What if L&D was for humans, not resources?


Fueled by enough pastries to feed a small army, “People Geeks” from all over London gathered at Skyscanner’s trendy Tottenham Court Road offices to learn how other organisations are putting development at the heart of how they engage and retain talent.

People Geek (noun):

Kick off

Karina Brown from GroHappy set the scene for the day:

“People development is increasingly becoming a leadership priority – the only real way for companies to compete in this fast-moving world is through their people.”​

In forward-thinking companies today, there’s a groundswell of people – many of whom were in the room – who know much of how learning & development (L&D) has been done before, simply won’t cut it going forwards.

With that in mind, each of the inspiring speakers stepped up to the mic, giving their take on why people development is important, and how to do it better.

The Line Up

Democratising Development – Jim at GroHappy

Our very own Head of Product, Jim Stichbury, kicked off the presentations, explaining why companies should be ‘democratising development.’ That is, making development available to all employees, not just the leadership and so-called ‘high potentials.

He gave examples of companies, like Next Jump and Propellernet, that are putting people growth and development that the very centre of their business. They are seeing both ‘hard’ business benefit in terms of increased profitability and increased retention, as well as being recognised as great workplaces.

Jim shared The Alliance framework by Reid Hoffman at LinkedIn which focuses on the importance of helping employees to grow in a way that matters to them, while finding mutual value for the organisation.

Jim shared four pillars for great development:

  • Building high levels of self-awareness among employees so that they can direct their own growth and development
  • Open and honest conversations about individual growth and how this can be supported by the organisation
  • Personalised learning – shifting from digital learning to intelligent learning
  • Creating a culture of development – building development habits into the fabric of our work
The key takeaway:

“If we create a development culture where everyone can grow, we can start to see the world as having an abundance of talent, rather than a scarcity of talent. Ultimately, this helps both individuals and the companies they work for.”

Stop multiplying by zero – Richard at Moorhouse

Up next was Richard Goold, Managing Partner at Moorhouse, a dynamic consulting firm that helps large organisations to manage complex change. Richard shared the COP model – a framework that they use at Moorhouse to motivate and get the best from their people.

The COP model introduces the importance of understanding an employee’s capability, their passion and the needs of the organisation:

“If someone has the Capability and there’s Organisational Need, but no Passion, then that’s always going to be a chore and something that is likely to be de-prioritised. This is where leaning on others who enjoy doing the things that you are not good at or enjoy doing is important.”


If someone has the Passion and there’s Organisational Need, but no Capability then that’s a novice at best or a liability at worst!


And, well, if someone has the Passion and Capability but there’s no Organisational Need, then that’s a hobby. As leaders we need to be finding that sweet spot in the middle”​

In order to find this sweet spot, open and honest conversations with employees about their career aspirations and development must be commonplace within the organisation:

“Have conversations, not meetings when it comes to people.”​

Richard left the group with an inspiring quote by Gandhi which summed up Moorhouse’s approach to people development; the importance of continuous learning for all of us:

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” – Gandhi

The key takeaway:

Leaders must help people to be the best that they can be and encourage ownership of their career and development: “encouraging people to navigate their careers as if they had a compass as opposed to a map which allows them to follow a path right for them is key”. Encouraging and promoting open conversations is key to this.

Enabling employee effectiveness – Melissa at Culture Amp

Culture Amp is on a mission to make it easy for organisations to collect, understand and act on employee feedback through their innovative platform for on-demand, 360 degree feedback.

Melissa Paris, Culture Amp’s ‘Senior People Scientist,’ spoke about the importance of good performance development, the challenges with how employee feedback is currently delivered by many organisations, and most importantly, how it can be done better.

Melissa explained how the trouble with traditional performance feedback is that development and appraisal are often combined, when they should be separate:

“You don’t get the benefit of rich, honest feedback and development support when it’s tied to promotion and bonuses.”​

Instead, according to Melissa, feedback should be:

  • Employee centric
  • Forward focussed
  • Brief
  • Score free

The key takeaway

Development is not appraisal and be cautious of scores linked to development:

“Traditional performance management systems make a big mistake. They combine two things that should be completely separate: Performance evaluation and people development. Evaluation is necessary to distribute finite resources like salary increases or bonus dollars. Development is just as necessary so people grow and improve.”

Great people make great products – Lisa and Buzz from Skyscanner

Last to the stage were our fantastic hosts – Lisa Warwick (Talent Director) and Buzz Pearce (Design Director) from Skyscanner.

Skyscanner have had a phenomenal story and have big ambitions for growth. Crucially, they understand that to make this happen, they need great people who are continually growing, learning and developing.


This sits at the very heart of their development philosophy of “MASTER, TEACH, LEARN” which Lisa and Buzz explained is all about supporting their people to master their craft, share their expertise with others and be continuously learning:

Buzz and Lisa shared how they’ve been taking steps to experiment with new approaches to learning and development.

Having recently implemented Impraise, a 360 degree feedback tool, Skyscanner are looking to embed a culture of continuous feedback where team members share positive and constructive feedback. Skyscanner also shared other innovative practices to encourage the ‘TEACH’ element of their motto — they have implemented an internal podcast series where employees can share their knowledge and expertise within the business.

The Key Takeaway

Having a guiding people development philosophy (master, teach, learn) enables Skyscanner to experiment with different approaches. While there’s no silver bullet and people development is a constant work in progress, there needs to be a guiding light to nurture a culture of development.

The Wrap-Up

To wrap up the session, the audience were asked to share their key takeaways from the session:

Here were the top five themes from people’s key takeaways (in no particular order):

  • Keep performance management and development separate
  • Invest in tools and experiences that drive honest conversations
  • Drive more frequent, bite-sized feedback
  • Adopt a ‘student forever’ mindset and prioritise continuous learning
  • “Democratise Development” by making development available to all employees
It seems that there is real appetite to dive deeper into some of the topics discussed at the event so we’re exploring doing follow up events in the coming months. To help us shape these and gauge interest, please click this link to tell us which themes you’d most value exploring further.

Finally, a huge thank you to everyone who helped make the event happen and for everyone who joined the session.

If you missed this event and definitely want to make sure you make the next one, then the best way is to join Culture Amp and GroHappy’s newsletters:

Join Culture Amp’s People Geekly weekly newsletter – click here.

Join GroHappy’s monthly newsletter for the scoop on people development – click here.

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