The success of any business is not just reliant upon the efforts of leadership. To truly thrive, companies need skilled and committed employees. This certainly means that human resources and management need to apply resources to discovering and attracting the best possible talent. But their attention shouldn’t stop once onboarding is complete. Those efforts must include deliberate talent development.
Talent development is the process through which companies continue to invest in their employees beyond base salary payments and benefits. As one recent study shows, a company culture that nurtures employees directly impacts the bottom line. Not least of which regards the costs of turnover: that 94% of employees would stay with a company if it were willing to invest in their learning and development.
Let’s explore some areas an effective talent development process directly impacts, and methods you can use to capitalize on them.
Talent development is not only the key to retaining employees; it can also be instrumental in improving performance. This doesn’t just mean that your attention to their growth results in greater productivity — although that certainly occurs by acquiring new skills and understanding of productivity techniques. However, when your employees see you’re making efforts to support their growth, they tend to be more engaged with the efficient operation of the business.
As a result, performance should be a guiding element of your talent development program. This begins with a commitment to meaningful performance reviews. We don’t mean a simple analysis of how the employee has functioned that year. Instead, there need to be discussions in which the aim is to guide employee growth. Direct the dialogue, not toward areas of failure, but identifying training opportunities. Don’t just dictate your needs; work with them to discover what they would like to learn, too. Discuss opportunities for promotion, and how you can plot a road map together that can get them there. These conversations strengthen relationships and naturally lead to more opportunities for talent development.
Performance targeted talent development is also not necessarily an individual act. It also presents opportunities for employees to work together to create a positive working environment, resulting in improved overall performance. Encourage departments to learn what motivates them as a team and as individuals. Understand how to adjust the workplace and its practices to be more mutually beneficial. Provide them with responsibility here, approaching it as a project with requisite planning and analysis. Not only will they feel more connected to the business, but they also gain in-demand project management skills.
One of the main errors a business can make is becoming stagnant. In the digital age, the world frequently changes. That often means that to retain the competitive edge, we must innovate. Talent development can introduce employees to new skills and new ways of thinking about the challenges they face – and overcoming them. As such, it is an essential element in building a sustainable culture of innovation within your company.
So, how do you approach the talent development process with innovation in mind?
Provide them with opportunities to better understand the company; what it’s good at, and the not so good. This can include shadowing leadership, attending meetings, and being encouraged to ask questions (and being given honest answers). This helps the growth of new corporate operations skills and incentivizes deeper engagement within the company.
Innovation requires access to multiple perspectives and experiences. Studies show that companies that prioritize diversity tend to perform better than their more monocultural competitors. So your talent development program must commit to nurturing diversity. Undoubtedly, part of this approach is ensuring a range of voices has opportunities to work with you. However, it’s also about encouraging those in the program to value diverse perspectives and adjust their own viewpoints accordingly.
Helping employees follow their curiosity, both within and outside of the business, is a cornerstone of talent development. Give employees opportunities to train with other departments and company time to work on personal projects. Add coaching to ensure employees feel guided and supported. By giving them space to explore and experiment, and encourage them even when they fail, you provide the tools necessary to contribute to innovation — and the confidence to experiment.
One of the greatest assets for any business is loyalty. Employees who feel connected to and supported by their company are more likely to stick with them in the long run. Loyalty isn’t about simple retention, though; it also means a dedication to the company’s ideals and becoming leaders who embody them. Employee development helps to both guide this process and reinforces the reasons why they should maintain their commitment. So your talent development program must begin at onboarding.
Use the tools of the process to set expectations. For instance, in your employee handbook, make it clear there is a commitment to engaging in talent development, and why it is essential. Outline the support methods — mentoring, coaching, reviews — and how this affects the potential for progression. By emphasizing your company cares about them and their growth early, it immediately plants the seed that there are incentives to mutual commitment.
This same attention has to be consistent throughout their time with the company. Not in an overbearing, micromanaging sense. Instead, talent development must be about the company and the employee working together to ensure the growth of each. Make continued efforts to understand what they need, and they will be more likely to do the same for your company.
What’s Your Approach to Talent Development?
Talent development goes further than talent management. It demonstrates a commitment to helping employees grow in directions that they are also keen to explore.
Design your program to empower workers to improve their performance, become innovative thinkers and loyal contributors. Though this often takes a significant investment of time and capital, the long-term returns are culturally and economically significant.