Today’s slimmed down workforce has been placed very clearly in the position of working to accomplish more with far fewer resources than before. This contradictory challenge seemed to be destined to fail from the start and it may well be, inadvertently, designed to fail for many organizations. Companies all across the United States have reduced their workforces to what has been termed “essential levels” and have cut costs to what is believed to be “essential expenditures.”
For many of these organizations, building a talent or leadership development plan did not make the list of essential expenditures. Yet, these same companies now ask the smaller number of employees who remain to accomplish what was apparently not doable with the larger workforce and a budget for development of that workforce.
Higher Expected Levels of Achievement Require Leadership Development and Talent Management
Fewer staff, reduced or wiped out spending on development, and higher expected levels of achievement do not present a winning picture. The first two factors seem to make the third impossible. However, changing just one part of this equation can net the results that companies are seeking and much sooner than one would think. Consider this: If you became aware of an investment that would immediately begin to pay dividends and continue to build value tomorrow, next year, and long into the future, would you invest today? Certainly, yes!
Given that the answer is “yes,” we have to ponder why so many companies were so quick to cut or eliminate spending for talent and leadership development. Perhaps it has not been positioned to showcase the value that it presents. Leadership and talent development conversations, studies, and plans most frequently focus on the future. Terms and phrases sound much like this: “establishing a pipeline,” “building bench strength,” “succession planning,” and “high potential.” We cannot be surprised when leadership development and talent management is given a back seat or parked completely during times of financial stress if the primary focus is on future value. It’s difficult for companies to consider investing in programming that will pay off somewhere down the line when a company is struggling today.
The Present Value of Putting a Leadership Development Plan in the Forefront
How can you restart or keep your talent and leadership development model in the forefront and functioning where it can be especially helpful when you are asking more of your slimmed-down workforce? Demonstrate and communicate the present value of leadership development and talent management just as strongly as the future value. Talent and leadership programming is designed to enhance the quality of work and leadership within an organization, not only for the company’s long-term efficacy but for today also.
The moment a company announces a commitment to developing its workforce, it gains a higher level of engagement from that workforce. Growth and development opportunities still maintain a solid spot in the top reasons employees go to work for or remain with their companies. Analytical Graphics, Inc. (AGI) out of Exton, PA has made multiple appearances on the list of “Best Small and Medium Companies to Work for in America” throughout the past decade largely due to its immense investment in training and development. AGI has a leadership development model that positions an employees’ continual development as vital to the health of the organization – that is the source of AGI’s competitive advantage. It has been so for AGI and other organizations can achieve this advantage also.
A higher level of engagement has more than intrinsic value. It manifests itself in better business outcomes. When asked to produce a report on steps direct competitors are taking to weather the reduced market demand, an employee who’s doing his job may produce exactly what’s requested. An engaged employee would produce the report and provide the cost/benefit of implementing similar steps within employer’s organization. An engaged employee always does a little more than what’s required or expected.
A Perfect Time to Invest in Leadership Development and Employee Training
A time of crisis is the perfect time to invest deeply in talent development and learning opportunities. When you need to gain more from a smaller base of employees, development and learning opportunities that enhance the abilities and skills of your talent base become essential to increasing the capabilities of that group. The focus must be on leadership development opportunities that have an almost immediate impact on work outcomes. Elements such as improving processes, better management of technology, stimulating innovation, developing open communication, coaching towards results, and preparing your talent to not only manage change but be a champion for change can be put to use right away. Each of these steps, and others, can change the reach and depth of your employees’ impact in multiple areas. Your specific development strategy and the elements within it will depend largely on your organization’s challenges and business imperatives as it works towards recovery.
Organizations that choose to cut back or abandon their leadership development model at this time will also ultimately lengthen their recovery time. Wise and strategic investments in talent and leadership development opportunities will make a difference in getting your company back on track today and it will return value for the investment next year and far into the future. How can you say no?
Vivian L. Mora, SPHR
Mora&Associates HR Search and Consulting
- Managing Employee Skill Sets
- Workforce Alignment: Employees Working Together
- Cost-Effective Employee Training Methods
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