Talent development

Talent management or ‘the art of having the right people in the right jobs at the right time’ does not only apply to future leaders and is an integral part of closing skills gaps throughout organisations.

‘Talent’ can be defined as people with the potential to make a difference to performance either short or long-term, and many organisations now look at the talents of all their employees to develop their strengths and contributions – see also article 141.

In two-fifths of all organisations that undertake talent management activities – to develop high-potential employees and future leaders – all or most employees are included, mainly through coaching or in-house development. Talent management focused on ‘the few’ can even be damaging to overall employee development needs and engagement, so development reviews should be inclusive, accessible and focused on developing capability as a whole.

Talent management in this wider sense is generally supported by on- the-job training, e-learning and internal knowledge-sharing, with an increasing role for coaching and mentoring. Employee development can also involve drawing up personal development plans to improve performance, setting out actions to meet development needs, or for SMEs secondments to other companies (e.g. suppliers) to gain experience.

Responsibility for talent development lies with the organisation’s leaders. What gets in the way, according to a recent study by PDI Ninth House, is lack of time – leaders feel the need to demonstrate strategic thinking and show strong business acumen – and a lack of a development culture. The report suggests senior managers who want to create a culture of talent development should:

act as a role model – show your own need to learn and how you do it

reinforce the value of learning – ask what your staff want to accomplish, where the skills gaps are and celebrate the outcome and learning when a task is completed

build a sustainable process to support development – expect to coach your people, make sure everyone knows what areas need improvement and develop career tracks for high-potential employees

reinforce shared values – link everyday tasks with the organisation’s values

use problems as opportunities for learning – create a culture where mistakes, up to a point, are accepted and can be learnt from.

Learning and development for SMEs

Smaller companies face three issues:

1  the cost of learning and development

2  giving employees time to learn or train,and

3  fears that employees who develop new skills will leave.

Barriers to learning and skills development are headed by time constraints in slimmed-down business environments, with SMEs often unsure where to find advice and support and unaware of the range of new initiatives to make it easier to employ apprentices.

Research from the Forum of Private Business reveals small businesses shifting their training priorities from replacing lost skills to areas essential for growth such as business development and strategic management, with an increase in activities to build capacity. At the same time, fewer businesses were engaged in efficiency training and skill replacement, indicating fewer redundancies and a more stable workforce.

There are more than 750 government schemes available to help small businesses (www.gov.uk/business-finance-support- finder/search) for example the new Growth Voucher scheme, launched in January, providing up to £2,000 match funding for specialist business support for SMEs with up to 50 employees (www.gov.uk/apply-growth-vouchers).