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People development: growing talent for business success


Imagine a business where your people felt engaged, happy and motivated. Where they were able to develop, learn and grow. And where, by realising their potential, they were the driving force behind the success of the business. What a great place to work that would be!

But CEOs the world over are worried that it’s getting harder and harder to turn this vision into reality. A global skills shortage, rapid workplace change, the need for agile employees, and digital transformation have created a perfect storm for people development.

The need for action

PwC’s 2019 Annual Global CEO Survey paints a picture of curbed confidence and caution about growth prospects – and the skills shortage is a big reason.

  • 34% of CEOs said they were “extremely concerned” that availability of key skills was a business threat to their organisation’s growth
  • 55% of the extremely concerned CEOs report that the skills gap was impeding innovation
  • 44% of these CEOs said they were missing growth targets because of the shortage of key skills.

In all regions of the globe, CEOs acknowledge that “significant retraining/upskilling” is the most important response to the crisis.

In the UK, meanwhile, the influential independent think tank, the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), reveals that the number of skills-shortage vacancies in the UK has risen by 247% in six years. And, in its 2019 Future of Work report, it says this situation isn’t being adequately addressed by employers. It highlights a UK Government survey showing an average of just four training days per employee per year.

But people development isn’t just about skills. It’s about engagement, too.

Motivated, connected employees perform better for your business. When people are engaged, they are more productive, driving profits up by 21% compared to firms with low employee engagement (EY).

People development action plan

Four days of ‘one-size-fits-all’ training a year? Forget it! To successfully develop your people, workplace learning must be all these things:

Continuous & lifelong: From preboarding and onboarding, and on every step of the way, your employees should be supported and developed continuously so that they progress seamlessly through all the stages of their careers.

Personalised & flexible: The learning must be meaningful and relevant to everyone. It also needs to be responsive to changing needs, as workplace roles lose their set boundaries, requiring a wider skillset among employees.

Engaging & inspiring: To be truly effective, the learning must be creative, engaging and motivating. Accessible, ‘anytime, anywhere’ learning that combines elearning modules and immersive learning technologies will inspire your people to want to learn – and to stay.   

Looking for inspiration? Here are two examples of people development learning programmes that have achieved great success.

Leadership development at Royal Mail

Leaders at the UK’s leading delivery business learned how to turn challenging conversations into positives ones, with the help of immersive learning. Managers were able to try conversation responses and see the consequences, using an interactive video based on real-life scenarios. As a result of the training, 90% of the managers have made lasting changes to their conversation style.

Embedding customer service skills at an AXA contact centre

An engaging blended learning campaign has embedded a world class customer service culture at AXA Business Insurance’s contact centre in the UK. Real conversations were at the heart of the learning, which used a mix of face-to-face methods and digital media. A fun launch to the campaign got everyone involved and engaged. Positive comments on an independent customer review site have more than doubled since the training.


Whatever the business need – sales, customer service, communications skills, culture, leadership development – your employees are the key. A skilled, engaged, dynamic workforce is the ultimate competitive advantage for any business, but unlocking this positive vision means reimagining people development as a fundamental business driver. 

You’re only as good as your people. And if they don’t grow, you don’t grow.