Measuring the effectiveness of our talent development initiatives may involve myriad measures and metrics—most of them non-monetary. And let’s face it: As people-focused talent development practitioners, quantifying what we do into dollars and cents has not been how we make sense of and consider the value of our work. We’re not bean counters. We’re not number-crunchers. We’re not profit-driven. We’re skill-builders, behavior-changers, people-developers. We prioritize quality and focus on maximizing capabilities.
But what if we changed how we think and feel about our work? Instead of considering talent development professionals and business leaders two separate and unique functions, what if we thought of ourselves—talent development professionals—as business leaders?
This, of course, would require us to think and communicate like business leaders. It would require us to use the language of business—money.
That may not be very natural nor appealing to those who entered the talent development profession out of our desire to grow people over profits and to build skills, not empires.
It’s a mistake to believe we can’t care about people while being mindful about money. In fact, money is what enables us to care about people. The more money businesses make, the more money is available to invest in talent development initiatives. As the old economics adage goes, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Talent development isn’t free. Money is an unavoidable part of talent development often exacerbated by only focusing on budgeting the cost of talent development rather than forecasting the financial impact of talent development initiatives on the business. It might work in our favor if we learn to embrace that.
Often in white-collar crimes, detectives try to solve mysteries by tracing the path of the money. What if we approached performance gaps the same way: by tracing the money? What if we could quantify the cost of performance gaps as part of our needs analyses? What if we could forecast potential financial performance that results from implementing talent development initiatives? And what if we used financial measures and metrics to design and develop talent development initiatives?
Many talent development professionals focus needs analyses on human performance. To be more effective business leaders, and in turn better talent development professionals, we must begin our needs analyses considering financial performance and understand how much the endeavor is costing the business and how much closing a performance gap saves the business. Once we start with the financial picture, we can then turn our attention to identifying what is causing the performance gap and focus on the behaviors we need to change to close it.
Money doesn’t have to be a dirty word in talent development. We just need to make sense of it.