Put Talent First

How does in-company training come into being, for the most part? Quite often the humble beginnings of our training start with somebody finding that expertise or capability is lacking in a certain area.

More often than not, management plays a huge role here. Results are lagging, customers are complaining, markets and opportunities are awaiting and so “something should be done!”. A HR business partner is called in, Subject Matter Experts (SME’s) are sought and a learning consultant is recruited to transform their expertise in to learnable chunks. If we’re in luck at this stage, the learning consultants will not omit to conduct an analysis of the future attendees, their current expertise level and learning preference. And then the building starts: flipped, blended, classic or otherwise. Before you know it, you’re invited to said training. Say, a sales training? You arrive in happy expectancy of a better lunch than usual and, lo and behold, here comes the trainer. Sharply dressed, outgoing, social: whether you learn something or not, this is going to be a good day. After a jolly round of introductions, the trainer takes you through the learning objectives for this day’s session.

Rather recognisable, isn’t it? But let’s take a completely different take on this approach. Let’s put talent first.

Putting talent first flips this ‘learning objectives centric’ approach. All aforementioned steps are taken, but putting talent first implies that a step, a stage is added to the beginning of the training. It’s not a mandatory step. It makes little sense to add this step in knowledge intensive training sessions (but it really doesn’t make any sense to transfer knowledge in a training session, now not does it?). The step, we’ll be talking about in a bit, makes quite a lot of sense in skills focussed training.

Putting talent first simply means defining the personal talent of all attendees in the most succinct manner possible. Preferably in just one word. Attendees are subsequently requested to relate their talent to the skill being taught. The key question to ask here, is: “how would you apply your talent to, say, sales?”. Using this procedure and asking this question may have some surprising effects. In a sales training we’ve recently designed and delivered, the most introverted attendees reaped the biggest benefit. One such attendee found that ‘curiosity’ was her talent. After some one-on-one coaching to help her apply her particular talent in real-life cold-calling to prospects, she exclaimed: “sales never felt to be a part of me, and now it is integral to who I am”. She was subsequently able to reach a 50% conversion rate on her calls: half of her calls resulted in appointments for face-to-face meetings. Her score was interesting in two respects. In the first place her scores were about double the training average and she was never invited to the training in the first place. She had simply invited herself, out of her curiosity, since her managers had never seen a sales talent in her and had taken her off the training roster. To be honest, I’m almost always flabbergasted that our ‘talent first’ approach uncovers so many unusual suspects in organisations.

What would be the business benefit in your organisation if you would put talent first?

Tags: talent development, high impact learning, roi

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