Developing your workforce

 11 January 2013

How can you make the most out of the talent in your company? Bob McDermid, Workforce Development Manager at Birmingham Museums Trust, gave four stages for writing your own talent management strategy.

Bob McDermid works for Birmingham Museums Trust and has found a 'talent managment strategy' useful in helping staff develop skills.
Bob McDermid works for Birmingham Museums Trust and has found a 'talent managment strategy' useful in helping staff develop skills.

Principles of a talent management strategy

A ‘talent management strategy’ is a document that sets out your approach to developing and supporting the people who work for you. Writing one can help you design targeted ways of working with staff to get the most out of them and help them develop in their own careers. 

It can also be a good way to set out how you want to measure your return on staff investment. 

The most important thing to remember is that every member of staff should be given the chance to develop professionally. Not only is this a good HR principle, it also helps strengthen your organisation as a whole.

"Obviously, you need to have straightforward records of each employee’s individual career history and performance," says Bob.

"But for good ‘talent management’ – which includes looking at possible career pathways within your organisation – you also need to make sure you’re clear on the development opportunities available to employees."

There are four things to think about in any talent management strategy.

1. Work in partnership with your employees

“First of all, your employees and your ‘organisation’ – which effectively means your senior management staff – should each have a good understanding of their strengths, as well as the areas that could use development."

Skills audits and assessment tools can help you here.

“Once you’ve got this knowledge, you can start matching the organisation’s skills needs with the people who have the desire and ability to develop in those specific areas.

“There’s no point trying to develop skills in people who don’t want to learn those skills!”

“There’s no point in trying to develop skills in people who don’t want to learn those skills!”

To do this right, you should make sure of the following:

  • Managers should communicate with staff – they need to share information on the organisation’s overall strategy, for example
  • Communication between managers and staff should include regular, mandatory skills audits for employees to complete, in their own time, to a pre-agreed deadline. An audit form will help you to identify areas in their current role which might still need development or training.

"This helps ensure that you and your managers have a thorough understanding of your employees’ skills and competencies. 

"Your skills ‘life’ doesn’t start and finish with your current job, so your knowledge of your employees should also cover any other areas of expertise they’ve developed outside the workplace or in previous jobs."

If you get this right, you can link your employee’s individual development goals with your overarching business strategy. That way you can ensure your strategy benefits your individual employees as much as the organisation as a whole.

2. Manage performance

Everyone in your organisation should have their own individual ‘development plan’. This is simpler than it sounds.

“A development plan is simply a document outlining the activities and training your employee needs in order to develop professionally.”

"Your skills ‘life’ doesn’t start and finish with your current job." 

Periodic re-examination of this development plan will help you evaluate how everyone’s doing. It will also allow you to constantly update the plan, bringing it into line with your own business goals and with the personal aims and ambitions of your employees.

The specific activities outlined in this plan should relate directly to business goals, but they should also take account of any personal development your employee wants to pursue.

"Of course, as an employer you’ll need to ensure that the learning linked to business needs takes priority, but it’s not the only learning you should encourage. Developing skills more generally can only help your organisation progress."

3. Use the talent in your organisation

All employees, wherever they are in their careers, should be eligible to undertake the training you decide to pursue. Equally, staff may be able to help deliver that training.

"I’d really recommend doing a skills audit to help you here – you will often find staff with pre-existing skills that could be directed towards their colleagues’ development.

"For example, people may have existing skills in supervision, mentoring and coaching. If so, maybe you could consider offering them the chance to gain training qualifications as part of your development strategy – then perhaps these people could be part of the in-house delivery team.

"You don’t always need to outsource training."

4. Identify future leaders

"It’s an excellent principle to look among your existing staff for potential future leaders."

If you’re already doing some of this talent management work, you’re in a good position to start identifying people with the capacity to develop into other, more strategic roles.

"Once you’ve found them, you can help them grow! I think internal recruitment really is a great way to go. In a medium-sized or larger organisation it will help you create a career ladder.

"This lets you keep those skills you’ve helped foster within your business for the long term. And, of course, it allows people to develop whilst they’re with you, making you a better business all round."

It’s important to remember, though, that career ladders can go sideways as well as upwards.

"If your employees know there’s the opportunity to move across roles, you can reduce the dreaded ‘silo’ mentality."

"If your employees know there’s the opportunity to move across roles and teams as they develop their skills, you can go some way towards reducing the dreaded ‘silo’ mentality – people working in isolated groups.

"If you’re really serious about making this happen, you may want to consider creating a ‘map’ of possible career pathways within your organisation.

"That way, you can help shape targeted skills development that will benefit your organisation and your employees."

Bob McDermid is Workforce Development Manager at Birmingham Museums Trust.

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