Two Trends Driving Employee Development

Two converging trends are driving a growing interest in employee development: the ever-present skills gap among new entrants to the workforce and the need to retain and engage incumbents in the face of stiff (global) competition.  It seems that successful companies are beginning to accept this dual reality and are shifting their sights (and their budgets) toward greater investment in their people.

Peak Performance by Andrew Sutherland. Wikimedia Commons,Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Developing Current Employees

In its most recent study, Towers Watson conducted a survey of 1,600 organizations worldwide.[1] Overall, the study found that “companies are increasing their emphasis on and investment in people programs.” The study set out to identify trends in high-performance organizations between 2009 and 2013. Increased investment in the following four areas emerged as clear trends in the survey data:

  1. Career development: People practices related to career planning, recruiting, training and the creation of long-term career opportunities
  2. Empowerment: The enabling of employees’ voices in the workplace and ability to innovate
  3. Rewards and recognition: Competitive pay and benefits as well as nonmaterial rewards
  4. Leadership: Senior leaders’ effectiveness at decision making, communication and change management

In spite of the lingering impact of the global recession, high-performance companies clearly recognize the value of developing their employees for long-term sustainable growth and above-average performance.

Perhaps more importantly, the study concludes, “Employees in high-performance companies perceive themselves as being held in higher regard by customers and view their organizations as more competitive in product quality and customer service delivery.” Since one of the strongest contributors to employee loyalty and engagement is the ability to feel proud of the company one works for, this bodes well for these organizations that have chosen to invest in their people.

Hiring for Potential

Just as the Towers Watson survey respondents identified the development of current employees as critical to their success; so too have a growing number of employers identified the need to invest in the training and development of new hires.

One of five trends identified by Career Builder’s 2014 annual forecast is that companies are choosing to build the perfect employee instead of waiting for one. According to their research, “in light of the skills gap, 49 percent of employers plan to train people who don’t have experience in their industry…26 percent of employers are sending current employees back to school to get an advanced degree – and picking up all or part of the cost.”[2]

For those companies that have not yet acknowledged or acted upon the reality of these converging trends, Accenture offers the following strategies for addressing the skills gap, based on the results of its 2013 Skills and Employment Trends Survey:[3]

  1. Find a balance between formal and informal learning.
  2. Embrace new ways to develop skills.
  3. Expand your candidate pool.
  4. Screen talent based on newly emerging data sources.
  5. Invest earlier in the talent supply chain.

Whether your company is motivated by a need to retain and engage existing employees in a competitive labor market, or by new hiring requirements, success in the war for talent is more about your employee development options than any other single factor.


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