Thought Leadership

Talent a strategic priority, training a crucial tool

Aravind Sitaraman, VP & Managing Director, Cisco Development Organization, India

As companies globalise seeking talent that fuels innovation that inspires growth, the most visible challenge that they face is to ensure that the culture of the company is carried over to their distributed campuses across the world. However, in their drive to gain access to local markets and further their growth, companies cannot afford to lose sight of the foundational element of globalisation - talent.

Traditionally, almost all the focus of talent has been to develop the top talent. In the new distributed business architecture, this is insufficient. While companies will definitely continue to emphasize top talent, they must also focus on the majority of the population-- the so-called ‘B’ team. The ‘B’ team is essential for organizational sustainability. While top talent ensures the organizations success, without sustainability of that success, it is a pointless outcome.

Training is the most frequently adopted tool to develop talent. Oftentimes, companies confuse developing skill-sets through training as the end goal and don’t realize that this is no more than a means to an end. Skill-sets are basic tools that will help employees do their job mechanically. Focusing on skill-sets alone makes the employee just a silent performer and will ultimately affect the other two other goals of the globalisation - innovation and growth. Hence, there needs to be realization that there are several levels to training

By mapping employee roles and ability to meet customer demands, organizations will realize that a key deficiency in the emerging world is that their young employees do not have experience in dealing with transitions of markets, economies, and development. Therefore, it is impractical to expect the employees to feel and stay empowered and perform at par with those in developed nations. There needs to be mechanisms to show how the raw skill-sets that they have imbibed can be applied in the real world.

As asserted earlier, it is important that these skills are not restricted to only top talent but permeated to larger populations across geographies, functional groups, and organizational boundaries. In a globalisation context, the existence of this knowledge only in corporate headquarters is no longer enough. The key to successful transfer of this knowledge comes from the realization that the amount of education, experience, and exposure that is given to an employee is directly proportional to an employee’s potential, level in the organization, and performance.

As technologies develop and the network becomes the platform, there is a strong belief that e-Learning is the most effective form of learning. While e-Learning is a very effective tool, it is just one tool available to an employee, companies need to address the assumption made by e-Learning is that employees are capable of training themselves. This is a dangerous assumption. In many countries outside the developed world, skill-set development is seen as the end-strangely, the same mistake made by many corporations. They will have to be re-tooled and made to unlearn their bad habits before they can be trained to be successful in a globalized world.

Organizations must adopt multiple tools, methods, and processes to train their employees. Giving them the gift of learning by themselves will greatly empower employees and once it becomes a systemic process, training on new areas of expertise becomes faster. However, instructor-led or leader-led and facilitated training through a combination of classroom, personal guidance, and experiential formats and universally accessible to all employees is crucial to inspire employees to become top performers in the organization. A combination of methods is crucial to show employees how to do things better and not necessarily tell them how to do things better.

While all these are available to the entire population, it is important that it is the top performers who make organizations successful in terms of effectiveness and acting as role-models. At the same time, it is important to distinguish between high potential top performer and the true leader. The difference is that while the top performer may be a super achiever at the current level, the individual may not be a leader and transition the organization through inflection points. Identification of such individuals requires a change in the current ways organizations rate and rank employees. After all, employees could be experts at doing something just by sheer practice and experience of doing their tasks for a long time. Therefore, instead of just focusing on performance, organizations need to measure employees on leadership potential.

Arming employees with skills necessary to transition through changing markets, theaters, geographies, and competition will prepare companies for the future. Leveraging training to better prepare their globalized talent pool, will ensure that innovation becomes a process that will bring about growth.

Aravind Sitaraman

Aravind Sitaraman
VP & Managing Director
Cisco Development Organization, India

 

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