Play It Again Sam – Looking Through HR’s Crystal Ball – Prediction Nine of Nine – New Design & Focus for Professional Development

Prof Deve WEBIn the January/February issue of HR Magazine, Josh Bersin with Deloitte, makes nine predictions of “what’s in store for HR in 2015.” This is part nine of a series of nine articles looking at each of these predictions.

Mr. Bersin’s article on professional development concentrates on HR. His suggestions are

  • Reduce the number of HR generalists and replace them with HR business partners
  • Change the focus from “centers of expertise” to “networks of expertise”
  • Concentrate hiring and training on the new competencies of high impact HR teams

The article goes on to briefly discuss how HR needs to become more of a business partner. The way to achieve this is to become “bold, innovative, and forward-thinking.” Where have we heard THAT tune before? At any rate, Mr. Bersin was not suggesting that development be restricted to HR. In order for development to be effective, it must be embedded in an organization’s DNA. Trends or predictions, affect the entire organization, not just one department.      

The American Management Association has 10 predictions of its own about development.

  1. Leadership is a more broad term – Leadership is not just for those with authority and position. Today, people who make an impact are considered leaders
  2. Management faces a more risk-adverse workforce – Because today’s workforce is shy about taking risks due to the recent recession and current slow economy, managers have some analyzing to do. First, what part did or are they playing around the rhetoric of the economy and secondly, how can they encourage initiative and risk taking.
  3. The growing demand for Big Data – The onslaught of and demand for big data has caught some organizations unprepared. Managers must now ensure that employees have the skills to input, interpret, and apply data.
  4. Forget the term high-potential – Managers are encouraged to leave out the term high-potential in describing some employees as other employees who are not high–potentials will lose their moral. [Please – don’t get me started. Who thinks any person with any modicum of brains can’t figure out who is and who isn’t a serious contributor to an organization’s success?]
  5. Selections for high-potentials is becoming more impartial – Companies now seek to make the application process for such programs more systematic and impartial. [Make up your mind!]
  6. Retool leadership programs for globalization – [Any company that hasn’t done this by now is waaaaaay behind the curve.]
  7. Being prepared for increased turnover – Leadership must realize that when the economy improves, there will be turnover. Preparation will be a huge factor in being ready to revamp jobs, benchmark positons, and hire the best fit.
  8. Core skills – Here the AMA is addressing communication, critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity. [These should never be neglected and should, in fact, be ongoing efforts in every organization’s culture.]
  9. More demand for entry into leadership programs – This will become an increasing concern as every employee cannot be at the top of the organization’s apex. How can we keep employees challenged and provide feelings of improvement and accomplishment through even a lateral move.
  10. More focus on developing individual contributors – How can organiztions recognize those who contribute, but who are not in positons of authority. [Say what? But won’t the others think these people are high-potentials and get their feelings hurt? You can’t have it both ways. Know this, every organization better damn well figure out how to balance the effort/reward index].

Sorry, I got carried away. However, establishing development programs that are fair, consistent, and that focus on your organization’s business needs are essential. Let’s look at some ways on how to accomplish this.

  • Ensure that development not only imparts knowledge and understanding that benefits the individual, but that topics address business goals. Edward Hess, a professor at Virginia’s Darden School of Business and author of Learn or Die: Using Science to Build a Leading-Edge Learning Organization, states: “Companies that learn fastest and adapt well to changing environments perform the best over time.” Josh Bersin echoes that idea stating, “The single biggest driver of business impact is the strength of an organization’s learning culture.”
  • The ROI of learning – Certainly a critical factor in any learning program is to determine how the program is manifesting itself in improving factors such as productivity, customer service, sales, and profitability. Don’t ignore data that indicates poor results.
  • If we are to be a global society, don’t forget to address the needs of non-English speakers. According to the Brookings Institute, nearly one in 10 (some resources say one in five) working age adults, or 19.2 million people, ages 16 – 64, have limited English proficiency. While the “English only” mandate still suffers some debate, we can’t even communicate in English and get it right. Adding another element like a native second language can only exacerbate any organization’s communication system, therefore, ignoring the elephant in the room will not work.
  • While learning via technology is supposed to be efficient, time saving, and cost effective, people still need face-to-face learning endeavors. Put a mix of workshops, seminars, on-property, off-property, lunch & learns, special guest speakers for certain occasions, coaching, mentoring, and technology in your development programs. Certain certification or licensing programs require intensive study.
  • Establish a learning culture – Michael Molinaro, vice president of talent management at New York Life Insurance Company, suggests this should be done by “trying to make each moment about learning, about establishing the intention to learn in every infraction, every relationship, and every chance to lead.” Leadership cannot just give lip service to a learning culture. Rather, leadership must model learning behavior and make a commitment to learning.

Creating a learning and development culture is not easy. However, it is well worth the effort. According to a report by Deloitte entitled Building Completive Advantage with Talent, successful organiztions have a talent strategy in place. Organizations without a development strategy make up about 70 or 80 percent of unsuccessful businesses. Don't give your competition the opportunity to sing,  "We Are the Champions."

Business, Performance,, Professional Development,