News & Insight
July 2009

Trends and Observations in Talent Development

Scott Litchfield, SVP, WJM Associates

Since last fall the world has faced a catastrophic recession and financial crisis that most say rivals the Great Depression. Poor leadership has clearly played a central role in getting us in the current situation. Ironically, strong leadership will be critical to getting us out of it.

Over the past 6 months, through conversations with Human Resources, Talent Management and Organizational Development professionals, we have gathered information regarding various strategies for developing leadership talent during these uncertain times. We originally collected these observations for internal use, but felt this information would be welcomed by many of the professionals we call on, especially as we have all been bogged down in the day-to-day of running our businesses with fewer resources than ever before.

Below is an overview of the general trends and observations we have gathered. Overall, it should be refreshing to hear that companies are still investing in talent management programs with some modifications.

Going forward, we will continually update this collection of trends. To view this updated document click here.

General Trends

"No noise in '09", "No new in '09", "Never waste a crisis" and "Simplicity and pace". These statements capture what most companies are doing currently by fine tuning and focusing on projects and initiatives that were perhaps launched in '08 or earlier. With limited budget dollars for this year making slight modifications and adjustments to existing programs seem to be the focus in '09. Clearly, the executives' time has been limited to focusing on business critical issues and as a result they do not have the time for as many new initiatives or rollouts.
Stretching the investment dollars. To continue leadership development initiatives, while on a budget, many companies are investing in a thorough assessment and developmental process, which includes an assessment instrument interpretation, 360° interviews and feedback (either online to keep costs down or face-to-face) and a developmental plan with input from the individual's leader. Some companies are supplementing this deliverable with targeted coaching. To meet the growing demand for this service, WJM Associates has developed a new program called Leadership Discovery. While this targeted program cannot replace a complete executive coaching initiative, it is a highly effective and cost-efficient way to introduce leadership development to a larger population of high-potential executives. For more information on this service click here.
The importance of effective team work. Aligned teams are needed within organizations more than ever before, especially since companies are expecting more from the employees who remain with the company after reductions. Companies are investing in enhancing the overall effectiveness of the team to ensure proper alignment against the strategic business initiatives of the company. Online surveys and interviews are items companies are utilizing to gain an understanding of team dynamics.

Larger-Scale Talent Management Initiatives and Solutions

Leadership development programs are alive and well. While some companies are cutting back on the leadership development programs being offered, many companies are still continuing or initiating new programs that will assist them in developing talent and gaining a competitive edge. Broadly the desired outcome or purpose of these programs are the following:

  • Retain and develop high potentials and accelerate executives' ability to assume new leadership roles with bigger responsibilities within the company.
  • Cultivate a corporate network among leaders.
  • Build and expand knowledge of leadership foundation, strategy, financial analysis, career planning and tailored business solutions.
  • Further develop leadership skills of participants.
  • Increase visibility of high potentials to senior management.
  • Increase knowledge about business across geographical and business borders.

The above highlights desired outcomes of leadership development programs. Below is an overview of various solutions or deliverables companies have or plan to implement.

One company has developed a leadership development program that includes the following deliverables:

  • The program consists of 3 parts: a 3-day learning session followed by a 6-8 week Action Learning project for the participants, and a debrief/presentation session at the end of the program.
  • The 3-day session will address 3 competencies defined by the company: global acumen, strategic direction and building and developing organizational talent. Additionally, the sessions are expected to have academic foundations and be practical and applicable to the participants' work.
  • Two programs are planned for 2009 and each one will consist of approximately 30 executives selected from the leadership team.
  • Finally, the initial program will be replicable for subsequent ones

Other organizations WJM has talked to are developing their talent management programs by focusing on the following:

  • Leadership - including self-awareness exercises, how to build teams, situational leadership skills and feedback training.
  • Business coaching - individual coaching where corporate and personal objectives are set according to the tailored solution.
  • Business cases / Case studies - senior management will share real unresolved and ongoing business challenges that the participants need to solve in team assignments.

Finally, WJM has noticed that many organizations are developing programs that include the use of an assessment instrument, 360° interviews (face-to-face or online), thorough feedback, followed by targeted coaching.

WJM hopes this information gives you some key points to consider as we all work through 2009 and make plans for 2010 and beyond.

Scott has been in the HR consulting industry for 9 years and the last 5 years with WJM where he currently leads the company's sales efforts. Scott's highly consultative approach and steadfast customer service make him an invaluable resource to his clients.

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