Time icon
min read

People Development: Guide, Examples, and 8 Steps to Success

Supporting employee growth is a surefire way to retain your talent. Learn more about investing in people development.

In this post

  • Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet

  • Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet

Imagine your company is launching a new product. Your product development team would rigorously research industry trends, create a development strategy, collect feedback, and refine the product until they reach perfection. 

What if we told you that your company’s most valuable asset—your people—requires a similar commitment to growth and excellence? 

This guide explores the intricacies of people development and its pivotal role as the backbone of your business. We’ll also provide the steps required to develop your workforce to the next level. 

Understanding people development

People development is an essential aspect of organizational growth and success. It focuses on developing and improving a company’s entire workforce, including its employees, managers, and leaders. Employee development aims to enhance their existing skills, cultivate new ones, and stimulate personal and professional growth within individuals. It’s ongoing and occurs throughout the entire employee lifecycle, including the following areas:

  • Employee onboarding: Introducing new employees to the company’s culture, values, and expectations, then equipping everyone with the tools they need to succeed at the organization. 
  • Training and development: Providing opportunities for learning and growth through regular workshops, seminars, conferences, and other programs.
  • Performance management: Setting individual goals, providing feedback, and measuring progress to encourage continuous growth.
  • Career progression: Creating career paths and advancement opportunities for employees to reach their full potential.

7 examples of people development

People development isn’t about checking a box after your employees complete an annual course—it goes much deeper than that. Think of it as a strategy and a range of activities you’ll use to develop your employees continuously. People development lends itself to some creative initiatives, including some of the following: 

1. Mentorship

Mentorship programs pair experienced and knowledgeable individuals with those seeking growth. This partnership creates valuable learning opportunities and personal connections to form a unique relationship. Some mentoring pairs meet up for an informal coffee chat (face-to-face or in person) when needed. Others might have a more structured process, including goals, conversation prompts, and regular check-ins. 

2. Courses

Traditional courses have a reputation for being stuffy, often in a classroom or external training center. Nevertheless, they can be important to people development, empowering employees with the necessary skills and knowledge to do their work. 

Modern-day training is more flexible, enabling employees to go at their own pace, according to their personalized learning styles. Consider offering online courses, microlearning, gamification, and interactive workshops to make learning more engaging and effective.

3. Leadership courses

Leadership development courses focus on honing leaders’ skills, such as communication, decision-making, and conflict resolution, all vital for a successful team. These courses often involve immersive experiences, simulations, and case studies to help leaders put theory into practice and further develop their employees. 

Author and leadership communication expert John Maxwell explains how he was inspired as a leader to commit to people development: 

“To develop yourself is to add, but when you develop others, you begin to multiply. I came to a conclusion that the success of others that I worked with was more important to me than my own personal success. The willingness and the ability to pour yourself into others and to develop people will bring you the greatest fulfillment. Success is what I do for myself. Significance is what I do for others.”

4. Job rotation

Job rotations encourage employees to learn different roles while bringing new ideas and skills to their current positions. 

Example: A settlements department employee for a bank might rotate to a customer service position to learn more about the bank’s products and services. This cross-functional experience is beneficial for both personal growth and the organization as a whole. Once the employee returns to their initial role, they’ll have a broader understanding of the company’s operations and can better serve customers behind the scenes. 

5. Role shadowing

Shadowing involves following and observing someone working in a different role or department. This offers valuable insights into other business areas, fosters cross-departmental collaboration, and can lead to new ideas and perspectives.  

Example: A sales rep might shadow a product developer to learn about the company’s products and development process, enabling them to sell more effectively.

6. Peer coaching

Peer coaching involves pairing employees with colleagues with expertise in a particular area. A Harvard Business Review article mentions the surprising power of peer coaching, including benefits like: 

  • Immersion in real-time group dynamics: Peer coaching groups offer a unique opportunity to observe group dynamics and learn how to navigate them effectively. This can be especially beneficial for new hires as they quickly adapt to the organization. 
  • Insight into diverse perspectives: Groups often include people from different departments, backgrounds, and levels, producing diverse perspectives on problem-solving and decision-making.
  • Opportunities to practice new skills in a safe space: Peer coaching encourages participants to try new skills and receive feedback from their peers. When your people feel psychologically safe, this builds confidence and accelerates learning.
  • An enduring support network: Coaching groups often stay connected long after the program ends, creating a permanent support network for ongoing learning and development.

7. Job simulations

Simulations allow employees to practice handling certain tasks and situations before tackling them in the real world. Using these practical learning opportunities, including VR, role-play, and other interactive exercises, avoids the consequences of making mistakes on the job. 

Example: A company might create a sales simulation game where employees can practice pitching their products to different customer personas and receive instant feedback on their technique.

Why is people development important to your business?

Developing your people is the right thing to do for the good of your company and your employees. Here are three compelling reasons to provide rich development opportunities for your workforce. 

Attract and retain great employees 

93% of organizations are worried about employee retention, according to LinkedIn’s Workplace Learning report. The good news is that providing learning opportunities is considered the top way to reduce employee attrition. 

This is backed up by the Work Institute’s 2023 Retention Report, which highlights that “career” is consistently the top reason people have left their jobs over the past 13 years. As the report explains, “companies do not do enough to develop their employees,” it follows that offering greater professional development opportunities could turn the tide on turnover. 

Build workplace relationships 

Talent development rarely happens in a vacuum; it involves multiple sources of training and enrichment, which all come together to build long-lasting professional relationships. Discussing the science of building great teams, Alex (Sandy) Pentland, Toshiba Professor of Media Arts and Sciences, explains the key elements of team communication: 

  1. Energy: This refers to the number and nature of exchanges among team members, which could encompass 1:1 meetings, praise, mentoring sessions, performance management discussions, and more. Face-to-face meetings produce the highest energy, with video calls available as a substitute for in-person conversations. 
  2. Engagement: People development involves working together toward common organizational goals. Collaboration and knowledge sharing thrive when team members are pursuing common objectives. 
  3. Exploration: When individuals communicate with people outside of their immediate team, this networking opens the door to professional innovation, creativity, and new perspectives. External training providers, business coaches, and mentors from adjacent teams all provide opportunities for exploration.

Improve diversity, equity, and inclusion

People development presents an opportunity to build a diverse and inclusive workplace, which is important to 76% of job seekers. Companies that embrace career development for their employees build more inclusive cultures by providing learning opportunities for all employees, regardless of their background or organizational level. This fosters a sense of belonging where diverse perspectives are valued and welcomed.    

How to create an effective people development strategy in 8 steps

Ready to win at people development? Follow the steps below, which build seamlessly on each other. 

1. Set SMART goals 

To begin, establish SMART goals for your people development strategy, which are:  

  • Specific: Your people development goals should clearly define what skills or competencies you want your employees to acquire or improve. 
  • Measurable: You must be able to track their progress using pre-defined metrics, such as training completion rates. 
  • Achievable: Ensure your people can realistically achieve the goals with the resources available. 
  • Relevant: Your goals must be relevant to individual roles, your company, and your industry.   
  • Time-bound: Create a timeframe for achieving these goals, with dates for interim milestones as required. Having a schedule creates a sense of urgency and accountability. 

When you put it all together, an appropriate SMART goal for your people development strategy could be: “By the end of the year, 80% of our leaders will have committed to conflict resolution training. They will take a microlearning course, which we can measure by tracking training completion rates and feedback from employees.” 

2. Understand your employees’ current skill sets 

Before implementing any development initiatives, gain a deep understanding of your employees’ existing skills and knowledge. It’s also crucial to consider their career aspirations and development needs when tailoring your strategy. 

Start by conducting comprehensive assessments, including surveys, skill assessments, or performance evaluations. A thorough skills gap analysis will identify their strengths and areas for improvement. 

3. Complete a training needs analysis 

Based on what you’ve learned about your employee’s existing skills, the next step is to conduct a training needs analysis (TNA). This step identifies what training, development, or learning opportunities best bridge these gaps. Ask questions like: 

  • What development skills do our employees need to be successful in their current roles? 
  • What skills do they lack that could help them advance in their careers? 
  • Is there a gap between the skills our workforce currently has and the ones we will need in the future?

4. Choose your development methods 

Once you clearly understand your employees’ skills and development needs, determine the methods and resources that will best facilitate people development within your organization. Keep in mind your employees’ diverse learning styles and preferences, and offer a mix of formal and informal learning opportunities. For example: 

  • If you’re short on time, you might combine informal mentoring with microlearning. 
  • If you want to encourage team building, then peer coaching could be the right fit. 
  • If you need to develop an understanding of a brand-new topic, learn the nuts and bolts in a formal training course. 

5. Create professional development plans 

People may be a plural term. But collective people development hinges on committing to growth at an individual level. And this begins with professional development planning. 

Encourage your employees to create and follow through on individual development plans (IDP) that align with their career aspirations, as well as the organization’s needs. An effective IDP will include: 

  • Short-term goals: These should focus on skills or competencies that an employee can achieve within a year or less.  
  • Long-term goals: These should align with an employee’s career aspirations and may require more time to accomplish.  
  • Potential challenges and solutions: Anticipate obstacles or roadblocks and brainstorm potential solutions to overcome them. 

6. Assess development progress and respond to feedback 

“Feedback is the breakfast of champions,” said author and management training consultant Ken Blanchard. And it’s also a key way to regularly track and assess the progress of your people in their development journeys. 

Once your people development strategy is in motion, gather feedback from employees, mentors, coaches, and other stakeholders to understand the effectiveness of your people development initiatives. 

Flexibility is key: Be willing to make adjustments based on feedback and changing organizational needs.

7. Set an example 

HR professionals, managers, mentors, and anyone else involved in people development should lead by example. Show your commitment to developing a continuous learning culture by: 

  • Conducting your own self-assessments
  • Creating your own IDPs and sharing your goals with your direct reports 
  • Requesting feedback from your peers and direct reports, then acting on it
  • Participating in company-wide training programs and opportunities to improve skills and foster a culture of learning within the organization

8. Experiment and adjust 

Don’t be afraid to trial new people development strategies. The working world is changing at pace as we become accustomed to remote working, automation, new technologies, and more. So, it’s intuitive that we should experiment with developing our people in new ways, too. 

The key? Know what success looks like to you, and keep tracking your progress toward your SMART goals. Regularly review and adjust your people development strategies to determine what works best for your organization and everyone who works for it. 

Win at people development with Benepass

Developing employees depends on creating a clear people development strategy that aligns with your business goals and remembering the individuals that make up your teams. 

Benepass offers a professional development account that supports employees as they progress with your company. You add the money, and your employees can choose how to spend it on their growth. Setting up this perk is straightforward: 

  • Step one: Choose coaching, courses, workshops, industry events, conferences, and more as eligible items to add to your professional development program. 
  • Step two: We code your unique preferences into our Benepass platform.
  • Step three: We’ll connect to your payroll system to automate enrollment. 
  • Step four: Your employees can sign up and use their professional development account from day one. 

Wondering how much companies are offering in professional development stipends? The 2023 Benepass Benefits Benchmarking Guide found that companies offer an average of $998 in annual professional development benefits to their employees. Download the complete guide to benchmark your benefits against companies of similar size and industry. 

2023 Benepass Benefits Benchmarking Guide

Ready to accelerate employee development in your company? Book a demo of Benepass today to learn how to put people at the heart of your organizational growth. We’re available at sales@getbenepass.com if you have any questions. 

Download Icon

Frequently Asked Questions

No items found.

Rebecca Noori

Rebecca Noori is a freelance HR Tech and SaaS writer who is obsessed with our world of work. She writes about everything from employee benefits and performance management to upskilling and productivity tips. When she's not writing, you'll find her grappling with phonics homework and football kits, looking after her three kids.

LinkedIn logo.Globe logo.