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February 8, 2021 BIZ BOOKS

Tips for developing your company’s talent

“Build an A Team: Play to Their Strengths and Lead Them Up the Learning Curve” by Whitney Johnson (Harvard Business Review Press, $28).

Management metrics geared to what’s in the job description deal with accomplishing today’s priorities. The long-term priority that’s rarely measured: talent development. Too often, managers don’t think of employees as intellectual capital. The organization loses its competitive edge when employees stop learning.

To foster learning, the best managers play to the strengths of individuals and provide them with challenging learning experiences. They use “yes, and …” rather than “yes, but …” to encourage new ideas. They value contributions. When there are missteps, they talk about what was learned and how to apply that knowledge on “what’s next.”

They recognize when an employee’s learning curve has peaked and work “to identify opportunities that she/he might be interested in pursuing.” They ask about personal goals and the types of challenges that provide motivation. The result: A “together” commitment to making a new learning curve happen.

Forward-thinking managers start the talent-development process with the job posting. “Make it clear in the job posting why this role really matters.” This attracts by identifying an initial learning curve for them. Johnson cautions against hiring clones. Hiring for what you don’t have helps the team by adding the potential for new learning.

When it comes to interviewing, reinforce the learning opportunity. Ask about their view of change, which speaks to both adaptability and innovation. Invite questions to see if they’ve done their homework on the company and their prospective role, too. Also, probe for the soft skills needed to work well with the team.

Development plans must be flexible, too. As individual performance dictates and organizational needs change, learning-curve opportunities change, too.

Takeaway: Employees’ engagement increases when they’re learning new things and developing new competencies.

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