Why the time for talent development is now
Over the past few months, in this time of crisis and survival for businesses and corporates, we have noticed that leadership and talent development programs have been put on the back-burner. But now, if anything, is the time that we should be focusing on developing internal talent. Some employees have more time on their hands with which they could learn something new; others might be looking to upskill in this rapidly evolving work environment. MOOC providers such as Coursera and Udemy have seen a huge spike in demand. People are looking to learn new things and develop themselves, so why should that be any different for in-house programs?
Last year we caught up with Tony Pusic, previously VP EMEA operations at Merck about the importance of developing talent within the organization. Over the years Bolster has worked closely with Tony to run several of their ‘Talent Summits’. This is what he had to say;
Why hold a Talent Summit?
“With the Talent Summit we were looking at creating a true talent factory in Europe” Tony tells us. They identified key talent from across diverse locations and helped accelerate their career paths within MSD. Alongside the primary benefit of upskilling key people, it also helped to grow talent within MSD rather than recruiting externally, and improved the retention of top talent. As Tony noted; “We were able to bring some 20 to 30 people from different and diverse locations in Europe and Africa. We really created something special, something innovative and experiential; something that was very different than the talent’s day to day work.”
Due to the hard work and investment from MSD, the Talent Summit was a great success. But Tony recalls the responsibility he felt at setting up the summit; “You get a group of people together for two or three days it’s a huge responsibility … my biggest fear was that I would have 20-30 people all in one place and I would be wasting their time.”
So how did we make it a success?
Here are a few key tips for setting up a successful talent program
1) Preparation is key
Before we embark on any program we ensure it is crystal clear what the management team wants to get out of it. Tony remembers “I like the way you took the time, well before the talent summit even started, to speak with me and really understand what I needed, and what my vision was”. Having a well-defined ambition gives purpose and clarity to the program.
This is equally important for the participants themselves. Take the time to touch base with each participant beforehand; understand what challenges they might be facing, and kick-start their thinking on what they want to get out of the program.
2) Design a bespoke and out of the box program
Based on the outcome of your preparatory discussions, you are now in a better position to design a program which truly fits the needs of the group. “You don’t have a cookie-cutter template … It’s more about listening to everybody, really working with the leadership team and with the cohort and creating a really bespoke program” recalls Tony.
Carefully plan each element; identify how it contributes to the ambition you have already set out. Try to focus on experiential learning by doing, rather than a more traditional lecture setting. Combine a mixture of hard content with soft skills.
3) Translate all learnings to concrete actions
Oftentimes we hear from clients that they followed a truly inspiring leadership course, where they learnt from Olympic champions and highly successful businesspeople. Although their notebooks were full of quotes and key messages, it was unclear how they could actually apply this to their own working environments. Eventually those notebooks wound up in the bookcase and were never looked at again.
During the Talent Summit we really focused on equipping the talents with concrete tools that they could apply directly to their work. ”We helped all the talents gain a basic understanding of coaching and mentoring, and have some fun in the process.” We also encourage people to make concrete action plans, and take the first steps immediately. That way the journey has already begun and following up on these actions after the program is easier for participants. “[We worked with the talents] to have a clearer picture of what the management strategy was, and how they will play a role.” This was boiled down into executable steps which the talents could follow.
What was the impact?
The immediate impact of the talent summit for Tony was clear; “I was really warmed by the feedback and responses from absolutely everybody in both cohorts, where people really felt listened to, really felt invested in, and as a result knew that as leadership of MSD we were taking their careers and their potential seriously.”
Looking back Tony notes; “If I think back and look at a lot of the people, [I see] a lot of promotions, people in different roles, people in bigger roles. It really helped to spearhead their career progressions.”
For us too, at Bolster, it was a pleasure to work with Tony and the team on the Talent Summit. Tony epitomizes an authentic leader who is warm and approachable, whilst also seeing exactly what is needed for the team.