Whose Job Is Talent and Learning?
We’re on the agenda. Finally, human capital, talent and learning matter to organizations. Last year in a slew of reports from the likes of the Conference Board, Deloitte, PwC and Forbes, CEOs repeatedly named ‘talent’ and ‘skills’ as the #1 or #2 issue on their agenda for the year. 2014 looks like it will be no different.
For me, the key question is this: are HR, L&D and those concerned with talent ready to take up the challenge?
Managing for talent
It’s easy to see why CEOs are fixated on skills and talent: they make a difference, and finally the numbers are there to prove it. In her recent review of a new research brief by Aberdeen Group, China Gorman points out that respondents to Aberdeen surveys cite talent acquisition as a major concern. As the economy strengthens and talent acquisition becomes harder, some smart organizations are choosing to make developing their own people a priority. Some 56% of companies surveyed now make line managers responsible for talent among their direct reports.
The approach appears to be paying off.
Where managers are responsible for hiring, developing, and performance management within their teams, the proportion of employees rated as ‘exceeding expectations’ outstrips companies where managers have no such responsibility by 9% (44% vs 35%). What’s more, staff turnover among high performers is lower in such teams – just 13%, against 19% for teams where managers have no responsibility for talent.
Driving responsibility for talent through management clearly affects the bottom line positively.
Learning for innovation
There are other ways organisations benefit from clearly laid out approaches to learning. In research carried out at Nielsen, consultant Tom Agan demonstrated how one of today’s core business strengths – successful innovation – relies on learning.
This is not individual learning in the classroom, rather it is organizational learning, occurring in structured ways. Agan found that it was possible to increase revenues from new products by an average of 130% by having mandatory debriefs of new product success and failures, ideally run by an outside third party and captured in a knowledge management system, so that the learning can be shared.
Who’s in charge?
More than doubling revenue from products is compelling. So is reducing higher performer turnover from 19% to 13%. These two data points share a link, however, and it is not good news for the traditional training or Learning and Development (L&D) department: in neither case is the training department involved.
Does it matter if L&D has a role in making talent and learning part of the business? Perhaps not, if it’s done right, but there is surely an argument that one department should bring its expertize to the methods and tools used for knowledge sharing, and that this should be the L&D department. While it cannot be in charge of all these activities, it can surely advise on best practice and could – for example – be a trusted facilitator in the post-product launch wash ups that Agan describes.
There may be a case for L&D being involved in learning across the organization, but is L&D ready to take on this role? Research by the UK’s Learning and Performance Institute suggests not. Its survey of the skills of nearly 1,000 L&D professionals shows that the field’s skills are firmly rooted in the traditional areas of course creation and classroom delivery, with few having skills in consulting, for example.
This could be the time for the L&D profession to take center stage in talent development across organizations. CEOs demand it. The data support it. The only question remaining: can L&D step up to the plate?
Senior Director Strategy, Learning Technologies at Infor-CERTPOINT
Twitter: @Kennethfung1 https://twitter.com/