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In many companies, there are countless hours spent on attracting and hiring the right talent; however, far less time is actively invested in developing current employees. Obtaining a budget for recruitment is easy – it is imperative to find the right people to fill available job openings. However, exco and c-suite managers are often more reluctant to allocate spend to development programmes, with some perceiving the process as fuzzy and lacking a clear ROI. In this article we discuss why companies need to establish a learning culture, and how to use strength-based development to maximise success.
A learning culture forms part of the total organisational culture, and consists of a set of values that promote continual development. Consider Google as a company that is well known for its learning culture – these values are consistent across all levels of the organisation, with employees always being encouraged to constantly explore, grow and develop.
“The best employees are the curious employees and those that want lifelong learning,” he says. “They want to know how things work. Stimulate that curiosity and desire for learning within your employees and you will open the doors for innovation.” – Tom Glocer, former CEO of Thomson Reuters.
What impact does development have?
There are a number of benefits to a learning and development culture, as can be illustrated in the case of Google:
All of these points become more important when one considers the results of Gallup’s seven year employee engagement study. Findings show that only 13% of employees consider themselves ‘actively engaged’ – and this figure is not improving year on year.
Managers hold the key
Managers are said to be the main cause for this lack of engagement, but also the main solution. Gallup estimates that 70% of the variance in employee engagement is due to a company’s management.
How does an organisation bridge this gap?
Consider how most employees are developed into management positions. The answer? Either based on tenure at the organisation, or based on good performance demonstrated at a lower level. Often, these two factors lead to employees being placed on management development programmes and being promoted, without first considering their unique profile of strengths and limitations.
The concept of strength-based development is quite self-evident, and links to the practice of employee-job alignment. The key premise is to design a unique development plan for each employee, based on an objective assessment of his or her strengths. In other words, manage a succession plan and career path in line with an employee’s innate talents, competency performance, motivators, cognitive ability and learning agility. Research aligns with this strategy: 67% of employees who feel that their manager focuses on their strengths characterise themselves as engaged.
A large-scale study by Gallup, based on 1,2 million employees across 45 countries, showed the clear benefits of strength-based development initiatives. Those work groups that received strengths-based interventions showed clear and significant improvements in the areas of sales, profit, customer engagement, turnover and employee engagement, in comparison to control groups that received less intensive interventions or no development at all.