Growing talent from within (Guest Commentary)

It’s about refusing to rely on other organizations for training and development
By Brian Kreissl
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 05/01/2015

Ever since the great recession, employers have become rather spoiled when it comes to acquiring the talent they need. Organizations just aren’t training and developing employees the way they used to and, in many cases, they simply look to the external market for talent. 

With so many people looking for work for so long, employers could afford to be choosy and essentially rely on other companies to train and develop talent for them. But some organizations are starting to realize that can’t continue forever — eventually, they are going to have to start providing adequate training or they aren’t going to have the skills they need.

Classroom,  on-the-job learning 

Formal education only goes so far, but not everything can be learned informally on the job either. According to the 70:20:10 model, around 70 per cent of adult learning should occur on the job, with 20 per cent consisting of coaching and mentoring and about 10 per cent coming from formal classroom learning and reading. 

While the majority of knowledge and expertise related to a role is typically acquired through experiential learning, in many cases there is still a role for more formal training. That is particularly important where specific licences, certifications, professional designations or courses are required to perform the job. 

But even where an individual’s training and development needs can largely be met on the job, it’s still possible that acquiring the necessary knowledge, skills and abilities could take many years. 

No wonder many commentators are talking about skills shortages if companies aren’t willing to take a chance on individuals with potential and provide proper training to ensure success on the job. Demographic challenges are making matters even worse, with boomers retiring in larger numbers and all that talent and organizational knowledge literally walking out the door. 

Another problem is if there are relatively few people possessing the qualifications and experience required for the job in question, the law of supply and demand will typically increase the level of compensation for the role. In some cases, employers simply cannot afford to pay the rates demanded by such individuals. 

Growing talent internally 

One solution to these challenges is for employers to try to grow talent internally through the provision of appropriate work experience and learning and development initiatives. 

Such training can be delivered entirely in-house or in partnership with a college, university, professional organization, union, charitable organization or government agency. 

For example, if an organization has a need for programmers and cannot find any in the open market, it might try hiring inexperienced people with an aptitude and interest in working in the field. 

The company could then pay for their training through a community college at night school while providing meaningful, relevant experience. 

Alternatively, it could arrange with the college to create a customized program for employees on a day release basis. 

Other tips and strategies for growing talent internally include:

• Take on apprentices through government apprenticeship programs.

• Consider establishing internal training and intake programs where no formal apprenticeship programs exist.

• Provide adequate training, development, coaching and mentoring opportunities.

• Offer robust tuition reimbursement programs.

• Develop paid internship and campus recruitment programs for students and recent graduates.

• Select employees for aptitude and cultural fit rather than insisting on hiring “purple squirrel” candidates.

• Consider non-traditional candidates such as internationally educated professionals, people with disabilities, the long-term unemployed and people from other industries.

• Develop internal recruitment policies and encourage promotion from within wherever possible.

• Establish alumni networks and encourage former employees to apply for vacancies.

• Actively recruit candidates from other areas and provide relocation assistance.

• Consider partnering with other organizations in the area to provide development opportunities through secondments.

• Develop leadership development programs for new and aspiring leaders.

• Conduct succession planning and create individual development plans for succession candidates and high-potential employees.

Brian Kreissl is the product development manager for Carswell’s human resources, OH&S, payroll and records retention products and solutions. He can be reached at or visit for more information.

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