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Talent Management in the Eyes of an Employer

Transforming Learning and Development Strategies into Achievable Programmes for Talent Management

By Dr Mo Kader

The development of talent is an ongoing human resources goal. Much talked about and little implemented; it is the productivity problem of the next 20 years. From 2008 and the Global Financial Crisis, the retention of talent in shifting economies has been a challenge for medium sized enterprise. Small businesses operate at a different scale and are generally less impacted by the size of the talent pool as there are inherent characteristics in small business that some employees wish to retain. These include flexibility, familiarity and a greater ability to make decisions. Large business has access to greater resources that it can use in as it strives to retain talent. It is medium sized businesses who bear the brunt of skills shortages and the retention of skills and talents that are hard to replace.
Small and medium sized businesses (SME’s) spend less per capita on training than large enterprise. This magnifies the talent management problem.
Training and development for talent management is an area of increasing growth in the training and development sector. Training can achieve several talent-management-focussed outcomes.

Talent Pool Growth:
Increasing the talent pool by transforming more of the border line employees (at the edge of talented and developing) into talented employees by empowering them to use business tools, learn new practices and refine productivity. Examples of this may include an employee with a long-standing career in the organisation, but who is averse to the use of technology. By combining the knowledge and skills of that employee with training in the area of technology, the first step in a talent management strategy for that employee is achieved. The second step is to follow up with productivity training in the technology tools on which the employee was trained in step 1. The final step is to allow the employee access to annual refresher and advanced training. By doing this, we create a category of employee extremely hard to otherwise find in the market place; an employee who has intimate knowledge of the business and can operate at the highest possible productivity level.

Talent Pool Retention:
In this activity, we use training and development to increase the level of interest of already talented staff in staying and growing with the business. The training may not necessarily be in the areas of productivity or business processes, but may be in any area of interest to the talent pool, such as in self-development.

Talent Pool Diversification:
Diversifying the type of talent within a medium-sized enterprise is another outcome of training and development. The range of talent within an SME usually covers:
Operational talent: This is the talent pool of employees who master the operational aspects of the business and who can contribute to the bottom line of the enterprise through tangible operational effectiveness.
Strategic talent: Is the talent that is required for the future growth and development of the organisation. As organisations harness developments in technology, future markets or the potential to develop new products, a certain breed of talent is discovered; staff who are needed for the next phase of the strategy. Training and development aims at providing this group of employees with the reason to stay to the end of the strategy being deployed. It also furnishes these staff members with new tools and skills to enable them to beneficially apply their talent when the strategy is under way.

 Developmental talent:

These are unrecognised staff members with the right behaviours, attitudes and characteristics that can evolve into Operational Talent or Strategic Talent in the realisable future.

Training and Development Strategies for the Three Types of Talent:
Irrespective of the type of talent in an organisation, a learning and development strategy needs to be devised, or the existing strategy modified, to accommodate three parallel lines of training. This is important. It is counterproductive to have all three types of talent attend the same training session as this dilutes the value of the session and confuses attendees as they cannot relate to why they are ALL in this training. Each category has to be trained separately, allowing for a complete view of the entire talent pool by that trainer.

Training Dynamics for Talent Management:
The training dynamics for talent management are different to generic training and development. Because talent pools are small and their training needs to be separate from generic T&D, classroom sizes are often small. This needs a strong experiential training focus and a special type of trainer. Most trainers have difficulty training very small groups, so the curriculum needs to be flexible and involve more one on one work within the classroom environment. The coaching element of the development program post training also needs to be emphasized.

Training Tools:
The ideal training tools for talent management development programs are whiteboard and markers as opposed to PowerPoint’s. Case studies, experiential discussions and role plays are also important after every theoretical segment. This is particularly important as the talent T&D is a blend of both training and coaching.
An assessment portfolio with a high degree of emphasis on the on-the-job portion of the assessment is vital. Talent management does not benefit from excessive theory especially in the operational category of talent.
Finally, ample external reading after class in the areas of self-development, self-improvement and in business strategy will help the talented employee link the various aspects of the training to their role within the organisation.

Training for talent management is a different genre of T&D than generic development for employees. Smaller training group sizes, greater emphasis on experiential learning and a blend of training and coaching are the hallmarks of this style of training.
When done effectively, talent-focussed training can empower SME’s and provide for a good investment in the future growth and direction of the SME. This is more pronounced than in small or in large enterprise.

Further Reading and References Cited
Dunphy, D. (1998). The Sustainable Corporation- Organisational Renewal in Australia. Allen and Unwin.
Berger, L. and Berger D. (2010). The Talent Management Handbook: Creating a Sustainable Competitive Advantage by Selecting, Developing, and Promoting the Best People / Edition 2. McGraw Hill.
Schiemann, B. (2009). Reinventing Talent Management: How To Maximixe Performance in the New Marketplace. Wiley.
Delong, D. and Trautman, S. (2010). The Executive Guide to High-Impact Talent Management: Powerful Tools for Leveraging a Changing Workforce. McGraw Hill.