As business landscapes continue to change and shift across all sectors, talent management leaders face recurring questions:

Can leaders be developed quickly enough to meet demand?

Could leaders do more to take advantage of current talent management processes and efforts?

How can we help line managers develop and manage talent better?

Learning from experience is the best way to develop talent. Yet most organizations are not maximizing on-the-job opportunities that prepare leaders, develop employees, and advance business goals.

The key is to make experience-driven leader development intentional.

Human resource leaders understand this and often follow the 70-20-10 framework:

  • 70% of learning occurs from on-the-job experiences and challenges.
  • 20% of learning comes from other people.
  • 10% of learning comes from courses.

Experience-driven talent management is when experience — carefully designed and executed — becomes the core driver of learning in the organization.

Working and learning are no longer separated but bound together, aligned with the business strategy and shaped by a talent strategy.

When this kind of development is part of the organizational culture and embedded in all of talent management, you’ll see things such as:

  • Senior leaders who support stretch and rotating assignments as a key strategy for developing employees.
  • Performance management plans and practices that have, as their foundation, individual learning and growth.
  • Employee development plans that include on-the-job experiences, not just formal programs.
  • Highly-valued employees being routinely exported to other parts of the organization, rather than siloed or hoarded.
  • Development opportunities considered when making decisions about how to staff key projects.

Putting experience-driven development at the center of talent management will boost an organization’s efforts to attract and retain talent and accelerate the development of leaders at every level.

Organizations that successfully implement experience-driven development do these 5 things:

  • Identify stretch assignments. Some experiences are more developmental than others. And different experiences teach different things. Identifying stretch assignments includes:
    • Developing a shared language for talking about stretch assignments.
    • Mapping competencies to stretch assignments.
    • Creating experience paths for targeted positions or roles — such as a general manager role or those on a high-potential track.
    • Reserving specific key jobs to use for development only.
  • Staff for development, not just for performance. Matching specific individuals with the right experience requires rigor as well. The key with experience-driven development is to consider the need to hone new skills and perspectives, not simply make assignments based on past success or current role. Staffing for development includes:
    • Putting processes in place to identify the next assignment needed for each high-potential to continue broadening his or her portfolio of experience.
    • Making sure that everyone has a “development-in-place” assignment — something in the current job that will challenge and support targeted development.
    • Staffing key projects with development in mind, asking, “Who could benefit from this experience?”
    • Developing managers’ skills at assignment-based development to be sure they are able to identify, implement, and support stretch assignments.
  • Create new experiences. This requires that enough of the right experiences exist to develop people in the ways that are needed. Expanding the array of developmental assignments involves:
    • Creating new types of experiences to meet strategic needs of the organization — more cross-functional, cross-country, new market, and new client opportunities, for example.
    • Including developmental assignments in formal development programs — this might be in the form of action-learning projects, special assignments, or job-rotation experiences.
    • Supporting the pursuit of leadership experiences beyond the workplace, such as volunteer work, board membership, or roles with professional organizations which address development needed in the workplace.
  • Enhance learning from experience. Going through an experience doesn’t guarantee a person will learn from it. Support is needed. Organizations need to surround work development experiences with effective learning practices, including:
    • Tools for reflecting on experience and feedback.
    • Access to relationships for learning such as mentors, peer networks, and communities of practice.
    • Coaches who challenge and support explicit learning goals and experience-driven development.
    • Formal coursework and online resources that provide just-in-time learning tailored to the challenges of the specific stretch experience.
  • Promote an experience-driven development culture. When learning from experience is embedded in the culture, the gap between doing the work and developing the people shrinks. Learning isn’t added on — nor is coaching and aligning talent. An experience-driven development culture includes:
    • Hiring and developing — as well as recognizing and rewarding — senior leaders who visibly support experience-driven development.
    • Communicating and tracking on-the-job development (not just job moves, but evidence of development).
    • Rewarding employees for their own development and for developing others.
    • Valuing learning agility as a core competency — recruiting for it, selecting for it, developing it.

Learning opportunities are everywhere and everyone knows it. Learning happens every day, all the time, within and through the work.

The purpose of talent management, then, is to help individuals notice what should and could be learned from experience and to find ways to help the organization capitalize on that learning potential.

By facilitating a shift in mindset and culture, along with changes in strategy, process, and roles, the talent management function can improve the process of attracting and retaining talent, and developing leaders.

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6 thoughts on “Putting Experience at the Center of Talent Management

  1. I would love to see more organizations intentionally define types of experiences most useful at different levels for different functions. CCL provides a great guide. While individual leaders need to work with team members on their development, having a predefined starter set of experiences that matter to the organization keeps the whole organization moving forward better. I have worked on enterprise guides for general levels, and that is a start. Sponsorship through enterprise HR and top leadership could ensure an organization is best prepared for current and anticipated challenges and opportunities.

  2. I would love to see more organizations intentionally define types of experiences most useful at different levels for different functions. CCL provides a great guide. While individual leaders need to work with team members on their development, having a predefined starter set of experiences that matter to the organization keeps the whole organization moving forward better. I have worked on enterprise guides for general levels, and that is a start. Sponsorship through enterprise HR and top leadership could ensure an organization is best prepared for current and anticipated challenges and opportunities.

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