Essential Components of a Talent Development Program

Training & Development  |  April 18, 2019

When you demonstrate to your employees you are committed to helping them grow personally and professionally through their work, it’s just one way you can recognize the value that they bring to your company.

Employees who know you care about their growth and success are likely to be more engaged in their jobs. Engaged employees are innovative employees, and those innovative employees will help your organization evolve in ways that the competition is not, which will lead to further success. Employee engagement is on the rise, according to Gallup—this is great news! But it was at 34% in August 2018, which is not great news. It means that two-thirds of employees weren’t engaged at work. Seeing a number like that makes you want to motivate your own employees, right?

Let’s take a quick look at the makeup of the labor force: 35% of the current labor force are millennials; they are the largest generation in the labor force, so harnessing their desire for development opportunities can benefit your company and your employees enormously. A widely shared Gallop report from 2016 found that “87% of millennials rate ‘professional or career growth and development opportunities’ as important to them in a job.” (As a point of comparison, 69% of non-millennials felt that way.)

How can you capitalize on your employees’ desire to learn new skills and information on the job? There are several tasks that employers should engage in to design a talent development program:

Task #1: Clarify talent management vision, values, and goals.

Your first objective should be to define a clear talent management vision; values, and goals that support your organization’s purpose. You need to look beyond hiring individuals for specific positions. What goals do you have for your organization? How will your employees—your talent—help you achieve them? That will help you determine what positions you should be hiring for.

Have you recently identified a gap in your industry that you think your organization is in a great position to address? That new goal might mean hiring someone in a new position that you’d not even thought about just a short time ago.

You’ll want to figure out what kind of resources, how much of each, you are going to devote to internal talent development. Do you want to partner with an outside firm to assist with training or other organizational development?

Task #2: Create a comprehensive talent development framework.

You can use this as a guide for how to attract, retain, and develop talent. Think about the skills and competencies that your organization needs: What is important for your employees to be successful in their individual jobs, and how to does that knowledge and skills contribute to meeting the goals of your organization?

Diversity is key here, not only in skills and competencies but also in your talent pool.  It’s important to have a workforce that includes people of different genders, sexual orientations, disability status, age, ethnicity, and other identity markers. You’ll increase your organization’s ability to network, to innovate, and to attract more talented people to join you.

A 2017 study, “Do Pro-Diversity Policies Improve Corporate Innovation?” published in Financial Management found in a performance review of 3,000 publicly traded companies from 2001-2014 that companies that fulfilled nine diversity requirements announced an average of two extra products in any given year, which about doubles the average for a major company (those that tick fewer boxes are less innovative proportionally).

Task #3: Develop a diversity and inclusion strategy.

As part of the above, you want to make sure that you engage in more inclusive and diverse hiring practices, which requires conscious effort during the recruiting and onboarding process, during training, and support given to employees at all levels.

A successful D&I strategy will involve tracking these efforts as a necessary component of performance reviews, bonus structures, or other official documentation and policies.

Task #4: Conduct a talent gap assessment.

As part of creating a talent development program, you’ll want to figure out where your organization currently is: What kind of work needs to be done right now to address knowledge gaps of both employees and leadership? Outside experts can serve as a huge asset here. We have a list of questions that you’ll want to ask yourself as you find the right firm for your employees.

According to a report from go2HR, a firm serving British Columbia’s tourism and hospitality industry, 40% of employees who receive poor job training leave their positions within the first year.

Task #5: Develop a learning program.

Once you’ve determined what knowledge gaps exist, you can execute programs (again, outside experts are a wonderful asset!) to help employees develop these necessary skills and competencies. Not every learner is the same, so while such a program should be structured with clearly defined objectives and activities, you’ll need to take learners’ needs into account. A hands-on workshop? Online training modules? Games? Webinars? Other events?

You’ll also need to be able to measure the success of the activities. Did employees gain the necessary knowledge? Can employees successfully apply what they’ve learned to a real-world situation? Are they using new skills consistently? If not, why? Is more training necessary?

Task #6: Create a talent succession plan.

This should clearly outline the roles, responsibilities and demonstrated capabilities needed for advancement. This plan needs to take into account your already-defined Talent Management Vision, Values, and Goals. It should identify the prerequisite capabilities for various responsibilities and roles, and lay out how internal talent can develop and demonstrate those skills. Remember, don’t just consider what is needed in the short-term, assess the changes your organization is facing and create a success plan for the skills needed to be successful 3-5 years from now.

Task #7: Create an employee engagement program.

This measures perceptions of the workforce and provides data to leadership. You can’t hire amazing employees, give them duties, and then forget about them. You need to be aware of employee satisfaction. Do they have all of the resources they need? Are they in danger of reaching burn-out? Do they feel they are part of the workplace culture?

Our friends at Gallup have another useful (if alarming) statistic: A survey of 7,500 full-time employees found that 23% of employees reported feeling burned out at work very often or always, while an additional 44% reported feeling burned out sometimes. Employee burnout is a detriment to individuals and their organization.

By creating a program that focuses on (and pays attention to) employee engagement, you’ll be able to offer new and necessary opportunities for development when employee feedback suggests that it would be beneficial. Remember, employees look forward to these opportunities. Make sure to ask them what activities would be most useful and interesting to them.

Task #8: Create an HR talent and tools assessment.

You’ll need to determine whether your organization has the abilities to execute, maintain and measure what’s happening in your organization against your talent management goals over time: Once you’ve built and begun executing a plan, it’s important to continue to assess your team against your goals to make sure you are ready for whatever the future brings. Again, this is something that an outside firm could assist with.

If you’re ready to incorporate talent development activities in your own organization, KnowledgeForce can help. Our innovative, application-oriented solutions make learning fun and improve outcomes. Contact us today.

Read our comprehensive employer guide on talent development.

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