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Tips from a CHRO: Creating a Robust Talent and Development Program with Purpose

Let’s face it: The majority of us struggle when we first try something new. In careers and in life, hard work and determination are the keys to developing passion, purpose, and meaning. Finding meaningful work is essential to feeling fulfilled at work.

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As Human Resources (HR) professionals, we have the unique role of helping employees become purpose-driven and find significance in their work. This allows them to build careers with purpose and ultimately leads to the goal of building a purpose-driven organization, which, in turn, creates better-performing companies by any measure you take.

Creating Purpose with Support

Employees should feel supported in taking the right steps toward a career with purpose, whether they’re looking to expand in their current role or searching for a new opportunity. The key is determining what we can do as an organization to foster this development.

While there are many pieces to creating a purpose-driven organization, I’m going to focus on two right now—building skills and empowering employees to do what’s right. In the first bucket, creating the right experiences for your employees is key, and that’s where training, mentoring, and career paths come into play. The second part is grounded in culture—empowering employees, accepting failures, and helping employees learn those lessons and bounce back.

Employees will find their passion when they recognize their role and how they make a daily difference within the organization, and when you allow them to develop that passion with practice and experiences over time, you get results—you get achievement, and you refine purpose. Multiply that across your entire employee base, and the result is a purpose-driven company with a true competitive advantage.

If all of this sounds familiar, you probably know the work of Stanford University Professor Carol Dweck, who has shown that a growth mind-set leads to the desire to learn and a tendency to embrace challenges, persist in the face of setbacks, and ultimately reach higher levels of achievement. This mind-set is all about believing that learning and progress are as important as effort.

What this means for employers and HR practitioners is that they must give employees the tools they need and empower them to take the right steps toward owning their careers.

Career Ownership

“Career ownership” is a term we use frequently. As HR professionals, we pride ourselves on helping employees find careers that are fulfilling. While employees should be given every opportunity to expand and grow, it’s ultimately up to them to own their careers. Organizations retain strong performers and create a pipeline to drive internal mobility when they support employees in this way.

The right career is one that is both challenging and motivating, so we must ensure employees feel supported throughout their journey to grow in their role or switch to a path better suited to their skill set and desires. This isn’t just great for the company and driving internal mobility—it also helps employees feel fulfilled and purpose-driven. And purpose-driven companies get results and far outperform others.

It All Starts With the Right Framework

It is your responsibility as a business leader to establish a framework that sets up employees for a growth mind-set and long-term success. The building block of a talent and development program is leadership direction via internal channels, and the second level is talent management and empowerment. Once the basics of a program are built, your company can see even greater value in taking it to the next level and framing it around an organizational growth mind-set.

For example, the basics of our talent development framework include:

  • Robust mentorship opportunities
  • A variety of career tools available on internal platforms
  • Rotational programs that provide a 360-degree view into the organization
  • Technology to help increase internal mobility

Mentoring Is Critical

It’s important to encourage employees to foster mentor/mentee relationships. Mentors should be natural leaders who strongly adhere to the culture. This relationship enhances the mentee’s growth, knowledge, and skills and results in a better-defined career development plan. It is also a mutually beneficial relationship; the mentor also hones his or her leadership and coaching skills and broadens his or her knowledge of the company.

Employees can easily take part in our mentorship program by signing up on our internal communications website. We have found great success with our enterprisewide mentor program and have new mentor matches happening each day. We’ve seen and heard directly from employees how the program is creating relationships and opening new doors for their personal development.

Internal Channels Help

Give employees a toolbox of resources they can use to own their careers. For example, we use our internal channels to engage employees in this area. Our company offers an internal Facebook and LinkedIn hybrid called SociALLY, where users update their profile with skills, experiences, and interests. But we don’t just use SociALLY to share information; employees can also engage with each other across the enterprise in this space by “liking” and engaging with updates, writing notes of encouragement, and asking questions. Employees can also set up job alerts and create a career plan that helps us identify positions of interest for down the line.

Discussing the Future

Encouraging employees to have ongoing conversations with their manager is important for talent development. Managers play an important role in the talent development process and can support their reports in building career road maps. Once the employees are ready to move on, managers can advocate on their behalf.

Keeping Things Fresh

Rotational programs that enable employees to have a 360-degree view into the organization can help them find their sweet spots. We offer four rotational programs across the business, including accounting, IT, and automotive. These programs also help our business leaders identify high-potential talent and create a pipeline of future leaders.

Also, reducing the turnover rate is necessary for a strong talent and development program. High-performing employees who may not currently feel fulfilled should be encouraged to look for new opportunities internally.

More exposure to the business leads to more diversity of thought. When we push ourselves to think differently, we push ourselves to be better.

You must ensure employees are empowered to take action once these basics are in place. Development is a shared responsibility driven by the employee and nurtured by the company. Communicating your organizational growth mind-set is an important part of the process—it’s all about building careers with purpose, and that will happen when employees feel encouraged to own their roles, continue their learning, and find their sweet spot.

Kathleen L. Patterson is the CHRO of Ally Financial. In this role, she’s responsible for overseeing the company’s human capital, talent management, compensation, benefits, well-being, internal communications, and cultural efforts—ensuring they support the organization’s overall strategic objectives and drive Ally’s efforts to be a leading employer of choice.