Today’s rapidly-changing labor market is fraught with disruption — for HR leaders, this calls for new and innovative measures when it comes to developing talent. Tried-and-true strategies that may have worked in the past are quickly becoming outdated as organizations grapple with a fundamental reinvention of how the modern workplace functions.
With labor shortages affecting nearly every industry, hiring to fill in-demand roles is no longer a sustainable solution. Many businesses are finding themselves at a critical crossroads: figure out how to effectively develop, retain and upskill/reskill their existing workforce or risk falling behind.
While it’s not always necessary to reinvent the wheel, it is important to take a critical look at traditional talent development tactics, evaluate where your time and resources are being spent and strategize modern ways to drive greater impact for the same investment. Let’s discuss exactly what steps you can take to up-level talent development initiatives for a future-proof workforce.
The business benefits of talent development
Attracting and hiring the right people is just one small part of a much greater talent strategy. Once a new hire is onboarded, they require ongoing support and resources to learn, grow their skills and advance their careers throughout their time at an organization. This is the basis of talent development. What this looks like in practice might be different at every organization, but the general idea is the same: when your people develop and grow, so does your business.
Workforce data overwhelmingly shows that a majority of workers (94%) would stay at a company longer if it invested in their careers. On the other end, a lack of growth opportunities is a top reason many workers leave their employers. Working a “dead-end” job with no tangible opportunities for career progression can leave employees feeling unmotivated, unproductive and ultimately, disengaged. This lack of morale can have negative ripple effects throughout an organization, both at the individual and even team level.
The need for improved talent development in a digital world
It’s clear that there’s a business case for talent development, but even more pressing is the need for talent development tactics that actually move the needle. Common initiatives, such as employee tuition reimbursement programs and training courses, have quickly become outdated and are proven to be ineffective at equipping modern employees with the skills and competencies they need to do their jobs. This is exacerbated by the rapid rate at which technology is sweeping across industries, leaving many workers with outdated skill sets and without access to adequate education and training to get up-to-speed.
As skills gaps continue to widen, it’s on HR and L&D professionals to act quickly and leverage contemporary talent development solutions that drive meaningful outcomes for employees and the business.
How to modernize your talent development strategy
No matter how mature your current talent development strategy is, now is the time to re-evaluate some of its key aspects and consider how it could better serve the needs of a modern workforce.
Here are a few best practices to engage:
Keep accessibility and scalability at the forefront
Whether you work for a high-growth start-up or leading enterprise, a foundational component of your talent development strategy is the ability to adequately support employees across the entire company. When you’re implementing a new initiative or evaluating the effectiveness of an existing one, it’s important to consider whether this initiative is accessible to everyone — from the office to the frontline.
At the same time, talent development likely looks different for every role and job function. It’s not realistic to develop a unique strategy for every individual. That’s why it’s equally as important that you review your development initiatives through the lens of scalability, making sure that the programs you put forth are flexible enough to meet a variety of workforce needs at scale.
Break down organizational silos
Your talent development strategy can’t be effective if it exists in a silo. While it may be exciting to see that employees are completing training courses, participating in a company mentorship program and engaging with other development activities, this impact has to be measured and accounted for outside of HR.
Think strategically about how your talent development efforts tie to the greater goals of the business and make sure that’s communicated clearly to stakeholders in leadership and outside your department. When talent development is viewed as a critical strategic function within a business, getting buy-in for your initiatives becomes much easier.
Continuously monitor employee skills and competencies
At its foundation, a talent development strategy is meant to address both the current and future skills needs of your business. However, this can’t be done without first knowing what skills are prevalent among your workforce and where the major gaps are.
The rate of digital transformation has accelerated the need for regular employee skills assessments and gap analyses. While you may have conducted these exercises sparingly in the past, you might find that you’re missing out on critical insights because things are changing so quickly. Before you can begin to audit your talent development strategy, you have to know what you’re looking to solve. Lean on tools such as a skills taxonomy to standardize how you speak about skills within your organization and consider running more frequent gap analyses to consistently keep a pulse on where the high-priority needs lie.
Explore tailored learning solutions
Every employee is on their own individual path to development. For example, an experienced retail manager at a brick-and-mortar shop requires an entirely different set of development tools and resources from an entry-level corporate employee at the same company. Even within teams, there may be individuals in similar roles that have an entirely different set of career goals and thus, require different development paths to achieve them.
In the past, many organizations relied on a one-size-fits-all approach to learning and development. Not only does this disregard differences in learning styles, but it also puts individuals into boxes and limits their growth. Instead, explore training and education solutions that are role-based and flexible enough to meet the developmental needs of various functions across the organization — from the frontline to the C-suite. With the right tools, this can be achieved at scale.
Integrate continuous improvement and learning into company culture
If your primary initiatives consist of one-time workshops or training courses, it’s inevitable that development will eventually stagnate. Instead, work cross-functionally with others in leadership to strategize how you can integrate learning and development into your company culture. This shift in mindset encourages employees to view growth and development as continuous, not a one-and-done item to check off their to-do list.
Leverage technology to enhance the employee experience
The days of filing cabinets and stacks of paperwork are quickly becoming a thing of the past as organizations have begun to prioritize digital transformation within core HR processes such as payroll, onboarding and even recruiting. But when it comes to talent development (which is often difficult to measure), many businesses still rely on outdated, legacy software.
From talent marketplaces to learning management systems, there are countless digital solutions available to people leaders that allow you to deliver and measure your talent development initiatives. Determining the exact technology stack needed for your efforts is a worthwhile exercise that can drastically improve the digital employee experience and even boost participation and engagement among your workforce.
Talent development tactics to implement today
Here are a few example tactics you can integrate into your existing talent development strategy:
- Manager enablement
Research shows that managers have a major influence over their direct reports and their developmental journeys. After all, they are the ones that help employees set goals, review performance and discuss career aspirations. Work closely with people managers to help them stay knowledgeable on the latest L&D programs at your company and give them the necessary tools to speak with their teams about available opportunities.
- Introduce dedicated professional development hours
Promote a better work/life balance by providing dedicated time throughout the work week for professional development. What this looks like in practice is largely dependent on the structure of your organization’s working hours, but even something as simple as a one-hour meeting block once a week can be impactful. Taking initiative like this showcases to employees that your company is serious about development and is making it a real priority.
- Host a company-wide innovation challenges
Talent development doesn’t have to be confined to formal learning or mentorship. Consider introducing an annual event, such as a Hackathon or innovation challenge, that brings individuals together from different departments and encourages employees to brainstorm big ideas for the company. Make sure to give teams real time to work on these projects, and commit to providing funding or resources to make the “winning” idea a reality.
This tactic enables cross-functional collaboration and allows employees to learn from their peers on other teams in a low-pressure, informal setting.
The future of talent development
Talent development is a constantly moving target. There’s rarely a time when one tactic or program is going to generate the exact results you’re looking for. It’s all about gathering feedback, reviewing performance data and using those insights to continuously optimize your approach to meet the changing needs of your business and workforce. With these fresh ideas in mind, the next phase of your talent development strategy is ready to take off.