The Accelerated Development Equation

With an ever aging workforce, organisations need a pipe line of talented individuals who can be fast-tracked into more senior management positions. But unless this processkey to success is well-managed there is a real danger of over-promotion and the problems this causes.

UK Government statistics show that over the next decade, the changing age profile of the workforce will be the most significant development in the labour market. One third of workers in the UK will be aged over 50 by 2020. This creates a significant problem for many organisations. They will need to develop their young talent quickly, so that they have people ready to take on management roles when the existing role holders retire.

When looking to develop  talent quickly what currently tends to happen is that senior managers assume that potential + development will equal accelerated development of the talented individual.

Therefore the business:

1. Tries to identify the small number of high performing employees who are believed to have future potential and a strong ability to learn

2. Provides some extra training to these individuals, which may or may not be different to that provided to other employees.

Whilst both of these steps are important, something is missing. This missing piece of the accelerated development equation is what happens to your talented individuals outside of the additional training opportunities they are given.

One of the most consistent findings from our training effectiveness research is that whilst the quality of the training is of course important, the contextual factors (i.e. those things that happen in the workplace outside the training room) are actually just as important in ensuring that accelerated development happens. If these supporting contextual factors are missing then the chances are that the additional management development training will have little impact and any new behaviours your talented individuals learn will not be sustained.

So the real equation for accelerating your people’s development is: (Potential + Development + Context) = Accelerated Development

Getting the Context Right

The day-to-day working environment in which your talented individuals have to replicate a new, desired skill or behaviour forms the context in which they develop.

There are, of course, internal contextual factors that are important for success. These are what is going on inside the person’s head (confidence, self-belief, commitment etc) and what they bring to any attempt they make to changing their behaviour (current level of capability). Your selection process for a talent programme can usually identify individuals who have the right internal context.

However, external context is also important. Things like the cues that prompt them to use the new behaviours they have learnt, being given recognition when they use them correctly, and practical and emotional support from their manager.

Given that the single most significant part of your talented person’s external context is their direct line manager it makes sense to ensure that your existing line managers have received coaching skills training so that they know how support young talent effectively.