Originally published April 15, 2015

We are only successful in development if our teams are set up for success and performing well. What strategies have you used to keep and grow your talent this year? Are your talent management budgets aligned with those strategies?

People are your organization’s most valuable and expensive resource. Investing in talent management can contribute to a positive organizational culture, reduce unwanted staff turnover, and increase individual and overall staff productivity and results. So, how can development shops be more strategic in making the case for—and maximizing the return on—investing in talent management?

Set and Align Your Talent Management Priorities and Objectives

Talent management priorities and outcomes should reflect broader development objectives and expected results. Now is a great time to define your talent management priorities and expected outcomes for the coming year, articulate how each talent management priority area contributes to the organization’s strategic plans and measurable objectives, and make sure your talent management strategies and programs are adequately funded. This process not only helps you create more effective talent management programming, but also builds buy-in and consensus on the importance of professional development and talent management to your organization’s success.

You likely have more needs and ideas for talent management than budget to deploy. Defining your priorities in the context of your broader development objectives will help you prioritize those needs when budgeting and make a compelling case for the necessary resources.

Identify Target Audiences Across Your Development Team

Even in development shops with robust training budgets, not all team members are created equal when it comes to what portion of that budget targets them—and for good reason. There are higher payoffs from investing in top performers and potential high performers. Talent management and training budgets need to do three things: grow the capacity of key programs through investing in individuals and teams, create higher performers, and then retain them. To do this well, leadership has to define target audiences for the year for growth and investment. The process ideally should look something like this:

Build Accountability and Outcomes from Conference Attendance

The world of development has a robust conference culture, and many team members find value in the conference experience. Many professionals in the industry expect that they will be encouraged to attend conferences as part of their position. Conferences provide several great experiences that complement talent management goals, including:

  • Exposing team members to different tools and approaches.
  • Enabling individuals to connect with others who face similar challenges in their work.
  • Providing attendees opportunities to think about their programs more broadly, outside of the focused day-to-day work.
  • Allowing high performers to share their achievements and be recognized by their peers.

The trouble with conference attendance is that more often than not, the positive learning experience does not translate into sustained practice and results when team members return. Conference attendance is best when it’s used as a method to reach a goal. Budgeting for conference attendance should include a discussion of how the benefits of each conference can be maximized through content sharing, approaching leadership with new ideas, and rethinking in-house programs. Furthermore, without the opportunity to reinforce new learnings or freedom to try new ideas—the benefits of conference attendance dissipate rapidly when team members return.

Break Out Search and Hiring Needs

One major thing that you cannot predict for the next year is who is going to leave and how long it will take to fill open positions. This uncertainty can be daunting enough to arrest or sideline broader discussions around investing in talent management. While it is difficult to control this variable, and while it merits focused attention by leadership, there are ways that mitigate talent turnover that you can and should plan for including succession planning, onboarding, career building, and cross-training. Separating your search and hiring needs from the talent management discussion will keep you focused on growing and keeping your current talent and preparing your organization for turnover when it happens.

BWF’s TalentED practice is focused on partnering with clients to maximize the outcomes of investing in their teams through assessing current talent management and training programs, recommending enhancements, and providing highly focused and customized training to implement these enhancement and achieve results. Please contact us at training@bwf.com for more information.

Copyright © 2015 Bentz Whaley Flessner & Associates, Inc.

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