talent development across your organisation

Talent management is not just a mechanism for securing future leaders. It is ‘the art of having the right people in the right jobs at the right time’, and an integral part of closing skills gaps throughout organisations.

‘Talent’ can be defined as people with the potential to make a difference to performance either short or long-term. Many organisations now look at the talents of all their employees to develop their strengths and contributions (see also ‘developing future talent’ in chapter 14).

However, this view is not shared by all: Development Dimensions International – a consultancy – found that many organisations make the mistake by spreading limited resources across all employees, while those who concentrate on developing high-performance leaders and employees who create value for the organisation, achieve better returns.

On the other hand, talent management that focuses on ‘the few’ can be damaging to overall employee development needs and engagement. For this group, development reviews should be inclusive, accessible and focused on developing capability as a whole.

Talent management in this wider sense is generally supported by on-the-job training, e-learning and internal knowledge-sharing, with an increased capacity for coaching and mentoring. Employee development can also involve drawing up personal development plans to improve performance, setting out actions to meet development needs or, for SMEs, secondments to other companies (suppliers, for example) to gain experience.

Responsibility for talent development lies with the organisation’s leaders. What gets in the way, according to a recent study by PDI Ninth House, is lack of time – leaders feel the need to demonstrate strategic thinking and show strong business acumen – and a lack of a development culture. The report suggests senior managers who want to create a culture of talent development should:

  • act as a role model – show your own need to learn and how you do it

  • reinforce the value of learning – ask what your staff want to accomplish, where the skills gaps are and celebrate the outcome and learning when a task is completed

  • build a sustainable process to support development – coach your people, ensure everyone knows which areas need improvement and develop career tracks for high-potential employees

  • reinforce shared values – link everyday tasks with the organisation’s values

  • use problems as opportunities for learning – create a culture where mistakes, up to a point, are accepted and can be learnt from.

learning and development for SMEs

In smaller companies, perhaps more than large organisations, the consequence of every decision can be keenly felt by employees. The method of training for and sharing soft skills must be backed up by good knowledge of its impact. Targeted conversations, which can be quite emotive, and communicating feedback, are just two key areas using soft skills, but the manner of delivery is of high importance for constructive learning.

In an environment of digital technology, robotics and automation, employers are realising that hard skills are far easier to automate than soft skills like communication, empathy, creativity and leadership. A range of soft skills can be learned, however, to ensure your workforce is well-equipped to work cohesively.

As the workforce ages and several generations come together in the same workplace, an entirely new set of skills is required for effective co-working, collaboration, problem-solving and two-way mentoring. Among members of the Australian workforce, creativity and problem solving are now rated considerably higher than communication and presentation skills. The latter are what used to be termed ‘soft skills’; now the soft skills of complex problem-solving, critical thinking, listening and perseverance in a supportive work culture, are backing up productivity and becoming the key attributes of successful organisations.

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