Human Resources

5 Brilliant Talent Development Strategies You Can Steal from Major Companies



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Unemployment may be low at the moment, but that doesn’t mean that the process of finding talent is all rainbows and sunshine.

Far from it.

A tightening labour-market, hiring uncertainty caused by Brexit and a widening skills-gap is becoming one big migraine for companies attempting to secure the talented workers that they need to thrive.

 The competition for these workers amongst companies is fierce. And it’s only set to get fiercer in the future. This means that, when it comes to employee retention, talent development is absolutely crucial.

We recently put together a whitepaper, in partnership with People Management magazine, exploring five innovative approaches to employee development that some of the world’s major companies take.

You can download the full whitepaper for free by clicking here.

Not sure if it's for you? We've put together a quick summary below.

With the old phrase ‘talent borrows, genius steals’ in mind, let’s have a look at five brilliant talent development strategies that you can steal from major companies!



1.    The more you develop people, the more they’ll stay in your company

Some companies experience real problems in employee retention and talent acquisition, caused by a fear of investing in employee development. The general thinking amongst these businesses is that developing the skills of employees through professional qualifications is a waste of time because those employees will just use their new qualifications to get a new job.

It’s a legitimate fear to have, but it’s not really supported by any solid evidence. In fact, research points to the contrary — that the more you invest in staff, the more likely they are to stay at your company.  

Amazon understand this.

Their employment development programme sees the company pay up to 95% of tuition fees for employees who have been working at the company for at least three years. There are a few caveats though. Qualifications that the employees study need to be in an area that will lead to in-demand job in the future — think HR, healthcare, engineering and IT.

“The thinking behind this approach is that people will follow investment. If you’re a company that’s known for developing the skills of its staff, you’re more likely to attract and keep people,” says Dr Sean McCready, Director of Education at ICS Learn. “People are scared that when they invest in people they’ll leave, and it’s true to say that some do, but many more stay than leave, and the statistics show that.”


2. Tailor employee development to suit the person

Change requires us to learn new skills, new approaches and new knowledge.
A generic, one-size-fits-all approach to talent development might have worked well at your company in the past, but the needs of people change over time. As a result, there’s a real need for companies to adapt to the development requirements of new generations entering the workplace. The most effective way to do that is through personalising the whole employee development process.
IBM have been using their own in-house, artificial intelligence technologies to offer development that’s personalised to the unique skills and career goals of an employee. “We’re very focused on the link between retention and career advancement,” says Sam Ladah, IBM’s HR Vice President of Global Technology Services. “In any given year, about 20% of our people will move into a new job role or they take a new position in a different IBM division.”

Tailoring employee development to the unique talents and needs of an individual doesn’t need to be as high-tech as IBM’s approach, though. You can achieve similar results by using relatively simple strategies, like offering an employee a personal learning budget and letting them spend it on the training that they think is best suited to them and their goals.

“Whether it’s a promotion or a lateral move, we know those who progress are much more likely to stay with IBM over the long term,” says Ladah.



3. Encourage your team to learn from failure

Fear of failure is something that haunts many. But to Pixar, failure is one of the most effective learning opportunities there is. “Mistakes aren’t a necessary evil. They aren’t evil at all. To be a truly creative company, you must start things that might fail.” says Pixar co-founder Ed Catmull.

Pixar’s approach encourages employees to not be afraid of failing early in a project — better to fail and learn early in the process, the philosophy goes, rather than further on in, when the effects could be disastrous. This approach helps to create a work environment that feels safer for employees to innovate and learn within.

By not making failure a bogeyman, Pixar has found that you can effectively encourage more employees to seek leadership roles. Why? Because they know that making a bad decision is not something that they’ll be castigated for — so long as it is done in the spirit of creativity and development.


4. Help employees identify their own strengths

Talent development can often make us obsess over improving our weaknesses. But to make the most from our potential, it’s just as important to develop the things that employees are already good at — their existing strengths.

Pharmaceuticals giant Bayer does just that.

Rather than outsourcing talent development, or delegating it further down the command structure, Bayer makes it the responsibility of senior management. This ensures that employees receive a high-quality learning experience and helps to provide inspiration.

And Bayer hasn’t just pulled this approach out of the air — it’s supported by HR experts. “There is a level of evidence that says to focus on strengths is more powerfully motivational and helps performance,” says Ed Griffin, Director of HR Consultancy & Research at the Institute for Employment Studies.

Again, you don’t need to be a giant multi-national corporation to put this idea into practice. You’ll find that with good line-management practices, you’ll be able to provide useful feedback and practical development coaching to employees.


5. Provide clear targets and rewards

Job site Indeed understand the nuances of career progression better than most. When it comes to implementing learning and development programs in their own company, they are firm believers in providing clear targets and clear rewards.

“Managers try to make sure people have a chance to take on new projects, new focuses or even shift departments within the company. These opportunities can make a big difference if someone feels they’re starting to get stuck in a rut,” Says Indeed’s Senior Vice President of Human Resources, Paul Wolfe. “It’s clear that for some workers, employers need to focus more on their employees’ career prospects if they are to keep them engaged and motivated.”

Creating a clear progression route, and providing obvious rewards, is one way that they’ve improved their employee retention and talent development processes.

We hope that you’ve discovered some compelling tips from this summary of our whitepaper. Remember that you can check out the full version of the whitepaper here.

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