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What Is Human Resources Development and How to Implement It

employees gathering in meeting room to discuss human resources development they are going to implement

Human resources development is the area of HR that deals with training and developing an organization’s employees. Most leaders would agree that people are one of a company’s biggest assets, so it makes sense to invest in them the same way you would in infrastructure, R&D or marketing. But what exactly should you be investing in, and how is it beneficial to the organization as a whole? Those are the questions we’ll answer here. 

What Is Human Resources Development?

Human resources development is a systematic process by which organizations help their employees advance and grow in a professional capacity. It can take many forms; activities, like employee coaching and skills training, benefits, like tuition assistance, and opportunities, like leadership programs, might all fall under the umbrella of a human resources development strategy.  

The goal of a human resources development program is to help employees maximize their full potential as it pertains to their role in the company (and any future roles they might go on to hold). When deployed successfully, such a program can boost employee retention, encourage upward mobility, strengthen the company’s competitiveness in the marketplace and ultimately increase its profitability.

One important thing to note is the distinction between human resource development and human resource management. While they’re both HR functions and the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, there are some subtle differences between them. Whereas human resource development focuses on developing employees’ competency, human resource management is primarily focused on increasing efficiency. A specialist in human resource management strives to improve employee productivity, optimize output and control costs. Both areas are important to a well-functioning organization, so it’s ideal when companies prioritize both. 

How Does Human Resources Development Benefit Companies?

To illustrate how human resources development can benefit companies, let’s consider two hypothetical organizations.

The first, Company A, doesn’t have a concrete human resource development program. Once an employee’s initial onboarding is complete, it’s largely in their own hands if they want to acquire new technical skills that would help them do their job. Because there’s no formal structure for employee development, they’re not regularly offered opportunities that might help them grow as a thinker and a leader. And, because the company lacks development benefits, it falls behind others in the industry in attracting new talent. 

Now, let’s look at Company B, which has a strong human resource development program. After an employee is onboarded, they receive regular one-on-one coaching to fine tune their skills as well as periodic training to acquire new ones. Their employer presents them with opportunities, both internal and external, that help them become a better communicator, project manager and team leader. Because the company offers perks like tuition reimbursement and training stipends, it’s a place where the best candidates in the field want to apply and existing employees want to stick around.

Company B clearly sounds like a more attractive place to work, but it’s not just about having a good image. Human resource development is a virtuous cycle where each aspect positively impacts the next: regular training strengthens employees’ skills, which boosts their engagement and investment in their jobs. Strong engagement leads to better job output, which breeds happier customers and higher profits. Profitable companies are able to offer higher salaries and better perks, which aids in attracting top talent. Great candidates become great employees, who enter the system and continue the cycle. 

If you’re more of a numbers person, consider the findings of a global Gallup study that looked at nearly 50,000 business units with over a million employees. The study focused on how ‘strengths-based interventions’–A.K.A. strategic employee development–impacted the organizations in six key areas: sales, profits, customer engagement, employee engagement, turnover and safety. 

The findings were stark. The organizations with teams that received strengths-based intervention saw significant improvements in all six areas. Teams that did not receive such development saw little to no impact. 

In short, human resource development fosters the competencies that an organization needs in order to excel. It helps companies build a workforce that’s highly skilled, deeply engaged and always improving. 

Now that the benefits for companies are clear, let’s look at the pros of a human resources development program on the employee’s side. 

How Does Human Resources Development Benefit Employees?

Without a human resources development program, it’s easy for employees to feel a bit like ships in the night, clocking in and clocking out day after day without being on any sort of broader course. On the other hand, when there’s a formal development program in place, it helps employees feel more engaged with their jobs on a day-to-day basis while also seeing a larger path forward within the organization. This is the kind of engagement the best employees are looking for. 

Human resources development also benefits employees by helping them acquire new skills, which strengthens their resume. This puts them in a position to compete as a top candidate in their field and negotiate for the best pay and benefits. 

Finally, human resources development contributes to a sense of overall job satisfaction that eludes many workers in today’s market. When combined with other factors like competitive wages and a strong company culture, the result is a job employees are happy to have and will want to stay at for years to come. 

Related: In-Demand Human Resources Skills

Tips For Successful Human Resources Development 

Align development opportunities with organizational goals

The Gallup study we mentioned earlier found that even organizations that did the bare minimum in terms of employee development saw benefits from it. However, when organizations matched employee development opportunities to organizational goals, their benefits increased exponentially. You can get the most out of your development initiatives with strategic planning of the programs themselves and the selection of the employees who will participate in them. 

For example, a company with a goal of improving its public perception might zero in on PR training for employees with strong communication skills. A brand looking to reach a younger customer demographic might offer social media workshops to its entry-level employees who show promise as brand ambassadors. Zeroing in on employee strengths can make development programs more rewarding for both the participants and the company. 

Related: How to Invest in Employee Development

Communicate about it

A human resources development strategy doesn’t do much good if it’s a behind-the-scenes program that only a few HR staffers have a hand in. To get the most from it, employees need to know it exists. So, talk about it! Use your internal communications channels to spread the word and generate buzz about your company’s professional development initiatives. Get department heads and managers involved to make it something employees look forward to. 

Incorporate it into the broader culture

Human resources development works best when it’s ingrained into the fabric of the company as a whole. As such, prioritize employee strengths–both the recognition of them and the development of them–as a focus within the company’s day-to-day operations and the larger employer brand. 

Training and development are just two of the many ways an organization can make its employees feel valued, which is a critical component to retaining them over the long term.

Related: Strategies for Culture Change Management that Works

Resources and Sources

Pete Newsome

About Pete Newsome

Pete Newsome is the President of 4 Corner Resources, the staffing and recruiting firm he founded in 2005. 4 Corner is a member of the American Staffing Association and TechServe Alliance, and the top-rated staffing company in Central Florida. Recent awards and recognition include being named to Forbes’ Best Recruiting Firms in America, The Seminole 100, and The Golden 100. Pete also founded zengig, to offer comprehensive career advice, tools, and resources for students and professionals. He hosts two podcasts, Hire Calling and Finding Career Zen, and is blazing new trails in recruitment marketing with the latest artificial intelligence (AI) technology. Connect with Pete on LinkedIn