How to build a robust talent pipeline through continuous learning strategies

The ability to develop talent at the right time, with the right capabilities is a dynamic and ongoing process. The organizations that excel in talent development will be the ones best positioned to thrive in the face of change and uncertainty.

The COVID-19 global pandemic has caused major disruptions across industries and businesses of all sizes, from the rise of e-commerce and online meetings to a shift in hygiene and health care priorities. Workplace dynamics have also evolved, with remote working becoming the new norm and employees managing busier schedules than ever before. These changes have made the role of human resources more critical to the business, particularly in the field of talent management and L&D, to attract, retain and nurture talent for present and future challenges. 

One fundamental question that business leaders tend to ask HR is: “How can we develop the right talent at the right time and equip them with the right capabilities to meet changing needs?” Here are three strategies for HR leaders as they grapple with this question and aim to build the talent capacity necessary for short and midterm business outcomes.

  1. Assess present and future business capacity and capabilities

To build the right talent pipeline, it is important to begin with the end in mind. Answering the following questions can help scope the right assessment: 

  • What is the business outcome over the next 12 – 36 months? This will indicate how the capacity will likely change and if existing capabilities need to be strengthened or new ones need to be added due to changing needs.
  • What is the current talent capacity of the team? There are many ways to approach this. It could be the sales targets each talent is assigned to, the number of projects each employee is driving, or it could also be more rudimentary by measuring man-hours of a team. Measurements will differ from function to function. 
  • What is the current talent capability of the team? Capabilities refer to skills, competencies, knowledge or results. Some business leaders may measure their team’s capability through the number of talents certified in a particular competency, while others might prefer to use sales results or project success as an indicator of capability.
  • What are the future capacity and capability requirements? The outputs from the previous three questions will form the basis to identify the gaps between present and future capacity and capabilities. Is there a need to increase headcount and how would it be allocated? Is there a need to reskill or upskill the team to meet future business needs? 

It is important to involve the business leaders from the beginning, as they will know their team members best and assess them according to the pulse of the business. As HR, our role is to support the leaders in identifying global future skills, especially with the pandemic accelerating digital transformation and automation of many industries. Skills such as digital literacy, data analysis and remote collaboration have become more critical than ever.

  1. Personalize development solutions for different profiles 

With more diverse demographics in the same workplace today, it makes talent development more complicated than before. Each employee comes from their own unique background, possesses their own unique skills and has individual career aspirations. Add remote and flexible work arrangements, it makes individual schedules more variant, which reinforces that one size does not fit all when it comes to people development. Some suggested profile groups are as follow: 

  • Create high potential groups for future senior management roles. This should include individual contributors who are subject matter experts in their respective fields. Most high potentials are in people manager roles. With the evolution of organizational structures, we may see a flatter reporting structure with less people manager roles. 
  • Upskill and reskill different employee groups based on identified skills and competency gaps. This focuses on short-term capability building as well as mid-term capacity planning. By cross training employees across different skill sets, it can reduce the risk of business stoppages if there is insufficient capacity to meet required outcomes. 
  • Young talent groups can build the pipeline for additional capacity requirements. With a mid to long term horizon, young talent can be developed across different skills and competencies to provide more flexibility for both the employee and business to allocate manpower more easily. 
  • Create experienced professional groups who are close to retirement in the next five years, but have immense knowledge and experience. Transition them to roles that enable them to share their wisdom with the less experienced colleagues. 

Leveraging digital learning platforms, such as e-learning modules, gamification courses and webinars, can help employees learn at their own pace and on their own terms. By opening a myriad of resources and learning courses in additional to talent development programs employees are already allocated to, it gives employees more autonomy to learn and own their development to grow with the company. 

Encouraging mentorship and coaching programs can be invaluable in transferring knowledge and expertise within the organization as well. Senior employees can guide their less experienced colleagues, providing insights and lessons learned over the years to increase talent capabilities overtime. With remote work, mentorship can be facilitated through virtual meetings and communication platforms. HR leaders can establish mentorship programs that connect employees regardless of their physical location, fostering a strong sense of community and shared learning.

  1. Let data tell the story

With data analytics becoming an important driver for decision making, HR leaders can leverage data to identify trends, monitor progress and make informed decisions regarding talent development. Analytics can provide insights into the effectiveness of learning courses, talent programs, employee engagement and skill development. This will elevate HR to become a better business partner for the C-suite and demonstrate the ROI of people development initiatives for greater business impact. With the right data, HR leaders can adapt their strategies in real-time, ensuring talent development efforts align with the ever-changing needs of the business. 

Talent development is not a one-time activity; it’s an ongoing process. HR leaders should continuously monitor the progress of their talent development programs and adapt them as needed. Having frequent qualitative and quantitative data can help HR analyze effectiveness and efficiency of various initiatives. Through regular feedback from employees, managers and stakeholders, it can be invaluable in fine-tuning these initiatives. With remote work, it is essential to remain agile and responsive to changing circumstances. This means being prepared to shift resources, adjust priorities and revise strategies as business needs evolve. Data analytics can provide a platform for more factual decision making rather than gut feeling actions. 

In conclusion, the shift to remote work, diverse workforce and increasingly busy employee schedules necessitates a reimagining of talent development strategies. By assessing current and future needs, personalizing learning pathways, and leveraging data, HR leaders can equip their organizations with the right talent capacity and capabilities to meet evolving business needs.