Development is a process that creates growth, progress and positive change. It is often equated with economic progress, which can mean increasing people’s incomes and providing them with access to education, health care and clean air and water. It can also refer to social progress, like increasing people’s literacy. Development can take place on a national, regional or local scale. It can be achieved through a variety of tools, such as technology, investment capital, infrastructure and human resources. Development can be sustainable if the improvements are evenly distributed, rather than concentrated in the hands of a few powerful interest groups.
There are several assumptions that surround development: the underlying causes; whether it is determined by nature (genetics, biology) or by nurture; whether it involves continuous, incremental changes, or discontinuous, qualitative shifts; and whether it is universal or context specific. For example, some theorists assume that humans move through a set sequence of developmental tasks, as outlined by Piaget or Erickson, while others, who endorse lifespan or ecological systems approaches, believe that a wide range of patterns and pathways are possible.
In the workplace, employee development is a critical component of performance management. The process usually includes regular conversations between managers and employees that focus on the professional goals that have been set for them and how those goals can be reached. Those conversations typically involve professional development questions, such as: “What are the steps you will take to reach your personal and professional development goals this year?” The answers to these questions can help employers make decisions about how to best support their employees’ growth.