In a context where the competition is fierce in many business areas and where technologies are constantly evolving, there is no doubt that competencies that employees possess provide a significant advantage to the organizations. The challenge is to invest in employees’ development so that it becomes profitable, while being aligned with the organization’s business strategies as well as with the employees’ needs. Where should you start? What competencies should you target? Who should you prioritize? You must provide an answer to these questions taking both organizational and individual needs into account.
From an Organizational Point of View
The organization must ensure its continued existence by surrounding itself with individuals who have appropriate knowledge, know-how (technical skills) and soft skills, which will help it move forward. To start, here are three aspects to consider:
- Business strategy: direction and business objectives are defined based on the vision; within this context, future needs must be targeted (positions, competencies, background, leadership type, etc.);
- Competencies: assessing the positions and the competencies that employees possess for these positions allows to understand the discrepancy existing between future needs and current human capital;
- Training program: activities, steps and deadlines, budgets, competencies to develop, and individuals involved are identified.
Development, for the small enterprises, can represent quite a challenge to address in terms of resource availability. Here, planning and flexibility become even more essential and can take the form of an operating plan, for example, providing for the replacement of employees being trained or in charge of training. With a limited budget, priority can be given to internal training when one of the employees has the required competencies, and innovative solutions can be considered, such as making different matches among individuals and positions.
Both SMEs and bigger organizations must always give priority to the plan’s measures. A good way to start will consist in analyzing the risks associated to the observed discrepancy, and take action where the situation is most critical. Moreover, by targeting individuals who show interest, yearning, commitment and ability to self-develop, rather than the ones who are only top performers, investing in training will be more profitable.
From an Individual Point of View
Employees do have career expectations that are related or not to the organization’s objectives. Most employees are interested in development in order to become experts or better managers, to meet new challenges, etc. No matter what their needs are, most of them want to increase their employability to adapt to the market and thus, ensure their future. The organization’s objective should be to bring both the organization’s and the targeted individuals’ interests closer, in order to create a winning approach to long-term productivity improvement. By aiming at making both parties accountable, an employee experience will also be created, which will act as a drawing power and a talent retention strategy.
The development process with the employee must also respect some principles, such as:
- Creating development plans in association with the employee, including targeted competencies, development activities and indicators;
- Suggesting appropriate and diverse methods according to the individual’s learning style (learning through doing, observing, reading, etc.). A wide range of methods applicable internally (coaching, e-learning, pairing, job rotation, appointment, etc.) and externally (course, technical class, workshop, etc.) can be found on the market;
- Ensuring learning transfer as quickly as possible in order to secure knowledge as well as its integration and application, which improves retention of newly acquired skills and competencies. After six months, individuals have integrated only 12% of learnings if no transfer activity has been implemented.*
- Following up and measuring progress (application of newly acquired knowledge, decrease in mistakes over time, increase in customer satisfaction, etc.).
By demonstrating leadership in developing its employees, the organization will create strong and engaged partners who will be able to fully contribute to its mission. In turn, the organization will be better equipped to face the market changes, its own internal challenges and customers’ growing and changing needs.
* Conference Board / Learning and Development Outlook 2007