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5 Steps for a Talent Development Strategy

After a decade in the training business, I’ve had many meetings with potential clients where the conversation started like this:

We need leadership training for our people.

Whenever my colleagues or I hear that statement, one of the first things we ask is:

What business objectives are you trying to accomplish?

When we ask that question, the responses we hear generally fall into one of two categories:

Sometimes, we hear a detailed explanation of the planned business objectives, the competencies that have been identified, and a detailed timeline for implementation.

More often, we just get more detail on what kind of leadership skills the potential client wants us to help with. When we ask what business strategy those skills are tied to, it’s often difficult to get a clear answer. Sometimes it’s apparent that there is no strategy.

There’s nothing wrong with not having a strategy, but we’ll often work with our clients to create one. We want the training they are investing in to generate clear business results.

Here’s a five-step process we teach our people to follow when contracting with clients. Use it to begin the process for a talent development strategy so you can maximize results from training:

1. Articulate Specific Business Outcomes

Without specific business objectives, talent development activities like training tend to be of more benefit to the employee than the organization.

Get clear on exactly what objectives you’re trying to achieve for the organization. If better customer service is a goal, identify a metric that ties to that and set a target for a specific timeframe.

That kind of detail helps organizations like ours to get clear on exactly what we can provide that will help. It also helps employees see more immediate results in their work (a huge motivator). Finally, great business results that correlate with talent development support future funding for more of it.

We’ve worked with organizations before when training activities were offered mostly as a reward to employees for a job well done. If that’s the case for you too, that’s a fine goal — and a little bit of strategy up front to align this reward with business objectives will also help you fund future rewards.

2. Determine Where Performance Change is Needed

Clear business objectives make it a lot easier for every stakeholder to determine what needs to happen in talent development activities.

For example, say you’ve identified that customer deliveries before deadline are only 92% on target for the previous six months. Your business objective is to move that percentage to 98% by the end of the fiscal year.

The obvious first step is to determine what’s happening with the deliveries that were late. Let’s say you do this and find that in many of the late incidents, staff members weren’t even aware of the customer’s deadline.

3. Identify Required Competencies

In the scenario above, it’s easy to see how an organization might initially go down the path of training on project management or customer service skills. After all, if teams are missing deadlines, those areas must be issues, right?

Since you know that deadlines for projects are almost always communicated during weekly staff meetings, it suddenly becomes more apparent where the breakdown may be happening.

Training people on project management and customer service may help people get better, but it’s not likely to resolve the business issue.

This is why it’s essential to follow these strategy steps. In this scenario, we’d be much more likely to advise an organization to zero in on competencies like “effective meeting management” and “facilitation skills for managers” to ensure that deadlines get communicated clearly during meetings.

4. Decide on the Order of Changes

Almost always, there are multiple competencies that should be developed in order to help an organization meet business objectives. Even in the simple scenario above, both meeting management and facilitation skills could play a role in getting people the information they need about customer deadlines.

Moreover, the organization may wish to begin using an online project management system, so customer deadlines are apparent to everyone, even outside of the weekly meetings. That might necessitate additional training on how to use a project management system.

This is where timing becomes important. Decide what needs to happen in what order to achieve the best results. Since standing up an entirely new project management system takes time, you’re almost certainly better off addressing the competencies (and getting results) with the managers first.

5. Align Appropriate Solutions

This step is where you’ll determine how to develop the competencies you need in the right order.

Your internal experts in training, organization development, and human resources are key people to turn to at this point. Be sure you share the details you’ve uncovered in the first four steps so they can make recommendations that matter.

This is also where an external provider can help you create exactly the solution you’ll need to drive your business results. We assist our clients with this (and the previous four steps) all the time.

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