Learning & Development

Looking for Training Experts? They May Be Right Next to You

Do you look for subject matter experts within your own company for your training initiatives? Not every high-potential, knowledgeable employee is looking to be promoted into a top leadership position, but he or she still wants to experience some form of advancement. Tapping these top performers’ vast expertise can boost your training—and help retain them at the same time.

Subject matter experts can help build credibility in training and can stretch training dollars, and a Korn Ferry survey suggests another benefit to their participation: employee retention.

The survey identified a significant lack of development and advancement opportunities for “high-professional talent,” defined by Korn Ferry as “deep subject matter experts such as scientists, researchers, or software developers who may not have aspirations to be organizational leaders.”

Seventy-two percent of surveyed executives indicated that their organization did not have a clear path for advancement for high-professional talent, and 78% reported that they do not have development programs designed to help these individuals advance within their specific function.

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“With the global economy becoming fiercely reliant on knowledge, technology, and innovation, many businesses today require highly specialized leaders,” said Korn Ferry’s Managing Principal Tim Vigue. “It’s critical for companies to find ways to develop, reward, and advance people with deep levels of expertise, not just people with good leadership skills.”

In addition, other than promoting top professional talent into formal management roles, 55% of respondents said their organizations do not have ways to encourage and reward those professionals.

“Our survey found that companies that rely solely on promotions and raises for high professionals are missing the point,” said Korn Ferry Principal Consultant Marji Marcus. “We recommend initiatives that recognize the deep expertise these individuals have, and offer them opportunities to grow their contribution within their own functional areas.”

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When asked what matters most to high-professional talent, 64% of survey respondents pointed to being recognized as a subject matter expert, followed by an ability to build their professional skills (25%). Being given a raise and receiving a promotion were ranked a distant third and fourth—7% and 4%, respectively.

“Companies that depend on having a deep bench of expert talent to drive innovation and growth could find that pipeline depleted if they fail to provide alternative reward structures and technical career tracks for these high professionals,” said Vigue.

“The real key is providing the mechanisms that enable these experts to expand their contribution by transferring their knowledge to the next generation of experts—as informal coaches and mentors—without having to take on formal management roles,” said Marcus. “Otherwise, companies run the critical risk of losing key institutional knowledge as experts retire or leave for another job.”

In tomorrow’s Advisor, we’ll take a look at more research into how proper coaching can enhance engagement at your organization.

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