Why would I invest in developing people?

What if I invest in developing people and then they leave? What if you don’t and then they stay? Which of those two scenarios do you prefer? In my view, the first is the only option. Sure they might leave eventually but it depends on you. When people feel part of a community of like-minded people, when they are growing and developing new opportunities and they are contributing to something bigger than themselves, they’ll be happy to stay. All of those aspects are completely within your control.

Sure, maybe your organisation is not growing fast enough to facilitate that growth for everyone. If you consistently invest in developing your people and they stay just an extra one or two years as a result, your investment would have certainly paid dividends. There are several ways to develop your people. One effective way could be to invest in executive coaching, while there are many other ways as follows:

1. Embracing New Experiences

Developing People With New Experiences: The Gateway to Personal Growth
Diving into new experiences is a powerful way to foster personal and professional growth. By stepping out of one’s comfort zone, individuals are exposed to different perspectives and challenges that can sharpen their problem-solving skills. A study from arXiv suggests that employees who regularly engage in new experiences at work are more adaptable and innovative. Real-life examples include job rotations or international assignments, which offer fresh environments and tasks, pushing individuals to adapt and learn.

2. Taking on Additional Responsibilities

Developing People With Additional Responsibilities: Stepping Stones to Leadership
Taking on more responsibilities is not just about increasing one’s workload; it’s about growth, trust, and preparation for leadership roles. When employees are given additional tasks or roles, it signifies trust from management and provides them with opportunities to showcase their capabilities. For instance, Google’s “20% project” encourages employees to spend 20% of their time on side projects, which has led to the creation of products like Gmail and AdSense.

3. The Power of Mentoring

Developing People With Mentoring: Guiding the Next Generation of Leaders
Mentoring is a time-tested method for personal and professional development. By pairing experienced professionals with less experienced colleagues, knowledge, skills, and insights are shared, benefiting both parties. According to a report on “people development strategy,” mentoring programs in companies like General Electric have resulted in higher retention rates and faster career progression for mentees. Implementing mentoring program software provides matching, operational, and reporting structures that companies need to ensure its effectiveness and impact.

4. The Collective Wisdom of Group Learning

Developing People With Group Learning: Harnessing Collective Knowledge
Group learning, whether through workshops, seminars, or brainstorming sessions, offers a platform for individuals to share knowledge and learn from one another. It fosters collaboration and exposes participants to diverse viewpoints. Companies like Pixar use “Braintrust” meetings where teams present their work, gather feedback, and learn collectively, leading to successful projects like “Toy Story” and “Finding Nemo.”

5. The Underrated Value of Informal Learning

Developing People With Informal Learning: Everyday Lessons Outside the Classroom
Not all learning happens in formal settings. Informal learning, be it through casual conversations, observing peers, or self-driven research, plays a crucial role in personal development. A study on “people development skills” highlighted that nearly 70% of learning in the workplace is informal. Real-life examples include employees learning software tricks from colleagues or gaining insights from a casual chat with a client.

6. Continuous Feedback and Reflection

Developing People With Feedback: The Mirror to Personal Growth
Continuous feedback, both positive and constructive, is essential for development. It provides individuals with a clear understanding of their strengths and areas for improvement. Companies like Adobe have replaced traditional annual reviews with regular check-ins, leading to increased employee satisfaction and performance.

7. Investing in Professional Courses and Certifications

Developing People With Professional Development: Building Expertise with Courses
Investing in professional courses and certifications allows individuals to deepen their knowledge in specific areas. Whether it’s a course on leadership, a technical certification, or a workshop on soft skills, such structured learning paths offer a clear roadmap to expertise. For instance, Microsoft’s certification programs have been instrumental in helping professionals validate and showcase their technical skills.

By integrating these methods into a holistic people development strategy, organizations can ensure continuous growth and adaptability among their workforce.  If and when they do leave be proud because they will be the best advertisement for your business. Certain businesses like Ikea encourage their people to go and work for another company as part of their development. If you invest in developing your people like that they will come back with new skills and will enrich your company once again. Apart from everything, it is incredibly satisfying to see someone you have developed spread their wings. What follows are 5 essential aspects of developing people.

1. Make Time for Developing People

Developing people often doesn’t seem to be a high enough priority. Unfortunately, I hear “Oh my boss has just postponed our meeting. AGAIN!” or “I have been here for 4 months and I haven’t had a one-on-one conversation with my boss yet” or even “I can’t even remember the last time I had a one on one with my boss”. Make developing people a priority, schedule time and make it happen.  Keep your time so that the employee can rely on it. It gives certainty, builds trust and shows you care about their development.

2. Demonstrate Interest in Developing People

When developing people be interested in them as a person, in their vision and what is important to them today, in their next 12 months, in their life and their career. Remember it. Have a clear context for each one of your team members so you can cross-check their decisions about their vision. That way you will ensure, that you are developing people in a way that is relevant and meaningful to them. Understand what is going on for them right now. Get clear on their communication preferences so you can communicate with them in a way that they hear you best. Check in with them informally from time to time. Developing people might even mean that you send them an article that might be of interest to them. This will build even more trust.

3. Add Value where you can

Train, Coach and Mentor them depending on what they need. Not everyone wants a teacher or trainer, they might want you to be a coach and some may want a mentor, to hear about your experiences, and how you did it. Get clear on what role works best for developing each of your employees. It will be different depending on what stage of development the employee is in. Reflect on what you see, raise their awareness, and encourage self-reflection. Build their confidence and give them responsibility. Encourage decision-making and remove the fear of mistakes. Open doors and connect them with people they might need to meet or know.

4. Manage Energy and Flow When Developing People

Flow happens when challenge and skill are matched. Is the challenge too small that people are bored? Is the challenge too big for the current skill level that panic sets in? When developing your people maintain a balance and always increase skills in line with the challenges you give them.

5. Feedback and Acknowledgment

Finally, when developing your people make sure you always give constructive feedback. Reinforce the learning they had from making mistakes. Acknowledge their effort, their ideas, and their progress. Do it regularly, as people can forget praise within 7 days. Acknowledge them publicly, will drive them and others to want to grow and achieve even more. And most importantly celebrate the successes they were able to achieve as a result of their development.

And remember, the more you help others succeed, the more you and your organisation will succeed.

  • About the Author
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Insightful, creative and strategic facilitator for management teams and boards and Sparring Partner for Top Executives.
Energising business growth and performance through alignment of strategy and culture and integrating culture transformation and leadership development in English and German since 2000.
Over 25 years of international business experience as an entrepreneur, managing director and advisor.