Transform Talent With Deeper Skill Specialization

 -  4/30/08

A workforce with deeper skills in critical domain areas can drive high performance by innovating, improving processes and finding new ways to serve customers.

Most companies want one thing more than any other: to be a market leader. This can be achieved in several ways — being a low-cost provider, delivering a distinctive customer experience or through superior technologies, processes and products. But executives increasingly see workforce talent as the distinctive capability underpinning any winning corporate strategy.

A workforce with deeper skills in critical domain areas can drive high performance by innovating, improving processes and finding new ways to serve customers. But the HR and learning functions often are ill equipped to recruit or develop workforces with truly differentiated skills. To achieve that winning market differentiation, talent managers must mine and develop the distinctive knowledge and skills of their people and help them advance rapidly to higher levels of expertise.

Focus Learning Investments

The innovations and transformational initiatives that can redefine a company’s competitive position likely will come from employees with deeper and more specialized skills. But a large percentage of learning investments often is directed at providing training to those learning a new skill or job. A disconnect exists between where learning investments are made and the types of learning that can produce a differentiated workforce capability.

Less than 30 percent of workplace performance is the result of applying lessons from a formal learning experience to a job goal, while some 70 percent is influenced by informal learning and factors in a worker’s environment: feedback, coaching, leadership, incentives, clear work objectives and processes. Now, consider some 80 percent of a typical company’s talent development budget is spent on formal learning, and only 20 percent on the informal learning that has been shown to have greater impact on workforce — and by extension — company performance.

This disconnect between programs and impact often is a shock to line managers looking for a training solution to workforce performance challenges. Mary Jo Burfeind, who leads learning and development for the subscriber services division of Health Care Service Corp., said her company’s managers sometimes expect employees to come out of formal learning programs acting as self-sufficient and independent problem solvers, but that is rarely the case.

Article Keywords:   mentoring  


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