People development – who’s responsible?

people development

Developing people – a question that bothered me.

I was asked how the people in charge of people development in an organisation should behave – as suppliers or business partners?

That bothered me somewhat.

I understand where the question is coming from because it does reflect a very common reality. It pre-supposes that there is some separate function within an organisation that is in charge of people development. This would normally be HR or a function within HR called L&D. When someone in operations feels that their people need development, off they go to HR/L&D and ask for some training, or coaching, or e-learning.

The original question is wondering how the L&D function should respond to this request. Should they take the order and supply the training as requested, or should they seek to collaborate with the operations manager to jointly tackle the problems that have generated the request. Supplier or business partner?

A fair question, but what bothered me was that there was already an erroneous assumption in the original question. Have you spotted it yet?

Surely the line manager should be in charge of people development, not some distant separate department?

I read a Harvard Business Review blog recently by Monique Valcour and she said “If you’re not helping people develop, you’re not management material”. Those are strong words. Read them again.

Regardless of what else you expect from your managers, facilitating employee learning and development should be a non-negotiable competency. The manager should step up to their responsibility for people development. And the role of HR and L&D is to support them so that they can be effective people developers.

Developing the people on their team should be front and centre in every manager’s job description; they should be accountable for it, and in some way measured on it. After all, the job of a manager is to ensure the people on their team are excellent at what they do, with all that entails in terms of looking after them and their environment.

Good managers attract candidates, drive performance, engagement and retention, and play a key role in maximizing employees’ contribution to the firm. Poor managers, by contrast, are a drag on all of the above, adding to staff turnover costs and missed opportunities for employee contribution. They do far more damage than people realise because much of the damage is hidden behind ‘the way we do things around here’.

So here is a better question… What support do your managers need – from HR, L&D, you, whoever, to be the best they can be at helping their teams be the best THEY can be?

Author: Paul Matthews