Science fiction? Advice to mothers? No, just a different way of looking at staff development programs.

How do you help your people to develop their skills, maximize potential and promote vigorous personal growth? Employers who attract and keep the best people focus on what I call people-investment programs, rather than human resource management. Employers of choice build on the knowledge that people are the same 24/7 and don't suddenly change into Superman or Wonder Woman when they arrive at the office.

Too many managers are still trying to fit square pegs (20th century management traditions) into round holes (21st century social realities). Symptoms include rapid staff turnover, excessive absenteeism and lots of staff conflicts. People don't leave organizations, they leave people.

Sometimes we need new ways of looking at resolving old problems. Since people are a part of nature, it's worth looking at what we can learn from growing plants.

To grow healthy plants, you need fertile soil, regular watering, keen observation of progress and the occasional pruning of dead wood to encourage new growth. Plants also seem to grow better when you talk nicely to them! And you don't have to be a horticulturalist to get good results.

People are a bit like that too.

* Every person is born with ‘rich soil' - their unique natural skills, capabilities and talents. These are developed at work, at home and at play. Think, for example, how much more capabilities you lost when a long-serving employee left. It was much more than those set out in their job specification.
* These abilities are fertilized by passionate interests through which people express and develop those skills and talents - again, at work, home and at play
* People are always thirsting for knowledge, ‘watered' by training, coaching, mentoring and - most important - attentive listening
* Changing work demands open up opportunities for new growth and development, These are often the catalyst for expressing and developing latent skills, perhaps skills that were previously only applied in personal life
* And we all know the power of positive words of support and encouragement.

Nor do you have to be a psychologist to grow healthy people. Much like a salesperson is sensitive to a customer's wants sufficient to make a sale, you need to be sensitive to staff wants, sufficient to get the responses and commitment the business requires.

Of course, a plant grows by itself - you can only improve the conditions that give it the best environment in which to achieve healthy growth. It's the same with people and healthy growing people make for healthy growing businesses.

So what are you like at growing healthy people?

Author's Bio: 

Peter Nicholls is Australia's People Gardener - Cultivating Thriving Lives. He has 30+ years of professional experience in the personal growth field. For more information go to or contact Peter at