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The Infinite Value of Talent Development, Part 1

Why training and mentorship matter

General News

Talent development is a critical but often overlooked factor in a company’s long-term performance, financial or otherwise. In the lumber industry, however, talent development often takes a back seat to the time-critical daily activities of running a business.

In this first of a two-part article, we will explore the exponential ROI a business gains from training and mentorship programs.  In the second article, we will consider different forms and formats for these programs.

“As a manager, if you take the time to develop your employees, you set yourself up for higher retention rates,” counsels Amanda Griffin, senior director of education and member programs at a Washington, DC-based industry trade association.  “Training programs, both tactical in nature and soft skills-centered, give employees the ability to do their jobs and the confidence to advance their careers.”

When is the best time to start planning? Right now. “There will always be a hindrance as to why either the timing isn’t right or there isn’t money in the budget,” Griffin says. “If you start talking now about training and opportunities for your staff, you can plan ahead.”

From Retention & Recruitment to ROI

Retaining quality employees is a key goal of any talent development program. “It’s important as a draw for high-quality candidates, but it’s even more important in the retention of high-quality candidates,” explains Kristen Reid, executive vice president at Mixtec Group in La Crescenta, CA.

The State of the American Workplace, a Gallup report released in 2017, found that slightly more than half (51 percent) of American workers were actively searching for new jobs or watching for openings. The top reason cited for leaving a job was a desire for career growth.

“Unless they’re grossly underpaid, most people don’t leave for money,” comments Rex Lawrence, president of an online job center and executive search firm based in Granite Bay, CA. “People leave due to management style or culture.”

One statistic from the Gallup survey is particularly telling: only 33 percent of U.S. employees are ‘engaged’ in their jobs. This lack of engagement correlates with a desire to leave, with 56 percent of nonengaged and 73 percent of actively disengaged employees looking for jobs or watching opportunities, versus 37 percent of employees who are content.

“This is pretty frightening,” asserts Mike Chirveno, founder of ClearVision Consulting in Kansas City, MO. “It should be a wakeup call—employees need to be engaged and feel like they’re making a contribution.”

Career development opportunities are particularly important for millennials—aged 23 to 37 in 2019—who represent a prime segment of the workforce. According to Reid, members of this group will stay with a job longer than other generations if they see a clear career path. “They’re driven by self-improvement,” she says.

Creating Well-Rounded Leaders

A key component of talent development is to expose employees to the entire company, to learn about all facets of an organization. Cross-training is a focus at many companies from the earliest days of employment. D.J. Stornetta, director of recruiting operations at an executive recruiting firm in Arroyo Grande, CA, says this exposure “gives people an instant perspective of what the organization is and what it does.”

Better yet, cross-training activities are developmental and low cost, though with the potential for significant long-term ROI. “You have people who understand the bigger picture and are not so siloed. Cross-training makes teams more efficient, which drives higher margins and profitability.”

Creating cross-functional teams can also foster engagement by developing trust within a team and an appreciation of other viewpoints. Similar perspective can be gained from external training as well.

Having established the ROI a business earns from talent development programs, we will dig-in to different forms and formats of these programs in Part 2 of this article series.

Karen Raugust is a freelance writer who covers business topics ranging from retailing to the food industry.