How To Overcome Barriers and Win Support For People Development

Many companies say their people are their most important asset. But how many firms truly invest in helping people be their best at work?

Despite the clear benefits of people development – including increased retention, productivity, profitability, and happiness – not everyone is sold on its value. And you may need the support of these people to launch or expand programs that teach people and teams at your company how to communicate, collaborate, and lead more effectively.

So, what are the best ways to align stakeholders, gain support from leadership, and even convince detractors that people development should be a top priority? Based on our experience with dozens of values-driven firms in tech, finance, renewables, engineering, and other industries – as well as social benefit organizations – we’ve compiled 5 key ways to win over detractors and secure budget and commitment for people development at your company.

Whether you are a learning and development professional who needs to secure budget, a company leader who needs to make the case to skeptical colleagues or a new CEO, or a manager or employee who wants to bring training and coaching to your team, we think you’ll find these strategies handy:

Share the data

The data is clear – people development can have a big impact on the bottom line. According to the Great Place to Work Institute, Fortune 100 Best companies provide three times the financial return of firms that don’t make the list. Gallup reports 12% increases in profitability and 20 to 40% increases in productivity among companies that score well on its employee engagement metrics. You’d be hard pressed to find a CEO, COO, or VP of Finance that wouldn’t give you 30 minutes to explain how you could drive goals like these. Want more data? Take a peek at our handy guide to The Benefits of Learning and Development at Work.

Tell stories that illustrate impact

While learning and development programs are growing quickly, many leaders still haven’t experienced the true value of communication training, team facilitation, or individual coaching. It’s up to you to communicate the value, and there are few vehicles better than stories. While good data will speak to the minds of your stakeholders, stories will inspire hearts (yes, even people in finance have them! ;). Be prepared with stories that speak to the impact you have seen people development programs have, as well as the impact they could have for your company or team. Chances are what feels moving to you will move someone else as well.

Stress the value to millennials – i.e., half the workforce and growing fast

Your boss may have walked through the snow uphill both ways to get where she is today. Well, the times they have a-changed. A new generation expects to develop at work – and quickly. In fact, according to Gallup, growth on the job is the thing millennials – i.e., just short of half the workforce, and growing – want more than anything else (even money). If you want to keep your people around and engaged, the data is clear: you absolutely must invest in their development.

Align with business objectives

While the benefits of people development are clear, stakeholders may still ask: what’s in it for me and the business? These are fair questions. Effective people and team development focused on driving key business objectives – for teams, groups, and companies as a whole – have a greater chance of winning support. Ask stakeholders what they most want and need to achieve, design programs that help drive those goals, and then explain how learning and development can be essential to success.

Socialize through early wins

Whether you are focusing on managers and teams or company leadership, do something early that truly impacts people and creates a buzz. Plan a leadership day, a culture day, or a team development day. In a sense, your first engagements – especially at an organization that has not had much, if any, experience with learning and development or has had negative experiences in the past – are as much about supporting participants to develop as they are about educating people about what learning and development actually means, and what value it can have for them and others.


We’d love to know what you think of these strategies and what else you have had success with. Comment below or share in the comments section of the LinkedIn post associated with this guide.

Good luck with your endeavors! Roni and The People Piece team

Roni Krouzman