Are You Getting An ROI On Developing Your Talent?

We hope you enjoy this article from our guest writers. Tony Cortese retired from Herman Miller in 2019 where he had been SVP of Human Resources and currently leads ARIA Leadership Coaching & Consulting. David Keegin is currently the President of Anderson Keegin & Associates. Together they have founded INSIGHT Action Learning Group. They are passionate about helping West Michigan companies improve approaches to talent, performance, and overall human capital management. You will find more information on Tony, David, and INSIGHT Action Learning Group at the end of his article.

Talent remains management’s key challenge for most companies. Everyone has been challenged by increased turnover, concerns about how to best engage employees using a Corporate HR software, and the rising costs of compensation. Tony and David provide key insights on maximizing your talent ROI!
– Bill Benson, Partner


Are You Getting An ROI On Developing Your Talent?

By Tony Cortese and David Keegin

In meeting with CEO’s and CHRO’s to discuss their Talent Strategies, we’re repeatedly hearing concerns about:

  • Talent Attraction & Retention
  • Future Focus & Vision
  • Strategic Alignment & Execution
  • Business Owner Mindset
  • Leadership Bench Strength
  • Organizational Agility

In this increasingly complex and fast changing world, organizations must develop future focused agile leadership; and at the same time, purposely create career paths and development opportunities so they can retain their high potential early in career talent.

Your talent is looking for good pay, benefits, and flexible work arrangements. Unfortunately, in today’s marketplace – that’s simply not enough. Research shows that nearly half of U.S. based employees are considering leaving their current jobs… many in search of new learning opportunities and the chance for promotion. For more on business handling we recommend to check this guide on how to do marketing for small business.

In fact, a recent study by McKinsey & Company (involving over 13,000 participants) indicates that “Lack of career development and advancement” was the number one reason given for people choosing to quit their jobs this past year – outranking both compensation and workplace flexibility.

Bottom line: Recruiting great Talent is critical (and expensive!)… but it’s not enough. If organizations can’t develop, engage, and retain their Talent, they are throwing their money away… and they certainly won’t be able to compete in today’s hyper-competitive marketplace.

So, what are you doing in your organization to ensure your high potential talent isn’t looking for opportunity somewhere else? What does it cost to lose key talent?

Most leadership and employee development initiatives are ineffective. Unfortunately, many well intended businesses are pouring millions of employee development dollars down the drain every year. Why?

  • Too much emphasis on the classroom. Learning is not experiential, practical, and/or action oriented.
  • Not enough Feedback & Learning Reinforcement. The learning is often episodic – “One & Done”…
  • It doesn’t make a “measurable” difference… there’s no clear ROI and link to the organization’s Strategy.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Your development processes can be different. Effective development is:

  • Directly linked to your Strategy and Culture.
  • An integrated process… with multiple reinforcement/touch points.
  • Practical, applied, and action oriented.
  • Focused on enhanced learning and leadership agility.
  • Designed to include built in feedback loops and accountability checks…. with facilitated involvement and reinforcement from the participant’s leadership.

Wise employers treat Leadership and Employee development as an investment… not an expense.

If you want to realize a return on your investment, you need to take a deliberately focused approach to your learning and development efforts. You should set yourself up for a return on your time, dollars, and resources – just as you would if you were looking at any other long-term investment. You need a strategy, design, and processes that you can actively manage to drive your desired outcomes.

A few questions to consider:

Strategy: Are your development initiatives linked to your overarching organizational strategy?

  • Do you have a “Development Strategy”… or are you simply offering a random collection of unrelated topics that fail to build on each other? If you want your investment to be transformational, then your development strategy needs to be clearly linked to your organizational strategy. The line of sight between the two should be inherently obvious.  Otherwise, you end up with a fragmented collection of training activities that are transactional, at best.

Learning Design: Is your learning designed to yield specific (and measurable) desired outcomes… i.e.: critical knowledge, observable behaviors, demonstrable skills, and competencies?

  • Are you “starting with the end in mind”? Is your content directly linked to the outcomes?  Did you start with some form of needs assessment? Remember, “Prescription without diagnosis…is malpractice”. The learning should be designed and tailored to meet your specific needs.
  • Learning should be engaging… and it needs to amount to more than just “infotainment”.  Like most good design… “Form should follow function”.
  • Learning should be tailored for the audience. It’s important to “meet the participants where they are”. It needs to be accessible… and “user friendly”.
  • Your design should be engaging and interactive. No one wants to spend their time listening to a “human barbiturate” drone on and on. Your employees learn best by interacting with their colleagues, sharing experiences and ideas, and engaging in learning activities that reinforce the learning content. Make it action oriented!

Learning Reinforcement & Application: Do your people get the opportunity to apply, practice, refine and receive feedback on their newly acquired knowledge and skills? Are participants bringing their learning back to the workplace and their teams? Are they applying their learning to real business issues and challenges… or is it all theoretical? The age-old Chinese Proverb “I hear and I forget; I see, and I remember; I do, and I understand…” is worth its weight in gold.

  • If you want to ensure you’re putting your investment to work, you need to make sure your organization’s leadership is not just involved – but that it’s “taking ownership” for supporting and reinforcing the learning. Developing your organization’s Leaders and Emerging Talent should be a critical element of your organizational strategy and not an “afterthought” that is relegated solely to Human Resources (if/and when there’s money left in the budget….).
  • Leaders should meet with their employees prior to learning activities to discuss development goals and expectations… and continue meeting with them throughout and after the development initiative. They need to help reinforce the material and ensure that employees have the opportunity to apply what they’ve learned once they get “back on the job”.
  • Integrate the learning into the Employee’s development plan… and make sure it’s a living/breathing document and process. (Question: Do your Employees currently have development plans? Are they being actively managed… or are they just taking up memory space in your learning management system or in a binder on your desk?)

Measurement & Results: Is the learning design “results oriented”? Are you measuring “training activity” or “actual results/outcomes”?

  • Have you identified the specific desired outcomes for your L&D efforts? What do they look like in observable and/or measurable terms? Which Key Performance Indicators are you using to measure? (You are measuring… right?)
  • You need to know if your efforts are effective. Consider measuring “pre” and “post”?
  • Manage your process: Think “Plan, Do, Check, Act” (PDCA) – Dial in your process (or reinvent it altogether) to increase efficacy.
  • Consider linking development to compensation… for both the Employee and the Leader.  This idea never sounds radical when we link it to other elements of an organization’s strategy. Recruiting, engaging, developing, and retaining your Organization’s Talent should be no different.

Coaching: Is your learning and development coupled with individualized or group coaching?

  • Consider providing individualized or group coaching to reinforce the learning and development. It’s a strategic/forward thinking investment and studies repeatedly show that coaching enhances development (MetrixGlobal found Executive Coaching can yield as much as a 500% ROI). When employees embrace the process, coaching enhances self-awareness, emotional intelligence, learning, and performance. Hardly a novel concept… the world’s top performers in business, sports, and entertainment employ coaches and mentors to help them improve performance.

Your Talent is your lifeblood… now more than ever you must be deliberate and focused about how you develop your Leadership and our Emerging Talent. It’s essential to ensuring your future. You can’t afford to take a haphazard approach… You need to invest – and invest wisely. You need to set yourself up for a solid return on your investment.

We are “INSIGHT Action Learning Group” and we can help you develop the next generation of strategic leaders in your organization.  We provide developmental coaching, professional assessments, and immersive cohort-based learning processes to help you develop insightful authentic, human centric, agile leaders… Leaders your people want to follow.

We’d welcome the opportunity to share a cup of coffee with you (virtually or in person), to tell you more about what we have to offer, and to answer any questions you might have. Here’s a link to our website, if you would like to learn more about us and our offering:

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