What is Talent-Building and Who Needs It?

I had many questions and a list of criteria when I was looking to buy a new home for my growing family. Is it safe? Close to town? Are the schools good? Can we afford it? It was a complex and expensive process. It was hard to find something that met all of our criteria, so I thought maybe I should remodel our current home instead.

This is similar to when a business looks to building new skills and capabilities. Most look to hire a new employee with the needed experience — evaluating candidates through a set of criteria and then buying that talent. But when the talent isn’t available that meets the criteria, which is increasingly becoming the case, rather than settling for less, building upon existing talent makes better business sense. So when a company invests in an existing employee to develop the needed skill, they are talent-building. In other words, it is the infrastructure that future-focused companies put in place to deliver on their workforce upskilling goals.

Unprecedented Skills Gap

Who needs talent-building? A better question might be, “who doesn’t?” PwC’s most recent CEO Survey found that 79 percent of CEOs are concerned about the availability of needed skills. Meanwhile, 87 percent of executives told McKinsey that they face a talent-skills gap, but less than half of them had a clear plan to address the problem.

Build vs. Buy

But the talent-building process is not proactive, structured or intentional in most organizations. Examples of successful programs to build talent from within are hard to find. “Companies are spending $1,200 to $1,400 per year on employee development, most of which goes toward ongoing skills development, compliance, and various forms of safety, operational, and on-the-job training,” Bersin said. “But when entirely new skills are needed, companies typically hire externally.”

A Better Investment

Traditional employee development programs are compliance-driven or come in the form of tuition assistance, which leaves workers to manage their development. Compliance-driven training is compulsory and typically not skill-related. And while 90 percent of businesses offer tuition help for L&D, less than 10 percent of employees use it. Too many barriers get in the way.

There are age-old obstacles to successful talent-building efforts:

  • Time — few companies give employees time to learn new skills
  • Finances — tuition assistance programs are typically tuition reimbursement programs, requiring employees to front the costs
  • Alignment — generalized training does not provide job-specific skills
  • Support — beyond time, finances, and alignment, issues like child care and transportation impede participation in talent development programs

Comprehensive Talent-Building is Possible

  • Assess current skills
  • Define needed new skills
  • Identify internal employees best suited to learn these new skills
  • Find the targeted, skill-specific learning development programs that can bridge the gap
  • Support employees through completion and transition into new roles

This approach creates a united resource where managers and employees define goals, get connected to programs that can reach those goals, and schedule, enroll, pay for, complete, and measure outcomes all in one place. Having the ambition for upskilling is one thing, but committing to real steps, dedicated people and infrastructure will lead a more inclusive future-ready workforce.

(And in case you’re interested, rather than buying a house, we ended up remodeling, including improving existing foundations, to get the extra space that we needed.)

By Deeps Ramanathan

CMO, Learn In

About Learn In

Learn In is the first talent-building platform designed for companies to solve every barrier that stands in the way of creating tomorrow’s workforce.

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