Few companies have the resources to hire the leaders in their field. These employees demand a high premium and typically accept jobs from the highest bidders at salaries far beyond the means of average companies. A better strategy for most organization is to seek out honest and hardworking employees and then invest in them via strong talent development programs. This way, organizations can transform average employees into the industry leaders that they need.
Many organizational leaders and human resources (HR) departments recognize the importance of talent development, yet few know how to provide the opportunities and support necessary to shape an amazing workforce out of its employees. In fact, research has shown that leaders lose their ability to develop talent the further they climb up the corporate ladder, even though they continue to recognize the importance of such development. Often, this disconnect occurs because of several major factors.
The Factors that Work against Talent Development
The biggest problem that organizational leaders face when it comes to talent development is time. In business, time is money. It is also scarce, therefore other tasks often take priority. Advocating for talent development seems problematic when individuals have a mountain of other tasks that have a direct impact on the business’ success. As people obtain more responsibility, they begin to prioritize measureable tasks, which unfortunately means that tasks that are investments in the future often fall by the wayside.
The best leaders understand that taking the time to invest in people means that the daily crises will decrease because employees will become more competent, not just in handling them, but also in anticipating them and creating solutions before these issues become tangible problems. Without such an investment, the volume of crises will only continue to increase.
Managers want to demonstrate their measurable skills, from strategic thinking to business acumen. Because talent management is not something directly measureable and thus, reportable, many senior leaders put the subject on the back burner and worry that diverting their attention from more measureable factors will lessen their standing in the eyes of their peers at the organization. This often stems from a lack of development culture at the company. When development is not at the core of a company’s mission, then leaders often choose to focus on other things. Even those leaders that make time to mentor in a one-on-one manner fail to engage in larger the organizational development that is so important for creating a talented, tightly knit workforce.
The Factors that Encourage Talent Development
Despite the elements that work against talent development in an organization, leaders who remain diligent can sidestep these pitfalls and make talent development a central part of the company culture. These leaders understand the importance of acting as a role model for other employees.
Many managers want to seem infallible and thus remain resistant to learning, which often means admitting that they do not know something. Executives who do not show that they are willing to learn do not set a good example for their employees, who may in turn not listen when it is their turn to learn. On the other hand, when executives are open and honest about what they do not know and admit their own need to learn, they can show their employees how to seek out knowledge, thereby giving them the tools necessary to learn new things and become more productive workers.
When focusing on talent development, leaders need to understand the vital difference between talent and skills. While skills are teachable, talent is an innate ability. Thus, the best leaders know how to recognize the strengths of their employees and then reinforce them by encouraging more learning in those areas. Leaders should collaborate with employees to identify their goals and share their own opinions about the most promising future for that employee. Together, leaders and employees can forge a path to success by focusing on both the talent and the goals of the worker. In addition, leaders need to reinforce this learning by looking back at projects and analyzing what went well, what went poorly, and what was learned. This reinforcement is just as important when a project goes well as when it goes poorly.
Finally, leaders need to work with their company’s HR department to formalize processes and make them as sustainable as possible. When the coaching and mentoring becomes formalized, then the problem of time becomes less overbearing. HR professionals can hold leaders responsible for meeting with employees for a given amount of time each week or each month to discuss performance and set goals for the future. Coaching should involve honest and respectful conversations about strengths and weaknesses, and leaders should make their expectations for employees clear. These meetings are a good time to discuss future plans and potential promotions within the company should the employee demonstrate progress in key areas.