Four Rules for Keeping Training, Talent Management in Sync

By Ken Moore Nov 3, 2008
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Q: How Do I Integrate Training Into a Talent Management Program?

A: All training programs must build to a desired outcome that will advance the objectives of the department or the organization, the employee and the customer. Without a clear payoff, managers will balk at the expense of sending an individual through the training and the loss of productivity during the training. Employees will be less enthusiastic for training if they fail to see a benefit to their job performance and career opportunities, so start with the basics.

Know the Company Well

The amount of information about a company or an industry available to the general public is immense. Most high-performing employees want to buy into the company’s mission, vision and values. Thus, certain questions must be articulated clearly and answered:

  • Why is the company in business?
  • How does it make money?
  • What are the business’s core competencies?
  • What challenges are the company and/or the industry facing?

These seem like simple questions, but the answers are frequently quite complex. If the company’s core competency is marketing, such as Nike, developing training programs that will sustain and advance those skills will be eagerly anticipated. Conversely, a well designed and produced training program for a company that is sliding into bankruptcy will not be effective.

RULE #1: Study the company in detail and include this knowledge in the talent management program.

Know Employees' Needs

Various employee groups respond to management activities in differing ways. For example, while baby boomer bosses are focused on career achievements, their Gen X and Gen Y subordinates are more focused on a flexible work/life balance. They are not wedded to the 8 a.m.-5 p.m. clock. Rather, they prefer to be given a task with performance standards and deadlines and allowed to do the task in their own time.

Younger generations value learning experiences so they can add them to their resume and use them for career advancement. In companies with international operations, national cultural programming plays a key part in developing and managing talent. Understanding cultural differences will help you to focus your training programs in areas that will advance the knowledge, skills and attributes of the participants and not violate their cultural norms.

RULE #2: Make a concentrated study of employee needs and backgrounds before developing any program.

Know the Business

Worldwide competitive and economic forces are affecting all businesses. The key is for everyone, not just the leadership teams, to keep a sharp eye on the trends that are having an impact on the industry. What challenges are customers facing that the company can help them solve with its products or services? Solutions to such problems are not always found in the executive offices. Often they are found on the ground floor with the employees and by looking at what competitors and noncompetitors are doing to solve the same problem.

RULE #3: Study the industry that the company’s in, and develop a best practices approach to any training program.

Know Differences Between Education, Training

Training teaches employees how to do something. Education reveals why something is done a particular way. For example, specific performance goals must be measured when training people how to improve their efficiencies and effectiveness with, say, a computer program or in operating a new piece of machinery. Set performance measurements must be documented as achieved to pass the course. On the other hand, subjects such as leadership and diversity training typically are subjective in nature and open to interpretation by the teacher and the participants.

The desired outcomes for either training or education programs must benefit the company, the employee and the customer who buys the company’s products and services.

RULE #4: The more a company can quantify training outcomes, the more effective its training programs will be.

Ken Moore is president of the Ballston Spa, N.Y.-based organizational development consulting firm Ken Moore Associates. He is an adjunct professor at the State University of New York-Albany and at the Union Graduate College, where he teaches graduate courses in strategic management. Moore also is a member of the Society for Human Resource Management's Organizational Development Special Expertise Panel. He can be reached at kmoore01@nycap.rr.com.

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