Disrupted: Chapter 3 – “Corporate Disruption – Insights from Talent Development”
In our world of communication coaching, we talk to a lot of talent development and talent management leaders. One conversation with a new client was particularly revealing. We were designing a coaching program for some of the company’s future leaders, and she shared the difficulty of finding and retaining top talent for the company.
“I know that when I onboard a great resource, I only have them for about two years. While it’d be great to build out a series of development steps for a young leader, it doesn’t make sense when I know half of them won’t be here by the end of it. So, my perspective has shifted to, ‘what will you contribute while you’re here and what can I do to make you more effective for the company?’”
That’s a real dilemma for a talent leader and you can see from her quote that, even with the best of intentions, she can’t make a development plan work for everybody. Talent strategies have pivoted from a concentrated, long-term strategy of developing leaders over time, to addressing business needs and standing up new leaders quickly.
We’ve seen the shift and heard the dilemma anecdotally. But as we began thinking through disruption, we wanted to quantify the corporate perspective more formally. Through a comprehensive survey and follow-up interviews with nearly three hundred talent development and talent acquisition leaders, we found our assumptions matched their insights (see Appendix for full results).
Talent leaders are being stretched to anticipate skills, not just solve for gaps. And company priorities and strategies are shifting at a rate that’s hard to stay ahead of. In fact, 47% of our survey respondents said that one of their biggest challenges is that their company’s current talent capabilities do not align with the company’s future needs. That’s a pretty sizable gap! It means that talent teams are looking at either retraining or rehiring nearly half of their workforce. And even with the best of intentions, retraining half a workforce just isn’t feasible as a long-term strategy. It’s expensive, it slows down a company’s operations, and, perhaps most importantly in today’s market, it takes too much time.
So, if talent is at such a premium in companies, then where are talent leaders investing their time, energy, and funds? Well, they’re investing in two places with very different approaches: first-level managers and emerging leaders (seasoned directors/VPs and above).
Skilled front-line managers are needed to help an organization achieve its goals. Whether you’re in sales, marketing, engineering, finance, operations, etc., the first-line manager has a lot of visibility to both employees and customers, and they need to have a specific set of skills to manage the expectations of the brand and of the consumer. Training and support for this group is primarily focused on “hard skills” and whatever technical or specialist skill sets are needed to drive the immediate projects and strategies of a business. While there’s a lot of churn at this level of an organization, it still remains a priority for talent teams, so much so that this group was rated the highest training priority across our survey.
The second priority for talent teams are their emerging leaders (Senior Director/VP and up). Interestingly, this group requires the complete opposite training approach. Instead of delivering outcomes of a brand for a customer, future leaders become the expectations of the brand. And often, that means a lot more visibility in high-stakes environments. So, training for this group is focused on “soft skills” and whatever communication and leadership traits a talent team can help a rising leader develop quickly.
And as you’ve probably noticed, there are a lot of roles that this approach leaves out. If you don’t fall into one of those two camps, you’re not alone. And if your own development goals fall outside the scope of what the business needs, there’s a good chance you won’t wind up on a talent team’s radar.
82% of talent development priorities are based on company goals, identified skill gaps for specific tasks, and job roles and functions. And only 8% of talent development programs, initiatives, and events are based on employee feedback and development interests. Talent development leaders told us that employees ask for leadership development, communication, and technical skill development through internal surveys and performance reviews. Yet those desires aren’t always in line with their companies’ priorities and development investments.
So, you can see how many employees fall between the cracks by missing training within their function area or not fitting the profile of the talent strategy in a given year. In addition, talent development leaders say that employees have unrealistic expectations and some blind spots about career advancement. These insights summed up our hypothesis, which is that in today’s corporate environment, you need to take ownership for your own development and career advancement.
And when you take ownership, you’ll find that resets can be opportunities if you know how to interview and illustrate your experiences well.
Next week, we’ll share the insights from talent acquisition leaders who clearly define what the interview is all about and why most people miss the mark.
More to come…