Talent Management

An HR Guide On How To Develop Talent

2 mn 5 Feb 2020

Katherine Jollon Colsher, a managing director at repeatedly top-rated employer Goldman Sachs, once said: “We’ve found that what’s good for employees is good for business.”  

When it comes to developing talent that quote holds especially true – investing in our people is incredibly valuable to our businesses. 

It means we grow the talent we need, nurture the talent we have and are more likely to hold on to the talent we’ve got. That means both that we don’t have to go through the costly process of replicating that talent and also that our competitors don’t end up with the advantage of taking our prized people. 

While most of us in HR are already on board with this concept, effective and ongoing talent development is a challenge to get right. In the midst of fast paced business and all the day-to-day requirements upon us all, it’s all too easy to let it slip down the priority list. 

Ensuring talent development and training stays high on everyone’s agenda, as with so many things in HR, is really about company culture. The personal progression of your people is in everyone’s interests so empowering and enabling individuals to continuously be curious, grow and develop is key. 

It’s about creating a business in which a passion for learning and development is encouraged, nurtured and fulfilled via a multi layered approach. 


Create a learning culture 

Creating a learning culture means letting everyone in your organisation know that their personal development is a priority. Opportunity to make that happen needs to be widespread and regular.  

Top of the 2019 Workforce 100 list, employer Southwest Airlines puts a great emphasis on employee training and development and puts staff at the centre of driving their own learning. The firm has risen, over a number of years, gradually up the Workforce 100 list, which recognises human resources excellence. 

Whilst replication of the Southwest Airlines University, a training hub for its 58,000 strong workforce, is beyond blue sky thinking for most, its ethos can be replicated in businesses of all sizes.  

One of the university’s former senior programme directors spoke about inviting and encouraging people to become intentional and independent learners. The company’s mission statement said employees had an ‘equal opportunity for learning and personal growth’. He said ‘Training: Southwest Style’ was fun, engaging, and energizing. 

 The firm’s ‘day in the field’ initiative allows employees to work alongside colleagues in a different role to gain a deeper understanding and knowledge. The business also provides personal tuition reimbursement budgets. 


Implement technologies to engender talent development 

After securing first place in the Workforce 100 list, Southwest Airlines’ chief people officer Julie Webber spoke of her focus on investing in new technologies to ensure staff had one-stop shop access to all HR functions even from their phones. 

Those technologies can be key in developing and embedding a culture of continuous learning and talent development.  

A one-stop-shop system allows goal and target setting, performance management and feedback to be continuously integrated into daily working. Motivating systems for instant acknowledgement of successes and outstanding efforts can be integrated. 

Talent tracking and logging can help ensure the right people are always directed to the right tasks as well as exposing talent gaps and development opportunities.  


Showcase internal career progression opportunities 

Liz McAuliffe, executive vice president of another top rated employer of 2019 T Mobile, said the firm acts as stewards of all its employees personal growth and success. 

In recent years it made an effort to showcase the opportunities for internal promotion it was already good at creating and enabling, including a high profile predominantly virtual employee career fair with activities on career guidance, development and showcasing of job shadow opportunities.


Share skills and talents 

Within your own organisation there’ll be bags of experience and skill that, when shared, offers development opportunities. 

Encouraging employees to recognise and share their own talents with colleagues will broaden knowledge across the organisation and build relationships. Scale depends on requirements. It can be an informal question & answer over lunch, a Skype session or a more formal training day.   


Help employees to set quantitative development goals 

Embedding measurable development goals and timeframes within the performance management process makes personal improvement a target for employees. 

When considering how to develop talent some people will know exactly what they need to do for themselves whilst others will require and appreciate more support and input into identifying their own development opportunities. 

Sitting this goal alongside those related to output and success criteria will elevate it as a priority within the minds of the whole team. In this way staff can be helped to see that personal development is not a selfish pursuit but of great value to the team and business as a whole. 


Be a role model for learning 

HR teams, management and other senior leaders within an organisation can make a big impact by pursuing continuous professional development themselves. 

Leading by example by taking up learning opportunities shows employees that personal development is an encouraged and worthwhile use of time. 


A conclusion on how to develop talent 

Developing talent needs to be an integral and integrated part of day-to-day business. It doesn’t have to mean losing a whole team to a full day of training. It’s about exploiting, exposing and encouraging learning opportunities. 

Celebrating successes when things go well and promoting those wins within and between teams provides chances to learn through templating good practice. Analysing failures in a supportive and non judgemental way helps reduce duplication of error and allows people to see a different way forward for next time. 

Helping people to see their growth potential and career path within the organisation and helping them strive to gain the skills necessary to do that by shadowing or through formal training makes for resilient, flexible and stable teams. 


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