People development: what’s your view?
People development is a key driver of Â business success. Without skilled and competent people no business will last long. This sentiment is widely held in the business community, and yet people development does not always feature as strongly in the priorities and strategic plans of businesses as the rhetoric would suggest.
One of the prime reasons for this comes back to the ‘time management’ issue of urgency versus importance. Despite our best intentions, human beings respond more readily to urgency that we do importance. It feels like it makes sense, although the classic 80/20 principle applies here. Our really important issues, 20% of what we have to do, tend to drive 80% of our success. People development can very easily fall into that ‘good intention’ space, where we all agree on how important it is, but it rarely lacks the degree of urgency that typically galvanises us into action.
A second issue that inhibits people development is how the budget is perceived. Put simply, is it seen as a spend or an investment? It may seem a simplistic idea, but the impact of holding one view or the other can be dramatic. Many organisations treat people development as a spend in the same way that buying a lottery ticket is a spend. You may get lucky and win a jackpot, but you probably won’t. You are much more likely to be left feeling you have nothing to show for your money as the only measure of success is the big win. In tougher economic times it is easier to justify cutting spend than reducing investment. That may be one reason why the latest CIPD (Chartered Institute of People and Development) annual survey shows an average 6% reduction in spending on people development.
Adopting the investment mindset is harder. It requires the ability to measure the return on your investment, and that is the holy grail for learning and development professionals. This can be especially challenging in the development of what are often referred to as soft skills.
The investment mindset requires aligning people development activity to the business, both strategically and operationally. The first question L&D professionals ask is ‘how can I support the business’?
How people development supports the business
- Enables the achievement of the businesses strategic goals
- Helps retain key staff
- Growing future managers and leaders
- Addresses skills shortages
- Supporting changes in the business structure or wider business environment
- Meeting future knowledge and skill requirements
- Attracting and recruiting key staff to the business
- Resource planning and flexibility