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Nurturing talent from within

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As employers start to look more firmly to the future, rekindling the pipeline of people and skills that will underpin future growth is vital. But for many, recruitment freezes are still in place, meaning that employers need to look at developing talent from within.

Investing in people skills for long term benefit

The arguments for investing in employees are well versed. Indeed, forward looking businesses have continued to retain an emphasis on people development even through the recession. Years of experience shows that this is an investment that pays off. In fact, recent research conducted for Investors in People by Cranfield School of Management at the height of the recession found a clear link between effective management and improved business performance.

To deliver maximum value, investment in skills should always be linked to business objectives. What are the core capabilities that all employees need to drive the business forward? For some it might be great sales skills, client management capabilities or technical expertise that can drive product design and innovation.

Once the required skill-set has been identified, businesses then need to understand where these skills already exist, where they need to be strengthened or even developed from scratch. Creating a clear plan that maps the needs of the business against the skills and potential of employees is the next step.

Ensure processes are tight & think creatively

While there is plenty of room for creativity, it’s important not to forget the importance of doing the basics well. So elements such as job design, objective setting and performance management need to be clearer than ever - laying down what is expected of employees, and showing them how their success will be evaluated, but also sign-posting what support they will be given to attain these levels of success.

Where training budgets are tight, tasking employees with the responsibility of delivering training to their colleagues can be hugely empowering and fosters new skills for both those delivering and receiving the training. By drawing on existing employees to train others, you may well discover hidden coaching talent which can be harnessed to develop the managers of the future.

Developing such a programme in-house also means that it's totally tailored to the needs of the business and individual employees, both in terms of content and style of delivery. While some companies might develop structured courses, others may prefer a more informal approach. For some the hands-on approach will work best - for example giving employees a chance to shadow someone in a different role, if only for a day, to broaden their experience and complement a more formal training programme.

Others may want to take advantage of new, social networking tools to enable peer-to-peer knowledge exchange. Creating a ‘training wiki’ can be a great way to encourage employees to share knowledge, tips and best practice. The key is to ensure that the type of training on offer appeals to employees, as this will deliver best Results.

Create new Challenges for employees

While helping employees to up-skill is vital, it's just part of the Challenge. To help people develop to their full potential, they also need to build their confidence and take on new responsibilities.

Giving employees more autonomy to make decisions can be hugely empowering - for example taking on responsibility for a budget stream or an important customer relationship. New responsibilities such as this represent important development opportunities and can help increase the involvement of an individual in the organisation, therefore increasing their commitment.

Case study: Red Carnation Hotels

Luxury hotel collection Red Carnation is an Investors in People Gold award holder, whose commitment to help every member of the team achieve their full potential is enabling it to improve performance across the organisation. Service and customer satisfaction is the primary focus for Red Carnation which aims to deliver this by providing rewarding career opportunities for employees who embrace the organisation's values.

Liz McGivern, HR & training director, Red Carnation Hotels:

“Our philosophy is simple. By treating our guests exceptionally well, they will come back to us. Our goal is to give memorable and personable service and this translates into how we treat our employees, too. The Investors in People model reflects how we do this through all levels of the company and we have worked hard to achieve it. 

“We don't have the resources of some of the industry giants, so ours is a more small scale and family orientated approach. This means communicating to and looking after our employees, developing them to reach their potential and having a training plan that builds on the bones of our company's business strategy. Developing ‘home grown’ talent is a real priority for us. Indeed, many of our managers joined us at a very junior level and we’re proud to see them develop through the organisation.”

Commitment to talent retention

A key objective of talent management is of course to keep that talent in the building. With this in mind, providing more substantive, cultural commitments outlined above show the company is committed to an individual’s development will be much more effective than offering short-lived perks or new job titles. Employees will see through such tactics for what they are: rather ‘skin deep’ responses that don’t really consider what employees feel and need.

The best talent management strategies must fulfil the need to drive the business forward. At the same time, HR directors need to show their employees that theirs is the company in which the grass is greener - and that pastures new isn’t necessarily the more attractive option.

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