People Development: An Essential Guide for HR

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People Development: An Essential Guide for HR

People development is key to retaining your workforce and boosting business performance. How can you as an HR professional create an effective people development strategy for your organization? Let’s find out. 

What is people development?
Examples of people development
7 Tips for an effective people development strategy 

What is people development?

The term people development encompasses all the initiatives that an organization has in place to help its employees grow their skills, behaviors, and competencies. These initiatives are based on a people development strategy that aims to help the organization reach its business goals. 

Usually, the HR department (and in larger organizations the L&D department) is in charge of a company’s people development strategy and the process that comes with it. 

Development activities can vary from job rotation and (peer) coaching to targeted training, mentorship programs and much more. We’ll look at various examples of people development later in this article.  

Why people development matters

There are many reasons why your organization should prioritize people development. Here’s a few:

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  • Closing the skills gaps: A 2020 study of 1000 business owners by PeopleCert found that 6 in 10 job applicants lack the skills employers are looking for. Another 40% of companies are unable to find people with the necessary qualifications, even for entry-level jobs, according to McKinsey.  

Rather than looking outside your organization for a solution, look inside. Perform a skills gap analysis and invest in the development of your people.

  • Future of work readiness. With the emergence of new technologies and news work models, your employees need to have the skills that enable them to thrive in an evolving work environment.
  • Expanding organizational capabilities. Offer employees the opportunity to build skills, behaviors, and competencies that will give your organization a competitive advantage.
  • Employee retention & engagement. Employees whose organizations invest in their development are more likely to stay on board longer. They are also more engaged. According to a recent survey from Better Buys, employees with professional development opportunities have a 34% higher retention and are 15% more engaged.   
  • Driving business performance. Skilled, capable, and knowledgeable employees help your organization achieve its busines goals. Stats from Deloitte found that organizations with a strong learning culture where leaders are rewarded for developing people and moving people in the best role are 52% more productive, 56% more likely to be the first to market with their products and services, and 17% more profitable than their peers.
  • Better customer service. A knock on effect of having more engaged and productive employees who stay with the company longer is an improvement in customer service too.
  • Attracting talent & boosting employer brand. Job seekers tend to prioritize employers that will invest in their development. 68% of employees consider training and development an organization’s most important policy. Showcasing your people development strategy to potential candidates will assist in your employer branding efforts. 
  • Take Chipotle Mexican Grill, which created social media posts showcasing their employees relaying their experience while working at the business, as well as how they grew within the company, through Chipotle’s people development strategy.

Examples of people development

Examples of People Development

1. Cultivating a learning culture

According to the CIPD, a learning culture is one that embeds learning into the individual, team, and organizational levels. Employees in companies with a strong learning culture usually have a growth mindset. 

New York Life Insurance Co. provides a great example of a company with a keen focus on people development. The company attempts to make each moment an opportunity for learning through every interaction and relationship, making learning continuous and intrinsic to the organization.

Cultivating a remote learning culture   

Cultivating a learning culture remotely can be more challenging than within a face-to-face environment.

“When we go from a learning culture where it happens ad hoc, either intentional or just sort of these moments just happen, to an environment where you really have to be a lot more intentional, and you don’t have those connections that just happen, you really need to build them, design them. It really takes the strategizing to the next level because you just have to be so much more intentional. I think that’s the biggest difference, that being intentional about the connections that you’re building, the relationships, the learning experiences, so that people at home, or wherever they are working, feel connected to each other, to the organization, and to the learning.” Debora Gallo, Global Head of Talent Development at Wiz.

2. Job rotation

Job rotation is the practice of moving employees between jobs in an organization. Rotations usually happen within jobs at the same level (and are, therefore, not considered promotions). They also tend to be temporary, which means that people move back to their original role after a certain time. 

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Job rotation is an excellent way to transfer specific skills, knowledge, and competencies from one employee to another. For example, a manager could benefit from exposure to various departments within the organization before taking on a more senior leadership role. Similarly, a marketing manager in one team could benefit from working in another marketing team to gain additional skills. 

3. Peer coaching 

Peer coaching is a confidential process where two or more colleagues work together to reflect on current practices, expand, refine, and build new skills; share ideas; teach one another, conduct classroom research; or solve problems in the workplace (Robins, 1991).

The combination of job rotation and peer coaching can provide invaluable development opportunities, particularly for employees who have recently joined the company.

4. Targeted training and skill building 

Targeted training uses a mix of formal and informal learning to fill specific skills gaps in an organization. It can be a great way to ensure that both new and existing employees are fully prepared for and supported to perform in their roles. 

Skill building is the process that an organization helps its employees acquire the skills needed to achieve its strategic objectives and gain a competitive advantage. 

This is done by introducing skill-building activities that are aimed at helping employees improve specific skills. Consider daily dilemma scenarios, customer persona stories, problem-solving serious games, and communication skill simulations.

5. Job shadowing

Job shadowing is a form of on-the-job learning that allows interested employees to closely follow, observe, and at times perform tasks of another employee in a specific role.

Job shadowing is one of the most effective ways for an employee to acquire a new skill or potentially follow a new career path. 

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6. Self-paced learning

Self-paced learning can include several different things. For example, the certificate programs and courses offered at Academy to Innovate HR provide self-paced learning for HR professionals. Self-paced learning enables the learner to interact with the course materials from wherever and at their own pace. 

7. Mentorship programs

There are generally two types of mentorship programs: long-term or short-term mentorship programs. An example of a long-term mentorship program is peer mentoring, while micro-mentoring is an example of short-term mentoring. 

Micro-mentoring is a relatively new, innovative form of workplace mentoring that is short in duration and usually occurs in the space of just a few hours or over a few days. It requires only a small time commitment from both mentors and mentees and only focuses on a specific topic, skill, or project. 

This short-term form of mentoring can occur congruently with other mentorship programs that your organization has in place. It merely creates an additional and accessible learning and development opportunity for employees. 

7 Tips for an effective people development strategy 

While an effective people development strategy won’t look the same for every organization, there are several actions that should be considered in developing the strategy: 

  1. Review business objectives and goals. A good understanding of the organizational objectives and goals will help you determine what skills, behaviors, and capabilities you need to focus on within your people development. 
  2. Conduct a training needs analysis (TNA). Uncover the skills gaps within your organization that could hinder your growth. Relevant questions for your TNA can be:
    • What is the organization trying to achieve?
    • Which job behaviors contribute to the achievement of the organization’s goals?
    • Which skills are required to display those behaviors?
    • Is all the information required to start the training design and development present?
    • Are there non-training alternatives that we can deploy that have a similar effect? 
  3. Select the right people development methods. Depending on the skills gaps you need to fill, consider the most effective people development methods. As we mentioned earlier, if your senior HR professionals need to work on their business acumen, a job rotation in the business operations department could be helpful. 
  4. Prepare employee development plans. Create individual development plans with your employees based on their needs and interests and the requirements of their role and team.  
  5. Upskill yourself as an HR/L&D professional. To build a continuously effective people development strategy, consider your HR team’s own skills gaps and development needs. Focus, for example, on future HR skills that will help to bring more value to the organization and future-proof your HR career
  6. Hire the right people. Hiring the right people isn’t just about skills, it’s also about building the right culture in your organization. Organizations that promote a strong learning culture tend to have employees that also embrace a growth mindset. Consider not just culture fit when hiring, but also the future culture you would like to build when it comes to your organization’s learning and development goals.  
  7. Keep experimenting. Even if your people development initiatives are working really well and are bringing you the results you were aiming for, remain open to experiments. Explore new techniques to encourage learning, like micro-mentoring, job rotations or encouraging employees to explore self-paced learning courses.  

The importance of curiosity

“The way I see it is that the hiring process is a bit of a dance. It’s like okay, let’s see if you know how well we dance together. And kind of what I’m attuned to is the level of curiosity, and whether this person is open to learning just within our conversation. I think the key thing is making it a conversation where we’re learning about each other and not a conversation where I’m testing you to see if you pass the test so that you fit into our culture,” Debora Gallo explains. 

On a final note 

A successful people development strategy helps your employees develop skills, behaviors and competencies that will, in turn, enable the organization to perform better and grow the business. A comprehensive strategy consists of multiple people development methods that cater to different learning needs and facilitate the development of a particular skill, behavior, or competency in the most effective way possible. 

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