Training High Potentials vs. Training All Employees

A businessman points to just one person out of many

There is an ongoing debate on developing top talent about whether it is wise to focus on training high potentials or to spread training more evenly throughout the workforce.

Some companies believe that it makes sense to provide special development opportunities for their most promising and strategic workers. After all, these are the employees who are ambitious, talented, dedicated and most likely to succeed where it matters most. Don’t they deserve special investment in time and training?

Other organizations do not believe in playing favorites. They would rather invest in developing all their employees and creating a culture of equality. Many are also betting that, in their larger population, previously unrecognized talent will emerge as a result of the general training and their “equal opportunity” strategy will pay off in more engaged employees overall.

There are risks in both approaches. Company A that focuses on training only high potentials is likely, on average, to lose over half of them over a five year period to better offers from the competition. And Company B, the one that trains all employees, may well risk a great deal of their development dollars on employees who are not yet ready for the training or not sufficiently skilled or motivated to transfer the new skills to their jobs and make a meaningful impact on the business.

So where does that leave us in the debate? Based upon twenty-plus years helping clients in the field of talent management consulting, we find ourselves somewhere in the middle. We heartily believe in the value of corporate training and development if it is done right. That is a big “if.” When training is designed to address a pressing business issue, customized to the trainees’ real world, supported from the top down, and followed up with coaching and training measurement to ensure transfer to the job floor, then training can provide a needed and exciting competitive advantage.

Company leaders need to assess their training priorities in light of their overall corporate strategy. This will help them make a wise decision on whether to target the training on a specific group or deliver it more broadly. For example, if employee engagement and retention is a major problem, training for the larger workforce may show that leadership cares about supporting their employees and may be part of the engagement solution. If there is a major concern over grooming future leaders, then focusing on a smaller group of high potentials may be the better choice.

Develop the talent that you need to grow and compete. In other words, for the optimum use of your training budget, align your talent with your business strategy.

Download the Top 10 Warning Signs that Your Training Function May Be in Trouble to Learn More

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We contacted LSA to help us with customized management development. LSA worked with me to identify a solution that would meet our exact needs. We decided to start at the top and ran the program for our executive team. It was such a great success that we hope to roll it out companywide. We look forward to a long-term partnership with LSA Global and their team of experts.

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LSA has been a tremendous asset to my portfolio, both at my current company and my past company. As an HR leader, I am always looking for ways to find external resources that can provide a solution to our management training needs. LSA does that for me. Their solutions are presented in a much more leadership-oriented manner so as to be crisp, business relevant, and easy to apply right back on the job. I will continue to augment our programs using LSA solutions.

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LSA’s Employee Engagement Consulting and Survey work has provided critical visibility into: how well our people are holding up under the general economic environment, as well as, the specific challenges that face biotechnology companies in their efforts to discover and develop new medicines; their level of alignment and commitment to XOMA’s Vision and mission critical strategies; how leadership practices and management systems support an environment that engender commitment, and the specific actions that our leaders can take to improve on areas that are important to our people. I highly recommend LSA’s employee engagement solutions.

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I have worked with LSA Global at previous companies and welcomed the opportunity to bring them in to support my new organization. We worked closely with LSA to design a solution for our Client Partner Teams and Management Training on both coasts. LSA designed a customized solution for our business and organizational culture. LSA is a quality organization, one that I’d recommend to any company looking for a first class training and consulting partner that makes an impact.

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