Learning and Development: A Key Component of an Integrated Talent Management Framework

Building a talent management model to suit our volatile and transformational business landscape will require revolutionary thinking to accommodate changing demographics and talent diversity.

In today’s volatile and global business climate, managing talent for high performance will play an increasingly crucial role in an organization’s growth and future success. Effective talent management (TM) is a top priority in organizations everywhere. While organizations recognize the need to obtain and retain people with the best skills, they continue to struggle to implement effective strategies to do so. In a Korn-Ferry survey earlier in 2013, 45 percent of global executives cited TM as the single most important corporate strategy, yet 35 percent do not have a strategy in place.

Building a talent management model to suit our volatile and transformational business landscape will require jettisoning traditional talent management approaches. It will compel revolutionary thinking to accommodate changing demographics and talent diversity. The Brandon Hall Group High-Performance Integrated Talent Management Framework, released in December 2013, outlines a model for how high-performing organizations approach business-driven talent management.

The framework comprises seven talent elements:

  1. Competency Management
  2. Workforce Planning
  3. Talent Acquisition
  4. Performance Management
  5. Learning and Development
  6. Leadership Development
  7. Succession Management

Plus five additional components common to all talent processes:

  1. Governance
  2. External Influencers
  3. Strategic Alignment
  4. Organizational Climate
  5. Technology

In this article, I will focus on the Learning and Development piece of the High-Performance Integrated Talent Management Framework (ITM).

Learning & Development (L&D) is a timeless and invaluable resource for building employee skills, enhancing their motivation, and contributing to productivity and engagement. It is particularly invaluable when the learning activities are linked to the employees’ developmental goals identified in the performance management process. Organizations depend on learning to skill-up not only their employees but also their customers and channel partners.

It is important to understand the difference between learning and development and training. Training is a systematic approach to improving employees’ knowledge, skills, and attitudes in order to hone their ability to perform today’s job responsibilities. Learning and development is the systematic process of preparing employees and leaders for future responsibilities. Training is an intervention that is delivered by an instructor or facilitator. Learning is the process of acquiring knowledge or skill in the context of organizational goals by discovering information via tools and mechanisms the organization has made available to learners.

Much has been written about the leading practices of L&D. Our research suggests that high-performance L&D rests on six leading practices:

  • It is linked to business strategy.
  • It builds organizational capability, not individual competence.
  • It creates a culture of agility, innovation, and learning.
  • It leverages social media tools.
  • It is driven by senior leaders.
  • It is measured for its impact on business results.

Designed and delivered in accordance with these six practices, learning shifts from a focus on “programmatic training content designed to improve employee skills” to “transferable on-the-job social learning enabling leaders to grow their careers and impact business goals.”





In the traditional classroom face-to-face

Via social tools

Focus on training content

Focus on transferring learning to the job

Focus on developing skills

Focus on career growth

Focus on calculating ROI

Focus on its impact on business results

Led by HR

Championed by senior leaders

Focus on individual development

Focus on organizational capability

Focus on portfolio of courses

Focus on creating a learning culture

High-priority goals of L&D are:

  • Increased productivity and performance improvement
  • Improved levels of employee engagement
  • Improved employee retention
  • Decreased gaps in critical skill areas
  • Increased revenue and other business and talent metrics

To achieve these L&D goals, we identified six must-have learning and development activities:

Professional Development: High-performance learning is all about creating learning opportunities that develop the skills, knowledge, information, and experiences of our employees for purposes of personal development and career advancement. High-performing organizations (HPOs) invest both in L&D for professional development purposes, as well as leadership development.

Learning Goals: The starting point for invaluable L&D is clear definition of learning goals that are tightly linked to the organization’s business strategy. To ensure tightly aligned learning goals, the L&D leader meets regularly with executives and other business leaders to identify the business outcomes that are expected from learning experiences and interventions. A formal learning strategy is agreed upon that documents how learning will be measured for its impact.

Needs Analysis: Learning needs analysis is the process of understanding what skills, knowledge, and attitudes need to be changed or improved to produce better business results more quickly. Today’s agile, fast-paced businesses require agile, fast-tracked analysis approaches. In the rapid approaches used by HPOs, organizations first determine whether learning is the appropriate solution to a job performance problem—it could be a change management issue, a communication opportunity, or even an organizational restructuring initiative. Assuming learning is the appropriate solution, HPOs conduct a rapid-fire assessment in four steps:

  • Collect existing performance data on the behaviors to be improved
  • Analyze the data isolating performance gap areas
  • Identify the causes for the gaps
  • Recommend and implement learning solutions to close the gaps

Content and Performance Support Tools: Learning content and tools exist in hundreds of forms today: courses, blogs, networking communities, coaching, mentoring, simulations, Webinars, games, videos, flipped classrooms, and more. (A flipped classroom inverts the typical cycle of content acquisition and application so learners gain the necessary knowledge before participating in a learning experience, and during the learning experience, facilitators guide learners to actively and interactively clarify and apply the knowledge acquired.)

The important points about today’s learning content are these:

  • Learning Department-generated content is out; user-generated content is in.
  • Traditional course-based content is out; mobile and social cloud-based content is in.
  • Flash is out; video is in.
  • Traditional learning management system (LMS) platforms are out; social tools, personal learning environments, and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are in,
  • Content development is out; content curation is in,
  • Designing for one mobile device is out; designing for all mobile devices—BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)—is in.
  • Traditional simulations are out; gamification is in.

Design: With the emergence of today’s new forms of collaborative, networked, social, and video-based learning, today’s learning architects (previously referred to as instructional designers) are chartered to create learning that focuses on innovative approaches to the 70 and 20 components of the 70-20-10 model. The challenge is to design learning experiences that keep the learner engaged, allow discovery of new knowledge, and enable co-creation among learners of new solutions and tools. Today’s design approaches empower learners to participate, communicate and innovate together.

Delivery: We suggest that a better term to describe this element of learning is enabling. In other words, high-performance learning today is about the tools, experiences, content, and knowledge with which organizations empower employees to help them learn better. In today’s L&D world, HPOs provide infrastructure for sharing information, ensure employees have skills to learn, facilitate the production and curation of user-generated content, and set up communities and networks for learning face-to-face and virtually. They do not deliver learning to employees. Instead, they create opportunities for employees to learn. This is a fundamental shift in the perception of what learning delivery means today.

Three key benefits of L&D include employee retention, employee engagement, and business performance and results. Effective L&D is a critical ingredient of high-performance talent management strategies. In a recent ASTD survey, it was noted that 41 percent of employees at organizations with an inferior L&D strategy leave within one year versus just 12 percent of employees at organizations with high-performance L&D strategies. Further, companies with learning functions linked tightly to business goals tend to be higher market performers.

ITM is not about acquiring, developing, and retaining your workforce. It is all about creating a winning organization by institutionalizing integrated talent processes across your entire organization. Learning and Development is an integral part of this framework and must be fully integrated with talent management to optimize your business results.

Laci Loew is vice president of the Talent Management Practice and Principal Analyst for Brandon Hall Group, a research/analyst firm focusing on Learning and Development, Talent Management, Leadership Development, Talent Acquisition, and Human Resources Management. Contact Loew at laci.loew@brandonhall.com.