by Kevin Smith, VIE Associates

TrainingThe search for skilled talent continues and is becoming a significant challenge for many companies and HR professionals. As a result, many leaders are becoming aware, not only of the need to change how they recruit talent, but also the need to get serious about developing internal talent. Unfortunately, only one in four CEOs report being satisfied that learning and development is making a significant enough contribution in their workforce (Corporate Leadership Council 2011). 

Effective organizations today understand the importance of developing a structured, proactive and multi-tier employee development program. This approach helps close the skill gap by increasing the competencies of those already employed while keeping high performers growing and engaged through continual skill development. In order to develop such a program, there are three keys to success that organizational leaders must keep in mind. 

Change the role of HR within your organization. 

If your HR Manager is spending time planning company parties, chasing new hires for completed paperwork, or dealing with payroll issues, you may need a paradigm shift within your organization. Effective, talent-driven organizations understand the changing role of Human Resources and are shifting the position to one that is much more strategic and forward thinking. In order to implement any effective long-term talent management initiative, the successful HR practitioner must have the skills and authority to perform the following foundational activities: 

  • Delegate basic administrative functions to administrative personnel. Deploy self-service models to reduce the tactical activities currently distracting the HR practitioner from becoming truly effective.
  •  Educate line managers on the importance of mentoring and coaching. Managers must be proactive in managing and coaching talent. As a result, the HR practitioner must be able to identify a potential manager’s ability to do so during the selection and hiring process.
  •  Become a true HR professional. Many times personnel holding the HR position were promoted or transferred within. Often in small companies, the HR role is held as a part-time duty by those whose “main job” is in accounting or office management. Today’s human resource manager must be aware of the new skills, knowledge and ability required to develop an effective workforce.  

Know what it is that you need to know. 

Too often organizations are reactive to employee development needs. Supervisors take a look at their workforce and determine training needs based upon an immediate need. However, the first step in implementing an effective employee development program is performing a structured needs assessment. A needs assessment is a process designed to identify current and future training needs, those who need the training and what kind of training will be most effective. Many times organizations continue to send employees to training that is not needed, delivered using an ineffective method, or is not in line with the future needs of the organization. A training needs assessment helps saves organizations the wasted time and resources that are symptomatic of ineffective development initiatives. Assessments range from those that help identify the organizational needs to those that are designed to identify the content of a training program. Today’s HR professionals must be aware of these tools and use them at planned intervals to ensure an effective program. 

Apply training strategically. 

As a training professional, people are often surprised when I tell them that classroom training, as critical as it is, should only account for about 10-15% of an employee’s overall development. Unfortunately, leaders often send participants to training programs only to have them return to the status quo shortly following the training. To ensure effective employee development, organizations must structure their program with the following in mind: 

  •  Classroom training and self-study should account for 10-15% of an individual’s development
  •  Another 15–20% of an employee’s development should come from coaching, mentoring and other types of work/feedback relationships.
  •  The remaining 65–75% of an employee’s development should come from the assignment of structured, challenging assignments that take employees out of their comfort zone.

Today’s HR professionals must understand this training-to-experience relationship and build a framework that supports the organization’s comprehensive training efforts. Successful organizations are continually looking at different ways to overcome today’s workforce challenges and maintain a highly skilled and engaged workforce. Although many of the challenges are external in nature, all efforts must be taken to prevent the loss of high performing and high potential employees currently in place. Developing a comprehensive employee development program must be a major part of those efforts. Understanding the new face of the HR role, assessing the true needs of the workforce, and applying personnel development solutions in a strategic way is key to developing an effective program of which you can be proud.


On the side: Northwest Industrial Resource Center (NWIRC) will offer an HR Forum entitled “After the Classroom: Five Keys for Transferring Training into Results”, featuring Kevin Smith. Three sessions are scheduled for September 2016. Click the date/location below for more details and to register.

Erie:        September 15
Clarion:   September 22
Warren:   September 29