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Yet again, I return to the excellent research recently undertaken by Psylutions and Curve Group, published as a white paper Best Practice in practice talent management, which I have written about twice recently; What’s in an effective leadership program? (and why it matters) and Do you have a talent strategy?

On page 9 of the white paper there is a list of recommendations for effective talent management. Half way down the list there are these three gems:

  • Make sure there is a distinction between training and talent development
  • Link talent development initiatives to key business challenges and strategic initiatives
  • Programs (should) have a focus on developing skills for future business challenges and well as current business needs

I had never really thought about the importance of creating a clear distinction between training and talent development. In simplistic terms you might say that training is about developing specific skills (eg influencing and negotiating) to meet specific, current operational needs (eg customers being very price focused) and talent development is about developing the knowledge, thinking and mindset that will enable an effective response to longer term business challenges.

A common example in the recruitment industry would be the difference between a half day workshop and a two day conference. The workshop would have clear skill development outcomes that are tangible immediately whereas attendance at a conference would be part of an ongoing investment in a person identified as ‘talent’, where, in most cases, the outcomes (of attending the conference) are not immediate and less tangible.

When a person steps up into a leadership role, and does so effectively, how can you say for sure which particular talent development initiative across the past year or two (or more) was the most important? You can’t. All the talent development initiatives (no matter how small or large) would have had some role to play in developing that person’s leadership capabilities. This type of ongoing investment takes foresight, courage and genuine leadership.

It’s this difference, between training and talent development, that I believe is one of the biggest issues facing the recruitment industry.

Our industry is one that is driven by very specific and measurable activities and outcomes. The typical recruiter KPIs of calls, visits, floats etc should generate a range of outcomes eg jobs, placements etc. We are conditioned to look very closely at cause and effect.

This mindset is very healthy when we are considering the pure operational requirements of generating a specific number of jobs that should lead to a specific number of placements and should generate a specific amount of cash in the bank (to pay expenses and make a profit).

This mindset is far less healthy when we consider investing time, money and resources into talent development. Because talent development initiatives, by definition, involve an ongoing investment of time, money and resources away from the operational aspect of a person’s current job, it’s far too easy to regard such an investment as ‘fluffy’ or ‘a waste of time’ or ‘of no immediate benefit’.

The outcome of this mindset is predictable; the ongoing business challenges are met with the same old responses (maybe slightly more effective if there’s been a decent investment in training) and the opportunity to be predominantly proactive, rather than reactive, to the changing business environment, is lost. The business is condemned to fight its corner as a generic player in an increasingly price-driven market.

Given the recruitment industry’s raft of current strategic challenges I would hope that any relevant talent development event (eg RCSA PEARL Consultant Forum 2013Australasian Talent Conference 2013 and the 2013 RSCA International Conference) would have its registration site going into meltdown as recruitment agency owners and managers, anxious to develop their firm’s precious talent, rush en-masse to ensure they book tickets before the event sells out and another valuable talent development opportunity passes them by.

Sadly, this is not the case, and until a majority of the owners and managers in our industry shift their mindset from training (is it even here, yet?) to talent development we are condemning ourselves to forever being reactive to our many business challenges.

How serious is your commitment to talent development?

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Skills can be trained to a needle point, but I reckon talent being inborn, requires the crucible of time and the correct exposures ( read experiences ) to mature.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
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