A High-Yield Approach to Talent Development

By Michelle Johnson

In 1986, Robert Fulghum wrote All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, a book of essays about his personal beliefs stated in simple terms. Among the nuggets of wisdom was this: “Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up, and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.”

The seedling analogy has been used time and time again when discussing organizational culture and talent development. After all, the word culture is derived from the Latin cultura, which stems from colere, meaning “to cultivate.” We hear managers refer to the need to “water the plants” or describe the “care and feeding” of those on their teams. The metaphors generally emphasize the plants—and rightly so—but fail to acknowledge the farmers’ role.

Success Factors for Talent Development

It is this role that I explored in a recent article in the Journal of Healthcare Management. In the article, summarized below, I note that talent development programs must be multifaceted, championed by all leaders and advanced persistently and continuously across the organization. The following factors are important to the success of talent development programs.

  • Collecting the Seeds

The healthcare field is undergoing transformation, and a common denominator during this time of great change is the need to identify and develop talent and a talent pipeline. Investing in people is key to organizational stability and an engaged workforce. In a survey of about 4,000 professionals worldwide, LinkedIn found that a whopping 94% of respondents indicated they would stay at their company longer if it invested in their career. In addition to traditional development programs, organizations should do more to uncover hidden talent by searching for the best talent already in place internally. If the goal is to get more seedlings to put down roots, collecting more and better-quality seeds is the best way to start.

  • Watering the Plants

It is important to link talent development efforts to an organization’s mission, vision, and values. By embedding talent development within the organization’s culture, employees are more likely to feel connected to the organization and engage in the process as a valued member of the team.

  • Teaching and Supporting the Farmers

An often-overlooked aspect of talent development is the need to educate and support leaders who may lack the necessary training or may not fully understand their role in championing and advancing talent development programs across the organization. Myra Gregorian, chief people officer at Seattle Children’s in Washington, has been focusing on leadership excellence, in addition to workforce excellence and service excellence. Gregorian is on a mission to create a leadership culture that translates to all employees feeling valued, supported, and empowered to deliver the best hope, care, and cures for patients and their families.

  • Hiring Tomorrow’s Farmers

To increase the likelihood of recruiting a leader who prioritizes talent development, interviewers can ask a few probing questions after an initial slate of candidates has been presented. Their responses will help determine whether a candidate will make a positive impact on leadership development and team building:

    • How have you gained respect and built trust among team members?
    • How have you inspired accountability in leading yourself and others?
    • What long-term plans have you initiated to develop a stable and high-performing workforce?

Asking questions such as these will enable organizations to narrow the field of qualified candidates to those who will be both effective in fulfilling the responsibilities of the position and more likely to contribute to a positive, engaged, stable, high-performing, and diverse workforce.

  • Bringing the Work to Fruition

By implementing a more holistic approach to talent development that includes educating and supporting leaders to become more effective in their roles and recruiting executives who possess the necessary skills and passion in this area, organizations can improve the likelihood that more seedlings will take root—and ultimately thrive—in the healthcare field.

This summary is based on an article originally published in the Journal of Healthcare Management.

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