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How to Move Your Talent Development Strategy to the Fast Lane

How to Move Your Talent Development Strategy to the Fast Lane

April 16, 2019
Submitted By Jeanne Schad

The world of HR is moving quickly as companies look for better, easier, and more effective ways to attract and retain talent. While one size never fits all, most companies have a few things in common—the need to move people into and within organizations quickly and slowing down the constant flow of people walking out the door to find better opportunities. Looking for a common talent mobility solution can be compared to a simple, yet very effective people mobility trend that is happening in cities across the U.S.

Pedestrians and drivers in many American urban centers have found themselves sharing the road lately with on-demand rentable electric scooters. In areas with traffic congestion, scooter riders are avoiding the gridlock as they zip past both pedestrians on the sidewalk and drivers stuck in traffic. Scooters have afforded people with an alternative to traditional transportation and provided a faster path to their individual destinations.

The e-scooter solution to talent development

What if your company’s talent strategy could provide a similar solution—giving employees a faster method of mobility and a choice of destination? Employees could move quickly toward their own goals, while helping their employers realize greater corporate goals. Talent management professionals dream of putting such programs in place, but often lack the tools and company mindset shift necessary to accomplish the task. The solution is actually elegantly simple. Having the right tools, coupled with an appropriate support system, your employees can easily match their career goals to company targets and zip along in the fast lane toward engagement and greater value.

Related content: 5 Steps to Launching a Scalable Career Coaching Program

The solution begins quite simply: First, know what your people want and then, match their desires to organizational objectives. Here are four steps to achieving fast-track success with employee development programs:

  1. Reliable, actionable assessments
  2. Match employee goals to company goals
  3. Empower managers as mentors
  4. Allow time for reflection

Career development assessments

Start with helping your people understand themselves. Assessments are a great way to gather simple, meaningful data and apply it to individual career goals. Your company may already have assessment tools available to employees. If not, there are many reputable free assessments available. Whether the assessment measures strengths, personality type or interests, employees should be able to draw conclusions about their current situations as well as gather insights into future possibilities.

Once employees have taken a few assessments, invite them to devote time and critical thinking to the results. With the right guidance, employees should be able to formulate answers to general questions as a result of the assessments.

Here are a few questions that may elicit deeper reflection:

  1. Which results ring true for you?
  2. Were there any surprises?
  3. What insights did you gather into your own work life desires?
  4. Are their perceived risks for you to do more of what you want?
  5. What do you want less of in your career/current position?
  6. Can you identify one small way you can get more of what you want or less of what you don’t want right now?

Once employees have taken assessments, have had some time to reflect on the results, and thought about how to apply this new knowledge to their current roles and future career goals, the next step is action. Individual team members should be encouraged to take the time to digest the results of the assessments and use their learnings and self-reflection to immediately apply knowledge to action.

Alternatively, employees who are collaborative in nature can be given the opportunity to review their assessment insights with an independent career coach, a trusted member of HR, or a mentor who can guide them to apply these insights to their career goals. It’s critical for people to have the option to work toward goals on their own or opt to process assessment results and plan associated actions with another person. Collaboration can lead to new perspectives and ideas that individuals may not consider on their own. Some people need the accountability associated with collaboration to quickly take action.

Too often, assessments are not regarded as instruments of change. But, in real-life examples, gaining insights into personality traits and interests can open the door to new opportunities. We have an associate, Margaret, who was working as a mid-level social media manager at a non-profit organization. Thanks to a grant, she recently attended a talent development session where she took part in a career assessment. As a result, Margaret was able to envision her role in a new way and was able to identify initiatives that could move the organization forward while tapping into some new areas of professional strength and interest. After the session, she returned to her organization and launched a new Facebook video campaign. Thanks to Margaret knowing her interests in video editing and communications, the organization has increased its visibility and Margaret has found renewed engagement and purpose in her role.

Match company goals to employee goals

Most organizations today have regular communication to employees about current successes and future goals. Publicly traded companies issue quarterly earnings reports, which have come a long way in their readability and graphic appeal, making transparency to employees even easier. Company earnings reports are now designed for a wider audience and include infographics and summaries of data that translate from finance language to more commonly-understood terms. Many companies even publish a summary specific to employees.

Other sources of information on company goals include all-company meetings or regular update emails/videos from the CEO. While these often may pass by us and the employees we support, there is opportunity in each of these communications to help employees find meaning and applicability to their own goals. Consider inviting employees with each company update to pause a moment to apply these company goals to their personal career goals. Encourage them to think critically about the goals of the company and how their jobs might evolve in the future.

Related content: How Do I Set Meaningful Career Goals?

To give meaning to these suggestions, have systems in place where employees can seek help from a career coach, trusted colleague, HR staff, or mentor to brainstorm possibilities. During these conversations, individuals can be guided to consider which types of new opportunities they might be open to pursuing. For instance, if the company is pursuing a new line of business, there may be new teams forming and new jobs opening up. If a company has stated it’s in merger or acquisition mode, often the newly-formed company will have new roles available under a new strategic direction.

Empower managers as mentors

Managers, like the employees they support, often need help connecting lofty company goals to their own work and the impact to their teams. Offer to coach managers after major company communication points about how their teams might align their efforts to company goals. Invite managers to choose one thing from the company communication that was most interesting to their team and articulate that as a point of reference for goal setting. Then, invite managers and team leaders to follow the same process and coach each of their direct reports in their goal setting efforts. By modeling this behavior first, upper management can lead by example and demonstrate how people can find meaning and purpose in new company initiatives.

Related content: Developing the Next Generation of Leaders Through Executive Coaching

In a real-life example of how this can play out, we know a regional operations manager, Trish, who works for a publicly-traded Global 1,000 organization. During a quarterly-results call, Trish noted a remark made by the CEO about the company’s profitability goals. A turn in the market had caused sales of their leading product to decline and the company was asking its employees to tighten their spending. Trish had long been interested in virtual meeting technology and had been testing various technologies with her team. With the support of her GM, Trish replaced all internal travel for the quarter with virtual meetings, establishing a contract with a provider and rules of engagement for virtual meetings (such as no multi-tasking). Her initiative eventually went company-wide.  She asked her team members if they had similar ideas for using technology to improve communication (and ultimately cut expenses). To her surprise, Trish found three other ideas within her team and supported each team member to lead a division-wide initiative to implement new communication tools.

Allow time for reflection

With 24/7 email access and the pressures of delivering projects on time, pausing work to reflect can be challenging. However, reflection is vital to helping people connect their work to the work of the company and to thoughtfully align their career goals to that of the company. In a recent Harvard Business Review article, author Jennifer Porter describes the value of reflection. “Reflection gives the brain an opportunity to pause amidst the chaos, untangle and sort through observations and experiences, consider multiple possible interpretations, and create meaning.”

Finding meaning and connection between the company’s future and an employee’s own future will help ensure employees are able to discover deeper meaning in their current and future work at your organization—a vital metric for retention. Invite your employees to take a few minutes of reflection time at the end of each day or at the end of the week. Encourage this time to be electronic device-free time. Revert to using pen and paper to record learnings for the week and set goals for the future. Studies show that the connection between the brain and using a pen and paper is more powerful than the same task using a keyboard. You can model this for those you support by taking your own reflection time after a company announcement and posting your comments with others related to the announcement on your internal social learning channel.

Simplicity and elegance are elements in solutions that work. Like the e-scooter sitting on the sidewalk ready to spirit the rider to a new location, a carefully placed career development program that includes the ability to set meaningful goals that correlate with company targets will move your talent within your organization faster and will eliminate the congestion of career stagnation and inevitable employee turnover.

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