“Take care of your people and the business will take care of itself.”
This quote from McDonald’s founder Dave Kroc, is as true today as when he first said it. Developing your people and investing in social capital has never been more important as we see changes impacting nonprofits and other organizations at rapid-fire pace. Issues relating to job security have become a central concern as employees fear for the state of their job in a time where turnover has been high, job engagement has been low, and changes in top leadership is ever-present. This is where having an effective talent development program in place is key. As the VP of Consulting Services at CUES, I’d like to share some insight into my philosophy on talent development, which I hope brings it back into the foreground.
Like others in the talent development industry, I devote my efforts to helping leaders see the value of boosting their TD efforts and making them a cornerstone of their organization. This has become increasingly vital, a McKinsey & Company survey found that 87% of organizations worldwide are aware they have a skills gap or expect to have one in the coming years. This impacts nonprofits too, and they will need strong talent development strategies to stay relevant and competitive.
Furthermore, organizations must learn to pivot, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. With that in mind, I think a re-introduction to the overall concept of talent development could be useful as organizations try to lead themselves out of this era of uncertainty and change. Here is a snapshot of what talent development is and what I perceive as the primary benefits of having a strong program.
What Is Talent Development?
The most valuable asset most organizations have is their people. The very best companies understand how important it is to grow and develop this greatest asset to get a return on investment. Numerous industry studies show that to be in the top quartile of talent developing organizations, you need to spend 2% of your revenue on talent development. But in my experience, I see organizations most often spending less than 1%.
Why is the investment typically so low?
I think the concept of talent development can cause confusion for those not within the confines of HR. The concept can induce a lot of “head scratching” as leaders struggle with how to best use and apply it as a strategy. It often gets lumped in with such HR functions as recruitment, onboarding and performance management. While those areas closely relate—and in many ways could even be considered adjacent—talent development is a series of processes designed to develop, motivate, and retain top talent as well as uncover hidden talent within an organization. It is where organizations provide learning opportunities and tools for employees to advance in their careers. The goal of talent development is to create a place where people are engaged, work hard, and are constantly learning and growing. But “talent” is not to be confused with “skills.” When identifying talent, you’re looking for employees’ untapped potential. You can then teach them the skills necessary to reach that potential.
Many people assume talent development is only about training programs. While training can be a large part of TD in general, it is just one aspect. The other aspect centers around instructional design, managing the learning function, leadership development, change management, leadership success profiles, individual development planning, coaching and succession planning. However, you must always ensure that the talent development strategy aligns with organizational strategy. As a result, we create programs that upskill for current and future talent requirements.
Benefits of Talent Development
Regardless of the approach or service used for talent development, at its core is learning and professional growth. In his bestselling book, The Advantage, Patrick Lencioni stresses that the only real competitive advantage any organization has is its ability to learn. And the faster your organization learns, through talent development initiatives, the bigger and faster your competitive advantage will become. Additional benefits of proper talent development include:
- Stronger job engagement and higher levels of productivity. Highly engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave their job.
- A high-performance workforce will allow an organization to achieve its objectives.
- Improved onboarding and succession planning
- Lower attrition rates. According to a LinkedIn survey, 94% of employees would stay at their organization longer if they took an active role in their learning and development.
When I approach a new opportunity to provide talent development, I keep in mind my understanding of current trends and align these with the needs and desires of the organization I am working with. As we move into 2022, and with 25% of organizations planning to cut their learning and development budgets, here's where I'm seeing the most need:
- Leadership development, particularly emerging leaders and women in leadership
- Executive and management coaching
- Diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives
- Remote/hybrid work (since this is not going anywhere in the near term)
- Work-life balance
- Managing a multi-generational workforce
In the end, if you want an excess of talent in your organization, you must invest in it. I once read someplace that organizations don’t grow, people do. They do not exist in a vacuum. They are comprised of living, breathing human beings willing and able to learn and grow. So, the question you must ask yourself now is, are my current talent development efforts where they need to be? If the answer is no, what can you do to remedy this? If the answer is yes, keep up the good work!