Why Traditional Talent L&D Can’t Support Organizational Agility

Monday, July 24, 2017

In the past, organizations were designed around who was going to do what: engineering, manufacturing, IT, sales, or marketing. Everyone had a mission. It was the responsibility of L&D to identify what people needed to be able to do, then build training that would help them do that. It was the responsibility of talent management to ensure goals were set and performance was managed by the line manager.

Fast forward to today:

  • Corporate strategy and the vision for how to achieve it may change throughout the year. 
  • The org chart barely exists. 
  • Talent moves between teams as often as needed (for one week, one month, one year). 
  • Part-time gig workers, freelancers, and contingent workers are likely to be involved. 
  • Teams have goals, people don’t. 
  • Team goals change rapidly with their assignments. 
  • Success in achieving team goals is dependent upon the team as a whole, not the individual parts.

So how in the world can L&D support skill development when people’s skill requirements are changing frequently? How can talent management use traditional performance management approaches to measure success?
The answer: They can’t. Traditional talent L&D can’t support organizational agility. So, what do we do? Like the organizations themselves, we evolve.


We need to identify and build capability in real time to support changes. We need to allow people in the roles who need the capabilities to own their achievement. There is simply no way for us to track the moving pieces. We must inspire them and empower them to do it themselves.

That means that they must be able to assess their skills against the competency model and requirements of whatever role they are in, and be provided with a personalized learning plan to close those skill gaps.

We simply provide the competency-based learning in consumable chunks (microlearning) across the 70-20-10 spectrum so everyone can get only what they need. Some programs we’ll create, some we’ll curate. Most of what we create will be activities for experiential learning. Our job is to make sure people have what they need and can access it with one click, regardless of where in the learning ecosystem it exists. Skill acquisition becomes more important than tracking.

Talent management will support a new growth mindset that measures performance based on continuous learning and contribution to team goals. Check-in conversations with the line manager of the moment will ensure calibration between individual and team, and help people challenge themselves to maximize team value. This way every team has the capability to meet the short-term changes in corporate strategy.

Do you buy into this rationale, but need help selling a different approach to leadership? Join us on Thursday, August 17, at 1 p.m. ET, for the webcast, Building Capability vs. Performance Management: Using Competency Models to Look Forward Instead of Backward.

About the Author

Cheryl Lasse is SkillDirector’s managing partner. Her goal is helping people and companies achieve their potential. Cheryl has extensive experience with competency model development and implementation, and enjoys sharing her knowledge and passion with others. Check out the LinkedIn group Competency Models For Professional Development.

She believes people are intrinsically motivated to excel, if they are given access to a competency model for their role, the opportunity to assess themselves against that model, and personalized learning to help them close gaps and meet aspirational goals. This philosophy has been embodied in the Self-Directed Learning Engine, the engine behind the ATD Skill Tracker.

Cheryl has a strong background in consulting, marketing, and sales, mostly in technology companies, where training has played a chief role throughout her career. She holds bachelor’s degrees from Syracuse University in computer science and HR, and an MBA from the University of South Florida.

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