5 Tips for Building a Cutting-Edge Talent Development Program

By Sandy Pennington, chief people and process officer, Clinicient

In 2013, 52% of employers stated that their top business challenge was hiring and retaining talent. As this business challenge shows no signs of letting up any time soon, companies must rethink their approach to talent management.

Talent management, or an organization’s commitment to recruit, retain, and develop the most talented and superior employees available in the job market, is evolving dramatically and quickly.

Formerly perceived as an HR task, talent management is now a technology enabled, holistic strategy for driving business value.

This transformation is visible in how top performing organizations talk about talent management. Often these internal conversations about staff training and hiring resemble business development strategies. Instead of asking the question, “Is this person a good fit for this role?”, talent management experts inquire: “Is this person not only a good fit for this role, but also for the company as a whole, and for future roles they may inhabit?”

Identifying and hiring the right people is a key first step. But it is just that—a first step. Once the right people are in the organization, however, you still need to provide them opportunities for growth and development or they will look elsewhere to find them. Building a strong development program is a key piece to retaining and growing your talent.

I have designed talent development programs at technology and services companies for over a decade. Below are my top tips for building a talent development program that will position your organization for success in any competitive industry.

Tip #1 Start by Listening

In order to make a competitive difference with talent development, organizations must start by listening to their employees. Engage employees to better understand the gaps that currently exist and identify departments that struggle to engage employees in the right skill development.

For example, at Clinicient, we conducted a thorough audit of our talent development offerings. We identified which departments needed the most support and how to most successfully deliver it. We learned that while our instructor-led courses and robust on-demand trainings are valuable, these resources alone did not satisfy the needs of many employees.

By listening closely to employees, we learned they desired shorter, more frequent learning opportunities to fit with their busy work schedules. We embraced this feedback and developed microlearnings by breaking down several trainings into shorter units for bursts of learning.

Tip #2 Make It Accessible

As organizations set out to transform their learning and development programs, they must identify a learning platform that can be easily accessed by all employees. Traditional learning management systems can often be cumbersome to use and may only be accessible from a PC and not mobile devices.

This inflexibility significantly limits how employees can interact with the development content housed on the platforms. It is ideal for employees to be able to access training and development content from anywhere on any device—no matter if they are in the office, commuting home, or traveling to a client’s location. If your platform is limiting your employees’ access options, it may be time to look for a more flexible platform.

Tip #3 Make It Individualized

Talent development content must not only be accessible, but also diverse. Formats should include instructor-led courses, on-demand learnings, blended learning, articles, podcasts, webinars, books, and videos. Organizations must develop and incorporate content that can be customized for individual learning needs.

A library of content should be made available for employees to select what they want to focus on. Content can be organized by levels, and require completion of specific learnings to advance to a higher level. The higher the level, the more specialized and focused the content should be. This not only helps to structure the learning, but it supports continuous learning.

Tip #4 Make It Engaging

The goal of developing a competitive talent development program is to engage employees and foster a culture of learning. One way to do so, is for organizations to gamify the learning experience by rewarding employees with points for completing learning opportunities.

Most valuable to gamification is the ability to socialize the experience. Through the use of leaderboards and an achievements activity feed, you can spotlight engaged participants and celebrate accomplishments. In doing so, you can revitalize a community of driven learners who are helping to advocate for your cutting edge talent management program. This can not only lead to increased engagement, but also help the progress of development throughout the organization.

Tip #5 Make It About Your Culture

Core values are at the center of a company’s culture and make up its DNA. To maximize effectiveness, your talent development program should include development activities that align with your core values. This means not only training on the importance of your core values and what they look like in action, but also providing development of skills necessary for living those values.

One way of approaching this is to conduct an employee culture survey to identify culture gaps in the organization and then tailor your development activities to address these gaps. When your organization is educated on the importance of your values, and has the skills necessary to bring them to life, they will become part of your day-to-day conversations and drive positive change in the organization.

Bottom Line

In order to develop a dynamic approach to talent development, organizations must merge the traditional with cutting-edge techniques. When done properly, these programs will engage employees with competency-based, on-demand learning opportunities, while empowering employees to personalize their own development.

When companies recognize and reward engagement of employees, it will energize learning and development. The end result will be a motivated community of employees who are helping to drive demand and accelerate development across an organization.

Chief People and Process Officer Sandy Pennington, is responsible for providing strategic HR guidance, fostering a culture of respect and enthusiasm and supporting the growth of Clinicient. She is an accomplished human resource executive with progressive levels of experience in organizations undergoing rapid change. She is a leader who works as an integral part of the company, always demonstrating an understanding of the business needs and translating those into actionable corporate goals and objectives.

Pennington brings a unique balance of hands-on, high energy skills along with sound business sense to every job she does. Prior to Clinicient, she held VP, Director, and manager positions at CRSM, Credence, Avago, Agilent, Cadence, and the U.S. Government. Pennington earned her Master of Business Administration in Project Management from Colorado Technical University and is also a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR).