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April 25, 2022
4 Minutes
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What is People Development and How to Improve it?

Written by:
Luke Dunn

So... What Exactly is People Development?  

Recently the team chatted with one HR professional who reflected on how critical training and development opportunities are in retaining people... especially now with the Great Resignation. However, she also went so far as to say that in her 18+ years of HR experience, that no organization she’s been with had actually been able to fully walk the talk successfully in this area!

Why is this? Well one reason may be that people aren’t aligned on what the term means (which then makes it pretty difficult to do well). Most managers agree that they want to develop their employees because they have heard it leads to higher productivity and efficiency. The idea sounds good in theory, but what exactly does “developing your people” truly mean? First, let’s dive into understanding this hot topic.

The broader term of “people development” can be broken into two main categories:  

  1. Personal growth
  2. Professional development  

As a manager, it’s important to know what each of these mean and how you can support your employees in both of these areas. A manager who does not focus on developing their team at all, or even in just one of these areas, is failing to deliver on one of the primary responsibilities within their role. According to Gallup, 87% of millennials strongly desire opportunities for development and growth in their careers and it’s become clear that they will leave jobs and organizations that fail to give it to them.

Let’s explore what each category of development means and how employees want to be supported…

Personal Growth:

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This is the lifelong process each of us goes through where we continuously assess and work to better our skills, capabilities, and talents. While we are all doing this to some level, development in this form can mean something different for everybody.  

For example, an employee may want to train to hike El Capitan in Yosemite, California or learn a new language. Some people want to build a home in a new place, work on intentionally loving and cherishing their family members, or aiming to become healthier through better nutrition or fitness. When we launched Beta to our parent company, it was heart-warming and enlightening to see a lot of people sharing their visions of how they want to take intentional actions related to their own personal development!  

Goals like this are clearly beneficial and contributive to one’s improvement as an individual. Even if you don’t use iAlign, a manager should be able to recognize these as healthy personal goals and encourage their employees to pursue such interests in other ways.  

However, this is where many employees have reported feeling extremely unsupported. Caring about your employees on a personal level is crucial because it shows them that you value them and their personal desires. Those who know their team well are far better people managers because they understand how to connect with their employees and support them.  

When an employee is developed by their manager in this way, they can define their personal vision and life goals more clearly. This also allows managers to show workers how their personal goals and values can be aligned with those of the organization’s.

Professional Development:

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Professional development is where a person’s passions and skills intersect with the needs of their organization. This type of development usually involves the identification of goals and learning of new skills that can be applied to a job. For example, an employee may want to complete a leadership training course or attend networking events to gain more experience and expertise. Employees who are encouraged by their managers to grow in this way often do better in their current position, which can lead to opportunities to be promoted.  

However, a crucial piece missing from the equation is that managers are often not trained in how to be supportive of their reportees’ training and development. In fact, SHRM studies show that about half (50%) of employees believe their own performance would improve if their direct supervisor had more training in people management. Managers that are investing in professional development are stimulating higher performance and generating more growth opportunities for their team.  

An organization that emphasizes the importance of professional development can take great strides towards building the employee-base with the vast knowledge and heightened skill sets needed in today's quickly evolving world of work. When employees are given opportunities to set professional growth goals that address development needs, they feel empowered to craft their own future.  

So how can managers begin developing workers? It’s first important to remember the difference between bosses and coaches...  

5 Changes to Better Develop People

When it comes to managing, there is a clear distinction between those who act as a boss and those who act as a coach. Bosses are typically characterized as authoritative, ignorant, and uncaring. On the other hand, coaches empower, motivate, and equip workers by focusing on their strengths rather than their weaknesses. Here are 5 ways managers can support the development of employees by shifting their mindset to be more of a coach than a boss.  

  • Engage – Instead of just telling people what to do like a boss might do, a coach learns to engage with their team regularly by having check-ins, meaningful conversations, and establishing goals. They monitor employees and are perceptive of what individuals and groups need.
  • Leverage Strengths – While bosses may punish someone for their mistakes or shortcomings, a coach is quick to see the strengths in that person. Coaches are experts in supporting people to live in what they already do well and pushing people to be confident using their unique talents in the workplace.  
  • Set Clear Expectations - A boss sometimes allows people to operate under ambiguity, but a coach is always setting clear expectations so that workers are never left wondering. They align goals and provide clarity so that teams can communicate effectively and smoothly.  
  • Give Constant Feedback – Employees are often left guessing what their boss thinks of them, but coaches know how to give constructive and constant feedback. Coaches are intentional about setting aside time to meet with workers to discuss their performance and encourage them in their strengths.  
  • Support Growth – A boss may only care about what employees are producing to help the organization, but a coach supports workers to be well-rounded individuals. They are committed to helping people become better versions of themselves at work and at home.  


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Managers who are committed to developing their employees personally and professionally help create better individuals and better businesses. At iAlign.Work, we believe focusing forward and using a supportive coaching mindset is vital to growing people, teams, and organizations.

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