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The following are extracts from ACE member Janice Caplan’s successful book “The Value of Talent: Promoting Talent Management Across the Organization,” published by Kogan Page in 2011.

Development

Most people want a career, or a developing future. The Black Box[1] and other studies considered in chapter 2 provide evidence that career, training and development are key factors that lead to improved employee engagement and, therefore, improved business performance. Black Box reveals: “employees have expectations … beyond just doing the job.” It suggests that HR policies on careers and training are the most important in influencing employee attitudes and helping to create positive discretionary behaviour.

This gets to the heart of Talent Management, but, of course, it is also part of the learning and development agenda, and organization development (OD). Whilst it is the ideas that are important, not their labels, it does help understanding to clarify the difference between these disciplines and my use of the terms. ‘Learning and development’ is an important part of Talent Management but it tends to focus on helping people develop performance in their current role. It therefore delivers much but not all of the Talent Management strategy, which is more future-focused and emphasizes developing people for organizational change and along their identified, longer-term career path. The term 'Organizational Development' is widely used in at least two distinct ways but, however you view it, OD overlaps considerably with my view of Talent Management and, throughout this book, is included within it. When I use the term organizational development, I do so in the sense of moving the organization towards its future goals, not in the sense of a discipline within HR.

In this chapter, I continue to explore the potential of an integrated Talent Management system. I look first at methods to assess development needs, and then consider development solutions that reinforce my Talent Management approach. Space does not permit me to cover in depth all the areas of development, learning, training, coaching etc. I also consider concepts and initiatives that will help you create a talent mindset, and make development effective.

Integrated Talent Management

Being able to identify someone to fill a role quickly, or take on a completely new challenge, or move into untried waters are major aims of Talent Management. Growing your own talent to combat skills shortages, or to enable you to become an employer of choice are also key, as is the need to support people in taking on the capabilities that will enable the organization to adapt to change as it happens.

These are not short-term aims that can be satisfied through one-off initiatives, or ad hoc learning and development programmes. These are business needs requiring a consistent, cohesive approach to help people build their skills and understanding over time. In other words, it requires an integrated Talent Management system.

In chapter 5, I showed how you can extract behavioural capabilities from your mix of competencies; and that you can use these as the cornerstone of an integrated Talent Management system. You do that by referring all your HR activities and processes to these capabilities. For example, I described their use as selection criteria for job appointments but also to broaden discussion during performance appraisals.

Starting your development journey

I believe passionately that the more complete the insight into your performance, the more likely that you will understand your strengths and preferences and how to leverage these, and, similarly, your weaknesses and how to compensate for them. Self-awareness is the bedrock for personal development because it permits a comparison of current with desired capabilities and therefore points the way to what needs to be done to achieve those goals. It is how people can become the best they can be.

Raising your self-awareness involves some kind of assessment. This is different from assessment to make selection or pay decisions, or for assigning appraisal ratings. Even though in these cases the data generated should also inform a development plan, it, nonetheless, serves primarily to establish a cut-off point: you match the criteria, or you don’t at this point in time. The prime purpose of the assessment we use here, on the other hand, sets the start of your development journey. It may use some of the same methods and techniques but its different purpose means it should be positioned differently and the data generated must be applied differently. 

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Development centres

Development centres grew out of assessment centres and, as the names imply, have contrasting purposes. Assessment centres are designed to assess suitability for jobs, whereas a development centre helps people develop skills and behaviours that are desired by their employer. They encourage continuous development and learning, as a result of which people are generally better able to adapt swiftly to a new and demanding opportunity. In this way, they facilitate rapid career advancement or career changes and are especially beneficial for meeting ‘new world’ needs.

The link between development centres and organizational culture is powerful. In 2005 Scala, together with our ACE partners, surveyed the use of development centres in 93 UK organizations, employing between 1,000 and 93,000 employees, and compared these findings with case study organizations from across Europe. Amongst the latter, merger and acquisition, culture change, or reorganization were the key drivers of development centre programmes. Others were the need to replace a ‘silo’ structure and a ‘silo’ mentality with a more cohesive and global approach to career and personal development. In some cases, large investments were made in development centres to support the business strategy or brand development. Several businesses used the programme to convey a top-down message that encouraged everyone to invest in being a good people manager so that this would be part of the DNA of the organization. Another organization used the centres to convey that all employees had a ‘right’ to receive specific, positive and constructive feedback, which they believed was the key to unleashing talent. This enabled them to embed the mindset that everyone has a ‘right’ to know what their line manager and the organization think of their performance.

The following were cited by respondents to this survey as the main benefits of development centre programmes:-

  • Awareness to individual of ability and potential
  • Enables organization to identify high potential employees
  • Less subjective approach to identifying skills and development gaps
  • Enables staff to see a career path
  • Excellent retention tool
  • Identifying development needs and meeting those needs in all individuals
  • Motivation of staff leading to increase in company performance
  • Helps continue growth of company.

Typical comments from our survey about how participants viewed development centres were: ‘People say how marvellous it is that the organization is doing this for me’ “People see the development centre as a unique opportunity to understand themselves better, to look in the mirror, and get immersed in themselves with the support of professionals.”

As with the profiling process, if you implement development centres, it is vital to be clear about their purpose and who may participate. A development centre programme that communicates particular corporate values, helps people plan their development in line with organizational capabilities, and gives the organization a better understanding of the people it employs, is wholly consistent with an inclusive approach to Talent Management, with its emphasis on valuing individuals. It will naturally take care of high-potential people but will also help others refresh and refocus their skills, or develop their careers. It can also enable better performance development planning for weaker, or marginal performers.

Development centres risk the perception that they are a means of weeding out poor performers, and so how you communicate about them to avoid this is vital. Practically, however, you can’t include everyone and so participants must be selected on clear business needs and not because people feel they lose status if they are not chosen. The most common criteria are to run the centres for line managers at a certain level, perhaps to raise people management skills as in the examples above, or for those new to a management role. In all cases the criteria and objectives must be clearly communicated to everyone.

For many organizations giving a sense of corporate identity and values whilst enabling people to maintain their cultural and personal individuality presents a real challenge. Capabilities (or competencies) meet this challenge by creating consistency, whilst also allowing scope for local adaptation. Through consistent use, you build pictures in people’s minds about ‘how we do things around here’ and what is important to organizational success. Capabilities also enable you to open career paths internationally, or across divisions by providing common criteria to describe roles and assess suitability. In this way, you achieve a balance between consistency and quality on the one hand, and local adaptation and autonomy on the other.

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A profiling process and development centres do, of course, have pitfalls. These are the most common to watch out for:-

  • Be transparent when communicating the process and its purpose. Complete transparency over the use of assessment data is essential to building trust. Communicate clearly upfront what data will be generated, who will see feedback reports and be party to the data, and explain how the data will be used. Commonly, a programme is introduced to help personal development and data remains with the individual. Later, however, needs may change. For example, it may be realised that the data could inform succession planning but using it subsequently for a different purpose than was said can destroy trust. Allow for this upfront. Consider all possible uses of the data and reserve the right to use it in these ways in the future. Remember, however, that assessment results must be treated as tentative and less reliable as time passes after the event.
  • Avoid over-engineering by aiming to cover too many capabilities. Much can be achieved by focusing on the behavioural capability dimensions required for success in the future, such as adaptability, learning and so on.
  • It is absolutely vital to have follow-up development programmes in place at the outset. Especially when these methods are rolled-out to everyone, or to a large group, it is important to keep pace with the demands and enthusiasms they generate. Development centres, especially, raise expectations and the challenge then becomes how to make sure people are getting what they want and not losing motivation and momentum.
  • Make sure the capabilities used at development centres link to those used at assessment centres. Build bridges with recruiters to ensure consistency of both capabilities and message.

Processes such as capability profiling and development centres offer developmental and motivational benefits to individuals, which directly link to the factors around careers and development that enhance employee engagement. They are powerful ways to drive organizational culture, focus people on behaviour, and encourage continuous learning. This creates flexibility and adaptability to change. Both processes produce profile reports and when line managers are trained to use them, these facilitate those all-important conversations about careers and development. They also enable the organization to gain a better understanding of its workforce, which is essential if you are to react swiftly to change.

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360-degree feedback is less versatile than the options discussed here, but is nonetheless useful.

The use of ‘wikis’, social networking, e-learning and so on offer valuable ways of encouraging learning, sharing information, and connecting people globally and across organizational boundaries. Take advantage of these new technologies to disseminate capabilities, values and culture. The possibilities are endless and will change the nature of learning.

New technologies also make it easy for people to learn about jobs and roles and therefore identify future career opportunities. They also make it easy for the organization to collect data about its people by asking people to complete internal CVs and so on.

Know your workforce

Especially within a successful organization, it’s quite easy to identify people who are high performers, but identifying those who have the potential to move into something else is much harder. In a jobs market where employers often struggle to fill skilled vacancies, businesses simply cannot afford to lose people, who may have hidden or under-used talents, simply because they have let them drift or become disenchanted. The development centre and profiling processes discussed here help you understand the skills, strengths and abilities of the people you employ, as well as their potential to take on new skills and new roles. This is particularly important when many organizations are changing their structures to meet the challenges of the business climate. This understanding enables you to identify someone to fill a role quickly, know whether they can take on a completely new challenge, or move into untried waters, and understand the support they will require to do this. It is also, of course, a prime way of growing your own talent.

Achieving this level of flexibility in the workforce requires more than taking a note of who has what skills. It requires a mindset that values people for their strengths and preferences, seeks to understand their aspirations and is prepared to take a risk on someone and offer them an accelerated career path, or an opportunity they may not have the exact experience for. Let’s examine these concepts further.

 

……………  See e-SimulatorTM or Iperquest Web to learn about the latest methods.



[1] Ibid

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