Startup City Magazine

Transformation of Talent Development Through Consulting

By Anita Vasudevan, Group Manager HR, Sonata Software

Anita Vasudevan, Group Manager HR, Sonata Software

Today, all facets of the Human Resource (HR) function, including the erstwhile training function, are undergoing transformations. The purpose of these ongoing transformations is to deliver value in the changing economic scenario.

Initially, HR was seen as a ‘back-end operations’ function that helped a business manage its people processes-payroll processing, end to end coordination of training programs, leave management, recruitment and the like. This view changed when HR became a business partner, to implement people processes with an understanding of the business. In today’s world of global talent mobility, when finding the right talent is a key challenge, HR is expected to have a seat at the table. As HR consultants, we are now expected to advise business on the talent management front. This progression can be applied to the training industry too. At the outset, training managers gathered needs annually, to come up with a yearly calendar. At the next level, managers started suggesting programs/initiatives for the business. Today, in addition to these activities, the Learning & Development (L&D) function has to advice business on Talent Development, and show clear results.

Given the challenges of ‘Finding and Retaining the Right Talent in the Right Role’, talent development becomes critical for organizations to grow and survive in the VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) economy. The entry of millennials into the work force, and the expected entry of Gen Z, in full force, heralds the need for increased focus on Talent Development. Unlike earlier generations, millennials want to grow quickly, and loyalty is not a priority. They want to stay engaged. Gen Z is very comfortable with technology and social media. At the same time, its members may have been adversely affected by the great recession. All of this calls for a transformation of the training function.

The role of the L&D consultant is a key factor for this transformation, and we may soon see an increased number of L&D consultants.

According to The Global Talent Report of 2015 by Deloitte University Press, leadership capability and learning and development continue to be top talent challenges. Building leadership capability is at number 2 position with L&D having moved to number 3 position from the earlier number 8 position.

Here is what it briefly states on these 2 areas:

Leadership: Why a perennial issue? Building leadership remains paramount, ranking as the no. 2 issue in this year’s survey. Yet despite the fact that nearly 9 out of 10 respondents surveyed cite the issue as ‘important’ or ‘very important’, the data also suggest that organizations have made little or no progress since last year: The capability gap for building great leaders has widened in every region of the world.

Learning & Development: Into the spotlight. This year’s third most important challenge was the need to transform and accelerate corporate learning, up from no. 8 in 2014. The percentage of companies rating learning and development as very important tripled since last year. But even as the importance of this issue rose, the readiness to address it went down. Only 40 percent of respondents rated their organizations as ‘ready’ or ‘very ready’ in learning and development in 2015, compared to 75 percentin 2014.L&D Consultant follows a holistic degree approach to provide pragmatic solutions to business challenges rather than to training needs/requirements.

To meet this challenge, the L&D Consultant needs to have a good understanding of the following, in addition to the basic L&D competencies of TNA, Design, Development, Implementation and Effectiveness.

• The organization strategy –vision,mission and goals

• The external and internal business environment – industry trends, rapidly changing technology, clients, competition, work the company does, etc.

• The people and existing culture of the organization

• Various methodologies of talent development and associated cost, so as to come up with the best solution to deliver business results

•The challenges of other HR functions. Ex- Recruitment may be forced to hire resources who can be developed to meet the needs, when they are unable to find the right talent.

The consultant would also need to have a pragmatic view of the implementation. For example, it might not be possible to offer executive coaching to every manager of the organization, due to the high costs. The required infrastructure might not be available to conduct
virtual programs.

In the earlier decades, business was quite happy with the Kirkpatrick Level 1 & 2 metrics. This will continue to be the basic L&D metric for all organizations in the near future. The change we now see is that there is an increased demand to demonstrate the return on investment, or at least, the changes that L&D initiatives have made to the business.

To demonstrate increased effectiveness, each and every initiative could become unique in its own way. Even if the topics to be covered are similar, the presentation of the content, examples, the flow, etc. may need to be different for each group of audience. This translates to increased consumption of high relevance offerings vs standard offerings. A quick way to facilitate this could be using a model similar to the Agile Model used in the software development industry today. The Successive Approximation Model (SAM) approach might need to be followed. It could result in shrinking of cycle time and costs, to provide effective solutions. 

To be able to meet the expectations of the market, the industry requires the competencies of an L&D consultant. A consultant needs to constantly update his/her knowledge, learn what is new in the field and in the industries, assertively and engagingly state perspectives from within and outside, be passionate about people development, and be able to provide business results. All of this needs to be done, while engaging learners/employees, through the learning and development process.

L&D consulting will surely contribute towards the transformation of talent development. Ultimately, it will change what business has to say: about the function’s contribution to competency and leadership development to meet the
industry demands.

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