expectations that learning is an ongoing process and not a one-time event. And encouraging employees to set personal learning objectives aligned with business goals can drive this mindset.

Providing diverse learning opportunities is essential. This can include in-house learning, bespoke pathways, or support for external education. Facilitating knowledge sharing through forums, workshops, or regular team meetings can promote collaborative learning too.

Leaders and managers should serve as role models by actively engaging in their own professional development and sharing their learning experiences with their teams. This shows that the organisation values growth at every level.

Another strategy is to integrate learning into the flow of work. This means creating opportunities for employees to apply new skills on the job, which can help reinforce and solidify learning.

Lastly, providing time and resources for learning shows that the organisation genuinely supports continual development. By investing in learning initiatives, companies can foster a culture where continuous improvement is the norm.

Measuring the impact of people development

Quantitative and Qualitative Metrics for People Development

It’ll come as no surprise that you’ll need both qualitative and quantitative metrics to get this right.

If you’ve done everything we discussed so far, you’ll be on track to getting that data - because you’d have baked it in or shaped people development around company goals.

So, you’ll already have clear metrics on whether it’s been a success on that front.

Qualitative will give you those insights into what it means for the individual person:

Do they feel like they’re growing? What more would they like to see? 

What successes have they seen off the back of their development opportunities.

The clue is very much in the name with people development - do the people you’re responsible for developing feel like it’s happening?

If they do, these are the stories you can tell others to show them the value.

And if you’re ready to build a people development strategy that really develops people, get our free guide today.