February 7, 2022

Staff Development That Your People Actually Need and Want

Marie Krebs

You're here to understand how to:

  • Address development differently
  • Understand your role as a learning facilitator
  • Support your staff with training they actually care about
  • Gain knowledge on how to engage staff in developing new skills

Your staff is nothing but brilliant people who dedicate a considerable chunk of their time and skills to bring your organisation a little closer to its mission. Through professional growth, your people will be empowered to do their best work in a way that's both fulfilling for them and beneficial for their department - and your business.

Understanding what they need and want is crucial to help them research, learn and practice new skills that enhance both their experience at work and future career opportunity. Take the time to provide a great experience for your staff and they will have a fulfilling time developing new skills.

We're here to support you support them in their role and on their L&D journey, so here's what we'll talk about today:

  • What is staff development?
  • Why does staff development matter?
  • How to know what your people need
  • How to know what your people want

What is staff development?

Development and performance sit on the same spectrum of growth. Staff development is the long-term, personal take-aways that will upskill your staff in the long run. Putting staff development first in your approach to skill-building will allow people to confidently approach business-critical projects with the capacity to build upwards.

Why is staff development important?

Your People are the ❤ heart, 🧠 brain and even 💪 arms of your organisation. That's a lot of key body parts. Their growth benefits your organisation's growth, and your organisation's growth supports them through a range of opportunities to learn on the job --therefore keeping them engaged, challenged and stimulated. What a beautifully virtuous circle.

Development is a key engagement driver at work. Staff development opportunities will attract top talent, nurture staff and positively impact engagement, wellbeing, retention and performance.

How to know what your staff need

For awareness' sake, let's start this paragraph and every future paragraph that touches on what people need with a quick reminder of Maslow's pyramid of needs. Turns out that's also what makes great management and a high-performing team: psychological safety. That's what Google found in its research when conducting the Aristotle Project.

Start there.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs | Simply Psychology

Personal development plans

Now relating specifically to your staff's developmental needs, Personal Development Plans (PDPs) are a really powerful tool when implemented well. My colleague Melissa wrote all about how you can foolproof your PDP template, which will enable you to develop a tool adapted to your staff's needs (it's a personal plan after all). And if anyone's kinda lost about how to go about populating your PDP, my colleague Nayab wrote about how to set goals when you don't know where to start.

No time to build an adaptive template? With Learnerbly, employees are able to set learning goals for their role and use our marketplace to develop new skills, discover development opportunities, log progress and attain these goals (and then start again. Cheers to continuous learning!) .

This way, employees do their own research into what they can focus on while only seeing relevant and curated resources for their interests. Heads of each team and department can have management and oversight but development is truly in the hands of the learner.

The search for information: Make data work for you

You'll have to do a bit of research into what works for your staff. Data is an invaluable source of insights to find and understand what people need on your team. At Learnerbly, we get ours through engagement tools and pulse surveys that allow you to easily categorise and analyse the information your staff shares across engagement categories such as learning & development, wellbeing, ambassadorship and more. The exhaustive list of our development initiatives is available for free only within our public employee guide.

A lower pulse survey or feedback score on the recognition front is a telltale sign that you must implement new development initiatives rooted in the celebration of successes and with a focus on strengths in each and every department of your organisation. Perhaps, you can look within your management training and enhance the focus on the value of recognition alongside ways to embed it into existing habits like 121s.

Across all tools in your HR stack, employee engagement is a great metric to check and understand if the process adds value to employees and has a positive impact on their staff experience. For example, our clients have experienced industry-leading levels of staff engagement around learning and development: averaging 60% compared to the industry standard of 15%.

So you know what they need. But to really drive engagement, it's gonna have to stick.

So, how can you know what your staff wants?

Here's the short version: help them figure it out and provide them with the tools to own their development. If you ask your staff the right questions so that they understand what motivates them, and you empower them to own their development through a self-managed-learning approach, they'll have all they need to engage with their own development. And you can feel good knowing you are able to provide them with the help and support they want.

Ask them

You need to be a facilitator and a driving force, not a specialist. Send out a survey or schedule user interviews to talk about learning and development with your staff. What sticks for us might not for you: your staff knows best.

The job of a great development facilitator is to empower, guide & support people with the best opportunities (that's why these principles are at the forefront of everything we build at Learnerbly — starting with how we design our platform!).

Employees working within your organisation have different preferences, shaped by different experiences. They have probably tried out different L&D initiatives already! It may even be helpful to directly ask what type of learning culture and initiatives they would like to see.

Leverage their creativity, collect their suggestions and gauge their expectations. You'll end up with plenty of new suggestions to inform your professional L&D strategy from a range of employees, including different generations, gender identities and training backgrounds.

Know what your staff want, then enable them to go get it themselves

I mean, it's their development to own after all. They know their needs best. Your role is to build the processes and provide access to the tools that will allow your staff to set the destination and own the journey to develop into their best self.

To empower your staff, we recommend an approach rooted in heutagogy. It's simply an approach to learning which is self-directed and reflects the way an individual learns. Heutagogy is a learner-centred instructional strategy that emphasises the development of autonomy, capacity and capability of the individual.

Your staff will become self-directed learners who determine their own goals, learning paths and processes. They understand or are seeking to understand how they learn, which is crucial because every person learns differently, and having this knowledge will nurture their development as they go on a journey to become lifelong learners.

Taking the radical step of providing personal learning budgets (PLBs) to your employees gives them the autonomy to choose what and how they need to learn by requesting individual learning resources and training. It's the perfect thing to place as part of your staff development offering.

Obviously 😎, through Learnerbly, you can allocate individual budgets which is an excellent start to giving staff the freedom to own their development and get what they need outside of your company. It will also free up your time to focus on tailoring your internal offer based on other staff suggestions.

PLBs focus on what the individual wants to learn, hence the importance of guiding them through helpful tools and resources. For instance, our marketplace is curated from both internal and external opportunities; from books, courses, conferences, coaching to articles, videos and podcasts.

Our curation is based on data-driven insights regarding what your peers are learning and what training has high engagement across your role and sector, as well as internal and company subject matter experts. This guides users to access the best resources and training based on what and how they want to learn.


From a business perspective, staff development is a competitive advantage to attract top talent, nurture your team and positively impact engagement, wellbeing, retention and performance. Understanding individuals' motivations will help them find adequate training, but for that, you need to start with the basics: What do they need? What do they want?

Everyone needs a safe environment to feel empowered to navigate, at their own pace, the tools you build and processes you use. To understand how your current structure works within your organisation, you'll wanna look at engagement rates and pulse survey scores.

Although dependable, that basic structure should adapt to individual learning styles. I'm no more of a mind reader than you are, but the good news is that you don't need to have the answers.

Just ask your colleagues and follow a lean startup approach to development. That's #Heutagogy. A self-directed approach to skills development, so that they can use the tools you put at their service based on what they want. Adapt to their learning style and preferences by making a large range of things up for grabs. 👁📚🤝👩‍💻👂

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