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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I continue to be impressed by the level of leadership development and management expertise and quality of advice and facilitation that LSA has to offer. What a smart and client-centric group of great people who really know how to help leaders attract, engage, develop and retain top talent.

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Roche

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Rambus

We have been able to utilize LSA’s extensive network of top-notch resources to leverage our investment in employee development. The result has been the cost effective and highly efficient delivery of quality educational and management training programs.

Steve Feller
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