So, we’ve seen that instead of choosing the best talent to get into your organization, it is probably wiser to focus on a good candidate. One of the goal is to make sure the candidate you have chosen can become “productive” as soon as possible in your organisation. Which is why your people development processes play a key role in making sure your HR function really supports your organisation business needs.
From Training to Development.
In many organisations Learning & Development has always been the last department of HR. Last to be formed, last to get a budget, last to be part of the HR strategy of an organisation. To a certain extent, in many organisations the recent wave of “talent” management has at least had the capability of revising the role that learning plays in the development of people. But it is not enough.
First of all, in many companies we are not even able to talk about learning, as the focus is purely on training activities. What is the difference between the two words? It is not just a minor meaning difference, it is all about a different approach, and the debate is quite old on which one to prefer. The key difference between the two approaches is the attitude you adopt. Training is all about “inputing” contents into the heads of the employees (hoping that something remains). Learning, instead, is about creating an environment in which the employee becomes an active “learner”, and is able to absorb the information and knowledges it actually needs to perform its duties.
As you see, it is not just about changing “name”. Even if you organisation has somebody called “L&D Manager”, if all what you have is a catalogue of courses, mainly technical and mandatory, and the decision to take part in them is taken by HR or by managers only, all what you are doing is pure training.
Another element that confused me has always been the fact that both Training and Learning are very often used in conjunction with the word “Development”. Why? Isn’t Learning all about developing people? Hasn’t the word development already have the need to have learning activities embedded in their processes? In the frame of job divisions, often many organisations have also been able to split Development from Training. In this case a development function deals with what… career programmes? Succession Planning? What is exactly its focus?
I’ve never went to deep into this, because the more I tried to investigate this issue, the more I was puzzled by the responses I would be getting.
We need a new Development approach
What we need is something that is capable of getting the value of the people of your organisation, and increases it over time. This for me is Development. Which is why we definitely need a new approach towards this key element of Human Resources Management. In reality, if you follow may reasoning, any activity that HR should be doing is about developing the people in the organisation. This is what should be the mision of any HR function.
What I am suggesting involves however two necessary supporting facts:
- You are able to measure the impact of your development effort. Annoyingly enough, people that work in Learning & Development are among the most “allergic” in terms of numbers, metrics and analytics. Yet I’ve never heard of any investment activities that does not consistently measure efforts and returns. People Development is for me the same as a financial investment. At the end of the year you have to show to your stakeholders the ROI of all your activities. Yes sure, I see your rolling eyes, and your idea that most of the activities in this domains have effects that cannot be measured. Well, in that case I will be even more radical. We need to adopt a vision, applicable to all of HR, where we become conscious that any action for which we cannot measure results, is not worth undertaking. Of course, I’m not saying that measures need to be just financial ones. Any accountant you will ask, can confirm that there is a lot of qualitative measure also in accounting. But the key element is really demonstrating the value for the organisation of the People Development function. Which is how you will be able to finance the extraordinary effort that lies behind this organisation, and you will also be able to face the usual quests in finding savings into the HR function…
- You are able to show what your development effort has been for any given people in the organisation. This is also key in my opinion. I’m not saying that every person in the organisation needs the same development content or effort. But you cannot concentrate only on a few people. Exactly as if you were investing on real money, you can for sure adopt a portfolio approach (choose some more risky ventures with part of the money, leaving the bulk on safer investments). But you will make sure that any portion of your dollars or euros gets at least a small interest. And here we see one of the most dangerous interpretations of “talent development”, the idea that it should support only the “elite” of your organisation, identified as Talent. Well, introducing a very nice internal discrimination like this, how helpful will it be to your business? Are we really sure that we can get the results the company wants to achieve, just focusing on these people? Isn’t your production goal achieved also through the people that actually work in Production?
We definitely need a new development approach that can holistically address the development need of your whole organisation. We need to plan the portfolio of activities, and we need to be able to measure the results. And we need to make sure nobody is left behind in the quest adding value to your organisation.
How? Well putting in place all the development tools that HR has developed over time, such as:
- On Boarding (this is the first step in any development approach)
- Competency management
- Coaching and Tutoring
- Career management
- Succession planning
- Internal mobility
- Competency assessment
- On the job training
- Performance management
- Compensation and Rewards
The list can be extended of course. But what is key is that all these tools are needed to create the vast portfolio of development activities your organisation needs. Because what you need to be capable of doing is take any people of your organisation and accompany through the different steps of organizational evolution, until s/he becomes really a valuable element for the results of your company. But you need to make sure that all these tools are aligned and integrated, to insure the maximum effect, avoid unnecessary costs, and (sorry if I repeat) measure, measure, measure. Easy, uh? 🙂
This is the third post in a series of six articles: