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Talent Mobility – developing your talent

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8th Jul 2014
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In the third of a four-part series on talent mobility, Matt Russell, Head of Talent at Lee Hecht Harrison, explores a critical phase in the talent mobility process – the importance of ‘development’ and, more specifically, developing your employees and leaders to achieve greater levels of success. 

Read part one and part two of the series.

The case for developing talent has always been clear: for an organisation to achieve its primary objectives, it must invest and implement a clear strategy that begins with firstly understanding its talent, then developing the workforce with the necessary capabilities, and finally mobilising talent to achieve organisational goals.

Today’s workforce demands – and the nature of work - require new strategies for developing talent. Organisations that are truly committed to talent mobility will typically have completed an audit of their people by assessing individual key strengths and development areas that are aligned to business goals. Recent research, carried out by Human Capital Institute and LHH, found that nine out of ten of these organisations use traditional assessment tools to understand their talent and will have an ongoing and well-established performance management process. These organisations will also view performance management as an ongoing – 365 days a year – process and will provide leaders with the coaching skills to hold effective performance and coaching conversations with their employees.

When asked about how they use these tools for talent planning for the future, less than 50% of the organisations we surveyed employ succession planning and only 29% said that employees are offered formal career planning.

Through the research, only 41% of organisations surveyed said their employees were well informed about opportunities for lateral mobility within their business, and even less agreed that there is transparency around advancement opportunities in their organisation.

So what does this mean in practice when we talk about developing talent as part of the overall talent mobility strategy?

Talent management systems need to be robust and transparent

If they’re not, then the psychological contract between employer and employee can be severely damaged. Before you develop your high-potential talent you need to let them know that they are part of the talent pool. The impact? The employee feels more connected, will invest more of their time in the process and will produce greater results for the business. Not telling them can seem subversive. And career development is a two-way conversation. So in short, talk to your people and be clear of your intent – and let other parts of the organisation know that you have talented people for developing and mobilising!

Make sure that the leadership is held accountable for talent development

In order to be sustainable, talent management needs an organisational commitment from the CEO and board to continuous professional development. Talent management tools are great, but they are secondary to having leadership buy-in that can help implement development plans and support employees. From the survey conducted, only 37% or respondents indicated that their organisations hold leaders and managers accountable for developing talent. Like any new initiative, it’s critical that executive support and promotion is in place to foster individual and organisation growth and drive sustainable success.

Find and adopt the development methods that today’s workforce need

Whether the focus is on individual competence or organisational competence, developing specific competencies aligned to organisational goals is key to creating an effective talent management system. There are numerous methods available to organisations for developing their talent to meet individual and organisation competence, from formal onboarding and performance reviews to coaching and training. As well as these more traditional development methods, organisations need to find additional ways to develop and invest in their top talent. These methods may be working in cross-functional teams, task/job rotation and meaningful stretch assignments. These collaborative-based development techniques actively prepare employees for mobility across departments and functions – as well as building character in your future leaders.

Whilst some organisations intuitively understand the need to grow well-rounded future leaders that have hands-on experience and line of sight across the business, many are missing the opportunity to expose employees to a variety of assignments and experiences that would help them see the big picture.

Consider the pros of talent segmentation

Organisations for years have borrowed an idea from marketing – that of segmentation. The process of dividing the employee population into groups of individuals who bring unique skills, knowledge, experience and capabilities enables organisations to develop their talent pools according to individual needs whilst aligning these skills to business needs.

You’ll have the right people in the right places, at the right time – fully engaged in the organisation and achieving greater levels of success.

In the final part of this series, we will look at the last key phase in the talent mobility process; that of ‘deployment', looking at how organisations that deploy their talent effectively focus on filling open roles internally and ensure that their employees have the tools they need to move into new and different positions.

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