Most experts agree that the trainer role is shifting from primarily a classroom facilitator to that of a learning curator. With this shift, professionals focused on talent development face key challenges in their efforts to add value to learners, including lack of management and employee buy-in, low participant engagement, insufficient time and resources, and critical skill gaps. Sound familiar?
How can talent development leaders address these and other challenges? How do they help their agencies improve employee engagement and become high-performing organizations? The answer to these questions takes the form of leadership development programs, onboarding, mentoring, succession planning, and knowledge management. Let’s take a closer look.
1. Build leaders at every level within your organization. How many times are people promoted into leadership role but are completely unprepared to be effective? This is a symptom of a larger problem. The real problem is that organizations are not developing their leaders at all levels. The crucial mistake is only creating programs for employees with leadership titles such as “manager,” “supervisor,” and “director.” Those working in federal agencies see this mistake repeated with devastating effects on morale and employee engagement. Not addressing this mistake ultimately leads to lack of organizational effectiveness and even complete abolishment of the organization.
2. Equip new employees for success with a comprehensive onboarding program. “Why do 50 percent of our employees leave within the first six months?” If your organization is asking this question, chances are that your onboarding program needs improvement. Onboarding has a direct correlation to employee engagement. Some studies state that companies with an engaging onboarding program retained some 90 percent of their first-year workers. With statistics like this, any organization that’s serious about improving employee engagement must invest in an actionable and sustainable onboarding program.
3. Facilitate organizational learning and encourage relationship building with a mentoring partnership program. What can you do to tear down organizational silos? A well-structured mentoring partnership program can encourage knowledge sharing between departments, leverage individual employee strengths, and facilitate organizational learning. Indeed, mentoring partnership programs provide numerous developmental experiences for matched mentoring pairs and designated groups which lead to a cross-pollination of knowledge, stronger relationships, and erosion of organizational silos. However, successful mentoring programs don’t just happen. Make sure you start your mentoring programs by first giving a lot of thought to the expected outcomes and how the program aligns with the business strategy and mission.
4. Always be prepared to fill critical vacant positions with a comprehensive succession plan. “Oh no! With Jim gone, we’re doomed and have to discontinue our safety program!” Your organization never wants to be in this situation; the consequences can be the demise of business continuity. It’s just good business practice to have people ready to move vertically and horizontally within an organization for two reasons. First, you offer employees an opportunity to learn and grow while accomplishing mission-critical work. Second, if the work that your organization does is important, you can’t afford to have critical positions vacant while you search for a replacement.
5. Create a system to maintain operational continuity with a comprehensive knowledge management program. Consider Jim from the succession planning example. His departure left not only a hole in the agency’s staff, but also no way to transfer Jim’s tacit knowledge (what was in his head) and make it explicit (available for others to access and use it) to maintain the continuity of operations. Without a comprehensive knowledge management program, organizations have no way to ensure employees have the right information that can be used by the right people at the right time.
Before you can do any of this, though, you need to build a highly skilled talent development team to lead organizational learning strategy efforts. This is where many organizations get derailed. They adopt the philosophy that anyone can develop training if they are subject matter experts. I call this the missing link to a successful learning strategy.
During my session at ATD 2019 International Conference & Exposition, Drive Employee Engagement Through the Roof With an Extraordinary Learning Strategy, I will explore how you can develop a learning strategy that will build a healthy learning culture, improve employee engagement, and lead to a high-performing organization. I hope you will join me.