Sales is often called the heart of the organization, and its health is measured rigorously. Performance is measured in terms of business development, and tracked against both historic performance and ambitious projections. Yet just as sales revenue is essential to a business, talent is the lifeblood of the organization, vital to the performance of every function. And every business is looking to improve performance to stay competitive.
So, why isn’t talent development subject to the same scrutiny and expectations as business development?
For starters, we haven’t been forced to (yet). The “war for talent” we find ourselves in, when seen from a broader perspective, is an effect of Industry 4.0, and we’ve only dipped our toe in those waters. The confusion we see in the labor force now is small compared to what we’ll see as new technologies—artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, etc.—begin to be distributed at scale.
A second reason is that we haven’t learned to effectively measure talent development is that we view talent as static when we should see it as evolving. Human capital must evolve, where less valuable skills are regularly replaced by more valuable skills, to maximize the viability of the career and value to the organization. Those responsible for talent development should be measured on their ability to grow the employee base (as we would existing customers), and acquire new talent (as we would new market share).
A third inhibitor to measurable talent development: We haven’t standardized a method to measure and project human capital value. Business development is easy to measure, and the value is obvious. The same is true of talent, and the most successful organizations create proprietary methods of measuring and projecting its development. The important thing is not that we perfect the measurement, but that we can predict outcomes of our talent initiatives.
Finally, the HR function, like every other function in the modern enterprise, is changing. The implication should be obvious: In the same way we don’t have the skills we need in our workforce, we don’t have the skills we need in HR. We note the potential in data, and yet there has been a 6 percent increase in HR roles asking for big data skills, while the rest of the workforce has seen a 27 percent increase in such demand, according to recent data from Burning Glass Technologies’ Labor Insight. We need to apply the expectations of innovation and transformation to HR that we apply to the rest of our organization.
Taken in total, these four points indicate that HR has simply not kept up with the rapidly transforming culture, marketplace and technological era in which we live and work. HR needs to change its approach to talent development to be data driven and outcome oriented.
Updating Your Talent Development Approach
Your organization must act creatively about the way it measures talent development if it is to compete and win in the war for talent. We have the right model in business development, and here’s how we can apply the same principles.
Identify high-value skills for your organization. Do you need cryptography skills to protect digital assets in today’s cybersecurity arms race? Are those more valuable than project management skills? Identify which skills are strategically imperative so that you can build development plans to grow toward those targets.
Learning and development plans should function like strategic account plans. Target and measure your talent development plans on three core sales pillars:
Set appreciation goals for talent development, then monitor progression as you would a sales pipeline. Expect talent development to forecast future talent shape based on L&D rates, and reward talent development for internal mobility.
HR leaders trying to retool the business for an increasingly disrupted and technology-driven marketplace must look first at their own skill sets and methodologies, and then ensure that we can deliver the vision and execute the change that our businesses need.
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