Talent on tap: a wise investment or a drain on resources?


25 / 05 / 22 - 0 minute read

As a certain Sir Richard Branson once told us: “A company’s employees are its greatest asset.” It’s become an overused cliché in business for a reason. Yet, when all investment decisions are under review, the investment in people development endures the same rigorous assessment – if not more.

In a 2020 survey, Deloitte found that the COVID pandemic increased the likelihood of companies undertaking cost reduction initiatives by 74% on pre-pandemic levels, underlining the corporate world’s cost-containment reflex when the going gets tough.

Investing in talent development is easily overlooked during times of such crises but as businesses emerge from the pandemic and position their long-term strategies for a strong post-pandemic recovery, talent must remain a top priority.

Author

Teresa Kotlicka

The case for keeping the taps of talent development running

Global consultancy firm Gartner argues that talent investments are a “key lever designed to protect an organisation’s long-term growth capabilities” and that during the turmoil of 2020, around 50% of S&P 500 companies funded at least one talent programme.

What do each of these companies have in common? They all delivered higher revenue growth on average than those who turned only to cost-saving measures, according to Gartner.

So why does it make sense to keep the taps of talent development running against the backdrop of uncertainty? The financially minded answer is – it makes commercial sense to. But from our perspective the rationale goes deeper than simply safeguarding euros or pounds.

It is about being an attractive, honest and authentic employer of choice that truly understands the value of its people when writing its success story.

If businesses want to lead the way in developing talent, we believe it is vital they marry two important strands: the right cultural mindset for talent to thrive and a holistic people strategy that gives talent at every level the means to flourish.

Defining the environment for success

Hybrid work in the post-COVID world is a noisy space. From McKinsey to The Economist, many influential voices have had their say on what the future of the workplace looks like. And for good reason: two-thirds of businesses are considering redesigning their offices to better accommodate a hybrid workforce, according to Microsoft research.

However, an equally important conversation that is perhaps being overshadowed by the talk of defining ‘flexible working’ is around the culture and mindset that employees and employers must adopt to “make hybrid work.”
Taking time to cultivate an environment that positively impacts and challenges the way employees think, behave and act is important. Get the balance right and companies will take a big step towards a culture that attracts and retains talent – and this, ultimately, has to be the foundation on which any successful people based investment is built.

For us at PATRIZIA, this means fostering a community of purpose-driven employees who each have an entrepreneurial mindset. It is about building a learning culture that revolves around encouraging our people to think and act like entrepreneurs.

Why entrepreneurs? Because they are risk-takers, are curious-thinkers and put trust in personal responsibility. Studies in psychology show that when teams have the psychological safety of a learning culture, they are more comfortable raising problems and exploring innovative solutions.

Having the freedom to be a problem solver and innovator brings satisfaction – and we want to incentivise and reward our people with this hidden currency of an attractive workplace.

For us at PATRIZIA, this means fostering a community of purpose-driven employees who each have an entrepreneurial mindset.

Teresa Kotlicka, Director | Human Resources, PATRIZIA

Sharpening the tools of talent development

Estimates put global investment in leadership development at over $300 billion a year, yet McKinsey reckons only 10% of CEOs believe their programmes have a clear business impact. By this measure, a piece of the talent puzzle is missing. And this is a major problem as talent props up each level of an organisation.

At PATRIZIA our people strategy is guided by the principle of seeing potential in everyone. Whether a young professional, experienced manager or senior leader approaching retirement, employees at all career stages have the opportunity to sharpen their tools through one of our programmes.

Our flagship scheme for early career professionals, Horizons, exposes a cohort of less experienced employees to a diverse cross-section of the business, regular mentoring and skills development over a two-year period. Spending time at the coalface of Asset Management, Transactions and other specialist functions provides invaluable learning experiences that help propel our motivated talent through the business.

For our more experienced professionals, our five-month Futures programme accelerates development in leadership and innovation. While people managers and senior leaders often have the tools required to “do the job,” fine-tuning these softer skills is fundamental to becoming a catalyst for inspiring colleagues, influencing strategy and driving culture. And this is an ambassador network every organisation needs.

To find the missing piece of the talent puzzle, companies need to view development programmes as an investment, rather than expense, that futureproofs the pipeline of talent at every level of the business.

The ED&I opportunity

A trap some organisations may fall into is running talent programmes as a series isolated and spontaneous learning initiatives, rather than as a core pillar of their Equity, Diversity and Inclusion strategy.

While the commercial benefits of investing in talent are abundantly clear, it is ultimately about providing a level playing field for all employees to succeed and achieve their career ambitions, regardless of age, experience or background.

The most impactful programmes run in parallel with structured Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), such as a young professionals network. And within these ERGs there needs to be the very same focus on supporting talent, otherwise the whole learning ecosystem will never thrive. Running these
programmes hand-in-hand with ED&I initiatives is critical in helping create a highly engaged community that amplifies the development of all employees through peer learning.

Making the case for talent development

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to talent development; every organisation is unique and every employee is individual. At PATRIZIA we know we don’t have all the answers, but we firmly believe in being intentional with our people investment and moulding it around four core pillars that we hope can be a blueprint for others:

1. Weighing up the long-term risks of redistributing investment away from people development to protect profitability.

If the opportunity cost is a slower pipeline of talent emerging through the business then we need to think very carefully about whether it’s a price worth paying.

2. Dialling up the ‘why’ of work when designing the hybrid working office.

Providing our people with a strong ‘why’ at work is one of our most direct routes to ensuring happier, healthier and more productive employees. COVID has forced people to reflect on what matters most to them, so it is crucial we clearly articulate our ‘why’ and align it to that of our employees alongside the revamped office.

3. Delivering learning opportunities within each level of the organisation and scaling them as budgets allow.

From top to bottom, the performance of each employee is directly impacted by colleagues above and below them. By viewing our organisation through this lens, our development strategies are holistic in nature to ensure they drive performance across every level.

4. Amplifying peer learning opportunities by empowering employees to assemble around passions and areas of interest.

Inevitably, extra resource will always be required for effective ERG support but the cost of overlooking the investment in favour of a short-term saving is far greater.

I’m sure if we asked Sir Richard Branson now, he would tell us that there has never been a more compelling case for keeping the taps of talent development running in this age of unprecedented uncertainty.

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