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Purposeful Talent Development: How to Address Two Key Layers

two-layer fruit tart
Jennifer Stangl Photo
Director of Professional Development
CUES

4 minutes

To move along your education plan for 2020 and beyond, first promote your leaders’ understanding of the effort’s value—and then move them to action.

To get people to buy into any idea, you need to address two layers: understanding and action. When working to get buy-in for talent development plans for next year, you need to first help your leaders understand that staff learning at all levels is a priority. Next, you need to help those same leaders believe in the value of dedicating the time, energy and money it will take to make your education vision a reality. 

In most cases, getting understanding about the value of talent development is easier than getting action in the form of a line item in the budget. In today’s environment of low unemployment and changing skills needs, most organizations understand that development for all staff is important and should be a priority. It is the second layer—action—that takes a bit more work.

A great way to approach the second layer—getting leaders to take action—is to treat it like you would any change: by establishing a personal connection from the individual to the change. To do this, have your senior leaders identify problems that need to be solved. From there you can ask what they would like to see happen to help solve these problems. At the same time, you can recommend some potential solutions. 

On paper this is easy but, in practice, it takes planning and time. Below are a few techniques you can use to get action on the need for talent development in your organization (and perhaps for yourself in particular). 

1. Align Your Approach to Your Audience

Support the identification of a problem that is directly connected to the individual. Share data that might demonstrate a problem and help that leader see the need for a solution. Depending on your organization and the individual you are approaching, you could share feedback or data that would demonstrate staff turnover or retention needs, future senior leader turnover (upcoming retirements), lack of an identified leadership pipeline, or critical competencies and current staff skill level. Whatever information you share to help demonstrate a problem, know your audience. Does this leader relate more to numbers/data or feedback from staff? Provide data or insight in the most persuasive way for this person. 

Budget your PD dollars for 2020

2. Draw Connections to Strategy 

A successful talent development program is not simply having a course catalog of static offerings for staff (either required or optional). It should align content (courses, events, programs, plans) to organizational needs and even demonstrate the impact it can have on your organization’s future. 

Connecting the impact of talent development on your organizational strategy will go a long way to supporting the need. To do this, use data you’ve collected within your organization (maybe through an Organizational Climate Assessment) that demonstrates a need to upskill staff or focus on building a stronger working environment/culture. Identify places you can draw connections or demonstrate gaps, such as a need for a developed leadership pipeline to support upcoming retirements or future growth within the credit union. This all could help a senior leader identify a problem that could be solved with talent development initiatives.

3. Use Visual Metaphors

If you are struggling to get your senior leader(s) to identify a problem, presenting a metaphor may show how talent development can help get stronger value out of the current people resources within the credit union. Here is an example:

Think of the last time you bought a new car. You likely test drove some cars, thought about the standard features you wanted and used those to identify a likely make and model. From there you looked at optional features, such as leather seats, a moonroof or remote start (those of you who live in a climate with snow will know why this is worth considering). You then find and purchase a car, with or without those optional features, depending on price and your negotiating skills.

In many organizations, talent development follows a similar process. Development opportunities are commonly placed in the “nice-to-have” or “optional features” category within an organization, but they should come standard. After all, development helps build the necessary skills to meet your organizational objectives. 

Think of purchasing a new car without blinkers or a car where you could only turn the steering wheel to the right; the functionality and value of the car are limited. The same is true of not developing staff— you limit their potential and ability to provide feedback, collaborate with others and manage through change.  

Getting buy-in for talent development initiatives can be hard, but if we can help senior leaders identify the need for talent development, we are on the right path. When development opportunities aren’t available to staff, we limit their abilities to expand their skillsets and meet organizational goals. We are basically placing staff in a car that won’t turn left or can’t signal a new direction, limiting our opportunities as an organization.

Jennifer Stangl is CUES’ director of professional development. 

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