People development is the process of identifying the skills needed to achieve organizational goals, and designing learning, coaching, mentoring programs to meet those goals.
People development has become a critical need for organizations big and small. The tight labor market means that vacant roles involving critical skills are harder to fill, while business and technological changes mean that existing roles will need constant updating.
According to McKinsey & Company, the great majority of organizations will face a “meaningful skills gap” in the coming years. The causes are both technological and demographic. The upshot is that organizations wanting to “future proof” their business success need to make consistent, ongoing people development a priority.
Organizations need to not only develop their existing talent pool, but to “think outside the box” in terms of attraction and recruitment. That will include:
· Hiring for Potential: Finding candidates with the ability to master new skills will be as important as finding candidates with existing skill sets.
· Considering Non-Traditional Candidates: People with more circuitous career paths may be more adept at learning new skills and thriving in different environments.
· Looking for a Growth Mindset: Organizations will benefit from candidates who view personal development with a positive, open attitude.
People development will be key both in advancing the skills of an organization’s existing workforce and in bringing in new employees. This blog will examine several aspects of the process.
Creating a Culture of Learning to Spark People Development
Whatever development model an organization chooses, creating an environment in which learning and development are priorities – a “culture of learning” – is fundamental.
· Having top leadership and management on board is the first condition needed to create a culture of learning. Without advocacy at the top, learning and development is unlikely to gain traction.
· Setting organizational goals for people development is another way to cultivate a culture of learning. According to McKinsey, “best-in-class” organizations provide an average of 75 hours of training per employee annually. Some set “aspirational” goals well above that figure. Hours dedicated to development is a critical first step. More important, however, is assessing the impact of development on people and the business goals. Measuring the number of hours is easy. Measuring the impact is far more difficult, but also more critical.
· Setting aside a dedicated time and place for people development is another useful step towards creating a culture of learning, and making organizational follow-through more likely.
Organizational support and advocacy are the foundations for creating a culture of learning. By taking specific, practical actions, like those mentioned above, the organization demonstrates its commitment to people development.
Choosing Effective People Development Methods
The methods of providing learning and development opportunities include everything from online self-study, to formal classroom work, to on-the-job training and mentoring. Circumstances may dictate which methods are practical, but the organization will have choices to make in every case.
In Person v. Online Study: Studies show that in person learning is more effective than online or virtual courses, leading to better outcomes and greater retention. It is also the most costly training method, but may be appropriate to develop highly technical skills where the extra expense is more cost effective.
In many cases, due to the number of people to be trained or geographic challenges, online learning or self-study courses are the only practical solutions. Even in this situation, the organization has a choice in how to present the material.
“Segment of One” v. “Cohort-Based” Courses: Debate continues whether group (“cohort-based”) or individual (“segment-of-one”) courses are more effective.
According to the Academy to Innovate HR, employees prefer to study on demand, at their own pace, and show positive outcomes from that approach. The Harvard Business Review disagrees. According to the HBR, “cohort-based” group learning, with set schedules and milestones, produces better outcomes – partly as the result of group support and reinforcement.
Each organization will have to make its own decisions based on its unique circumstances. A combined approach may be best, but knowing the options available is the first step.
Practical and Experiential Methods: People development often comes through on-the-job training, mentoring, and coaching. Some other, less frequently mentioned development tools include:
· Job Rotation: A temporary assignment in a different functional area or business division to gain experience and perspective. Job rotation may be particularly helpful before a promotion to a senior management position.
· Peer Coaching: A process in which two or more colleagues work together to build new skills, or to consider solutions to problems in the workplace. Peer coaching is a special-purpose hybrid of the “cohort-based” and “segment-of-one” approaches.
· Targeted Training and Micro-Mentoring: Both of these are short duration, high effort approaches to solve specific problems or fill specific knowledge gaps. They require a short time commitment and can be an effective stopgap remedy where needed.
Designing an Effective People Development Program
Organizations have unique circumstances and needs. Each will benefit from different approaches to people development. In some cases, the organization may have a dedicated learning and development team to facilitate the process. In other cases, the organization may seek outside help to design a people development program.
However the process proceeds, each organization should regularly assess its business goals. The organization should then consider the skills needed to reach those goals, and the best way to close any “skills gaps” it finds.
Once the organization has decided on a course of action, the key to any people development program is regular monitoring and assessment, to find out what’s working, and to improve or discard things that aren’t working. Conducting follow-up assessments 30 to 60 days after the conclusion of a course or training session is especially useful in making that determination.
Developing an effective people development program will only become more critical as time passes. To “future proof” their business goals, organizations need to ensure they are taking specific, practical steps toward creating a culture of learning.
If you would like to learn more about people development, please contact us.
Rachel Burr is an executive and leadership coach with over 20 years of experience working with CEOs and the C-suite across all industries, in organizations of from 20 to 10,000 employees. Rachel holds dual master’s degrees in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology, and numerous certifications in the field of executive coaching. Rachel is a “people expert” who works with clients to unleash their leadership potential.