Your Company Can Skill Up Too

Your Company Can Skill Up Too

So, you’re tired of turnover. It’s been costing you money, bottlenecking your workflow, and disrupting your company. As a business owner, you’ve probably seen news article after news article with eye-catching statistics about how much a talent development initiative could help you retain skilled people and produce all kinds of other great benefits. But perhaps it’s always felt improbable, or too expensive, to implement in your own company. After all, people keep leaving, right? Should you even invest in them?

Yes, if you want to stem the rush of people out the door. And it’s not as improbable as you think. Talent development is not a one-size-fits-all thing. It can be scaled to fit the needs of any company, large or small, and any industry too. All it takes is a new way of thinking. More accurately, a learning-based mindset.

Thinking Like Learners

It’s natural for people to want readily apparent results, but the shift to a learning-based mindset has to be thought of as a long-term strategy if you want your efforts to succeed. The returns accrue incrementally.

“The ROI from talent development is something that emerges over time. A good way to visualize this is by making a LEGO analogy. We’re adding a small piece at a time to our employees’ skills, one lesson at a time, but it all grows into a stronger and much more well-rounded individual for the company. It’s an investment in the future,” said Chrisanne Christ, senior partner in the human resource development at Centier Bank.

Based in Merrillville, IN, the bank’s talent development department has decades of experience.

“Employers need to realize this investment is not just for the person, but for the benefit of who they’re serving,” Christ added. “If someone feels they’re being invested in, and they’re valued, they’re going to be happier and more fulfilled in their position. Turnover will go down, and client/customer interactions will be more positive because people feel better about where they work.”

Where to Start

A talent program’s implementation should begin from a leadership perspective, in which your supervisors will be the biggest champions for the development of their team members. Leaders will be the ones to foster a sense of relevance for what is being learned, forming the connection between the lesson and the ways it will be applied throughout the workday.

Dan Gibson, talent development manager and assistant vice president with Centier Bank’s human resources department, explained a bit about why this helps when first starting out.

“Developing talent should rely first on the managers above the direct report,” Gibson said. “Their job will be to promote the culture of learning. An individual with continuous learning in mind will always be thinking about growing and developing themselves, which is one of the more important traits that companies can have in their employees.”

“Examine what people need to do in their role to be better in the next one to two years, and what they need in the next five-plus years. Develop content beyond formal training that can get them to the next level,” Gibson said. “Think about how to get the person from X to Y strategically, focusing on the future and those skills they’re going to need for the future.”

Learning Happens Anywhere, Anytime

Formal instruction, like in a traditional classroom setting, is a useful resource. But the process of talent development should really be more continual learning that happens informally, in one capacity or another, every day. Technology has enabled employees to become learners anywhere, anytime. As they say, sometimes you learn more in the hallway than the lecture hall.

Therefore, instruction can be curated to be on-demand. Lessons can be given as needed to address a specific challenge currently facing employees. This is effective because it provides a timely connection between learning and applying what’s been learned, which also helps the individual retain more of the instruction.

Another good strategy for early talent development programs is to instill a sense of relevance and purpose for learning. Exposing employees to the way their position fits into the company as a whole is a useful method for building a sense of how an individual’s skills affect the bigger picture.

One of the techniques that Centier deploys is a three-day orientation where new employees spend time performing duties outside of their normal departments. A full array of job crossovers takes place, which helps people build relationships with other areas of the company and form deeper understanding of how everything fits together. This is also a good first step in implementing coverage controls for critical positions later on.

Yes, You Can Too

The key takeaway is that most of these concepts can be scaled to any level and adjusted to any industry setting. Every company can develop its people, bringing in great rewards if they’re consistent about finding new ways to improve.

Much like how learning happens one step at a time, changing your company’s structure into a learning-based organization will happen in steps too. Your business may not need a full-blown talent department, but it does need to start building in adaptability and relevant ways to learn if you want to stay competitive and retain talented people.

Yes, you can afford to do this. Yes, it will reduce your turnover. And yes, it will produce quite a big return over time. No matter what kind of business you have, it’s time to start developing your people however you can so your company can thrive.

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Category Cover Story, Features