Why Talent Management is Key to Business-Focused Learning

In the last 10 years, technology dramatically has changed the face of corporate learning. We’re now on the brink of another major change. The demographic changes that will hit global […]

In the last 10 years, technology dramatically has changed the face of corporate learning. We’re now on the brink of another major change.

The demographic changes that will hit global workforces over the next eight years will require significant changes in all facets of corporate learning – from the technology infrastructure to its relationship with HR to program prioritization. An aging workforce, combined with a shrinking talent pool, will put a host of new pressures on learning organizations.

Already, companies are feeling effects: A 2006 survey of about 45,000 companies conducted by Manpower Inc. showed that a significant percentage of companies are having difficulty hiring qualified personnel. In Japan, 58 percent of respondents reported hiring challenges, 53 percent in Germany, 44 percent in the United States and 42 percent in the United Kingdom. Even China and India are experiencing hiring shortages.

In the coming years, every category of the workforce will require special (and sometimes) new emphasis. Much of the support will need to come from the corporate learning organization, working in conjunction with HR and senior executives.

For instance, companies will need to make a concerted effort to recruit, hire and integrate young workers into their workforces. Succession planning, identification of key leaders and development of leadership and management skills will be critical for midcareer employees. And companies will need to make the best use of older and highly experienced employees through knowledge sharing and mentoring.

In order for these activities to be effective and efficient, companies will need to integrate these processes with learning. If companies continue to rely on paper-based performance management systems or maintain information in silos and disconnected systems, they will not succeed in addressing future challenges.

For example, Raytheon, a provider of defense technology, has identified that it needs 20,000 exempt new hires by 2010 just to keep its current workforce stable. To meet the company’s growth targets, it must hire 43,000 employees during that time frame.

Talent management functions historically have been siloed within Raytheon, as they have with most companies. For instance, training, performance development, succession planning and leadership development are all separate processes with nonintegrated systems.

To address future challenges, Raytheon has embarked on a major, multiphased initiative. The first phase, which is being implemented this year, focuses on performance and development planning processes, and it will introduce the integrated talent development system in a pilot program encompassing 4,000 employees across all Raytheon business units.

In 2007, the company plans to expand the initiative to include companywide performance and development planning, as well as improvements in HR review processes and identification of leadership competencies. The final phase will incorporate other aspects such as career and workforce planning and acquisition.

Analysts are identifying more examples of companies and federal agencies that are making this type of management a key priority. The impact on learning is significant. Besides having major technology implications, the initiatives demand that learning organizations expand their responsibilities. While it’s critical to maintain focus and support on operational and functional training, learning organizations also must take on an “HR view” in order to meet the challenges of recruitment, onboarding, succession planning and leadership development.

Another area of impact is metrics. Measurements tied to specific business objectives will become the proof of learning success. ROI, levels of learning, seats filled and per-employee course hours increasingly will become less important as companies depend on learning to help them achieve strategic workforce goals.

This new emphasis will create challenging and rewarding career opportunities for everyone in the learning industry. To paraphrase Bette Davis’ famous line, “Fasten your seat belts, everyone. We’re in for an exciting ride.”

Josh Bersin is the principal and founder of Bersin & Associates, and he has more than 25 years of experience in corporate solutions, training and e-learning. He can be reached at jbersin@clomedia.com.