In today’s knowledge economy, talent is not only critical, it’s also scarce. Although many executives say finding and retaining talent is a top priority, their companies still struggle to fill skilled positions. An effective way to attract and retain talent is to create an environment where talented people can develop.
Talented people seek out opportunities to grow, and they are attracted to organizations that provide ample opportunities to do so. Retention also becomes a non-issue – if people are developing more rapidly than they could anywhere else, why would they leave? Companies that are truly serious about attracting, retaining and developing high-quality talent tend to view themselves as growth platforms for talent where people can develop themselves, which creates a self-reinforcing cycle.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming talent development is only about training programs. Training programs are a good way to help people develop a specific skill or knowledge set, but as the pace of change increases, it can become increasingly difficult to predict what skills people will need, and the half-life of your training programs may get shorter and shorter. No matter how effective training programs are, imagine the added benefit that comes from finding ways to help people learn faster every day in their work environments.
Growth opportunities should occur on the job where employees can learn from coworkers and associates. This on-the-job model of learning enables people to continually acquire relevant skills and knowledge in their own domain. It’s true that letting employees work on projects that stretch their abilities can be risky, but it’s critical for growth. This is particularly true for top talent. The people who are the most skilled in their fields typically achieve that status by doing things no one else has done before. Although you may not be able to train this kind of top talent in the traditional sense, you can provide ample room for experimentation and growth to foster it.
Talent development is essential at all levels of your organization. Too often, when executives talk about talent, they limit the discussion to executives or knowledge workers. But in a global economy characterized by increasing performance pressure, you can’t afford to be so restrictive. To continue to build operational excellence, focus on designing work environments that help all employees improve their performance on a daily basis.
The prospect of self-improvement is deeply satisfying for most people, and becoming a platform for talent can help you attract and retain highly skilled people. Leaders who understand the importance of creating systems where employees at many levels have opportunities for growth often find that they have tapped into the fundamental human motivation for progress, and they may see significant progress in innovation, productivity and efficiency.