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Recognizing the Value of Internal Talent Development

team work presentation

Identifying and hiring external talent will always be a top priority for practically all businesses.

That said, there is certainly a case to be made for ongoing internal talent development at organizations across industries and of varying sizes. And the reasons are simple:

  • One of the biggest factors in worker satisfaction is the ability to gain new skills and knowledge.
  • This new and/or enhanced expertise can lead to enticing career opportunities for employees.
  • Employee retention rates tend to rise for companies that prioritize internal talent development.

Arguably the biggest benefit of internal talent development for talent acquisition teams, though, is it helps them in ‘down’ hiring periods (i.e., when talent is scarce and/or competition for talent is high).

As E. L. Goldberg & Associates President & Founder Edie Goldberg noted during her recent Lever Ascend session, tracking and tapping into workers’ skill sets, proficiencies, and interests alleviates pressure on TA.

But it also ensures teams elsewhere across their companies can achieve their respective goals and contribute to long-term business growth by leveraging talent that already exists within the org.

Internal talent development: An oft-ignored area — but one that’s key to organizational success

“What if we focused more on the work that has to get done and the skills our employees have and less on job descriptions and department boundaries?” Edie posed to the Ascend audience.

It’s a valid question. It’s also one few C-suites, departmental leaders, and team managers ask.

Talent acquisition specialists turn to archived candidates in their talent pool to find fits for future and existing roles. When hiring quotas can’t be met for one reason or another by TA, Edie noted, why don’t executives internally develop the knowledgeable and capable ‘human capital’ who already work for them?

Per Edie, most employers today find it hard to not just attract and recruit top talent, but also retain talent. The main hurdles preventing brands from keeping high-quality workers, she noted, include:

  • Few (or no) learning and development programs: If workers don’t feel empowered to evolve in their roles and gain new competencies, they’ll search for new companies at which they can grow.
  • A lack of focus on career development by managers: Even without these programs in place, management can prevent worker attrition and boost team engagement by simply spending one-on-one time with each report. They can use these chats to ask them what they want to accomplish at the business and create an internal-mobility ‘roadmap’ from there.
  • No concerted internal-recruiting effort for open roles: Internal talent mobility will be limited for many employees if there’s no coordinated effort by leadership, hiring managers, and TA to identify current workers who are optimal fits for roles for which there are open requisitions.

“We tend to put people in a box called their job, and we tie them to their specific job descriptions which limits people’s full potential at work,” Edie indicated during her Ascend session.

At the end of the day, this leads to boredom, low engagement, and — often — employee churn.

Edie’s advice to address internal talent development (and avoid a mass exodus of workers): “Unleash the capacity within your own organization” through employee development, skill-building, and career management.

internal talent development

The six primary principles of internal talent development

During her Ascend session, Edie noted there are six core principles of internal talent development that — when followed — can help employers unearth “hidden talent” in their orgs:

  • 1) Put in an effort to help employees grow internally: “You get what you give,” as Edie put it in her Ascend session. Managers should be willing to ‘share’ team members with talent outside their day-to-day work with other teams to help them carry out and complete projects. Who knows? Perhaps a staffer on another team can help them execute one of their initiatives.
  • 2) Know what you have (see: skills, knowledge) in workers: Of course, managers must know of ‘bonus’ talent and skills that exist on their teams before they can focus on knowledge-sharing with other departments. This is where tracking employees’ interests and expertise comes into play.
  • 3) Create a culture of learning on each and every team: Whether their team partakes in talent-sharing or not, Edie noted it’s vital for managers and organizational leaders to ensure workers can upskill their talent if so desired. For instance, offering to pay for training in niche areas related to their roles and duties can up-level workers’ performance and allow them to take on new and intriguing tasks.
  • 4) Democratize work to enable employees to contribute: Evie suggested businesses invest in ‘talent platforms’ that can help match specific employees to worthwhile work that needs to be completed across the company. She noted there are solutions out there that offer AI-driven recommendations regarding which employees are good fits for specific work opportunities.
  • 5) Ensure each department across your organization is agile: Agility and flexibility among team leaders is critical to create a culture of learning and talent-sharing. Without an agile mindset, Edie noted, companies will find it difficult to tap into internal resources and achieve their desired objectives.
  • 6) Bust the functional silos that exist throughout the business: The ‘silo mentality’ is prevalent at businesses across sectors and of different sizes. Breaking down these organizational silos — particularly across departments and teams within each department — is how companies can make the most of employees’ ‘hidden talent’ and, in turn, accelerate growth.

To implement this approach to internal talent development, Edie relayed executives and managers alike must shift their mindset from ‘talent scarcity ‘(i.e., hoarding talent/team members) to a mindset of ‘talent abundance’ (i.e., viewing talent within the company as viable, valuable assets worth sharing across teams).

How internal talent management leads to business growth

According to Edie, it all boils down to one term for employers: “talent supply chain management.”

You have an inventory of skills within your workforce, Edie shared during her Ascend talk. Most business leaders, though, are unaware of the skill sets their employees have that could be leveraged in different departments and across different functions of the business and contribute to bottom-line growth.

In short, jobs change quickly today. ‘Boxing in’ employees to one, highly specific role in one corner of the business, Edie noted, ultimately deters this growth and leads to missed revenue opportunities.

Conversely, open-mindedness regarding how to utilize one’s workforce to achieve growth goals and offering training programs and internal opportunities (e.g., carefully orchestrated succession planning for key roles) to employees can help companies better achieve their growth goals.

And it can give TA teams some breathing room in depressed or competitive hiring periods.

Watch Edie’s entire Lever Ascend presentation to find out how your organization can better prioritize internal talent development and increase your employee retention and engagement rates.