Training High Potentials vs. Training All Employees

A businessman points to just training high potentials

Should You Invest More in Training High Potentials?
There is an ongoing talent development debate about whether it is wise to focus on training high potentials or to spread training resources more evenly throughout the workforce.

Training High Potentials Point of View
Some leaders believe that it makes sense to provide special development opportunities for their most promising and most 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 investments in time and training?  Some clients believe this is the only way to go if you want to impact business performance.  For example,

  • One recent client decided to focus on their top 72 leaders.
  • Another decided to focus on a special group of 285 high performers.

Training All Employees Point of View
Other leaders 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
A company 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 a company that invests in training 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 What?
So where does that leave us in the debate of training high potentials versus training all employees?  Based upon twenty-plus years helping clients in the field of talent management consulting, we believe:

  • Different talent should be treated differently based upon your specific business and people strategies.
  • Training must be addressed as a change initiative if you want to impact business performance.

The Attributes of Effective Training
We heartily believe in the value of corporate training and development if it is done right.  That is a big “if.” We consider training done right to have the following attributes:

  • Designed to address a pressing business issue
  • Customized to the trainees’ real world to create high training relevance
  • Actively supported by the participants, their boss and company leadership
  • Reinforced with performance coaching and training measurement to ensure transfer to the job

Then corporate training can provide a needed and exciting competitive advantage.

The Bottom Line
Company leaders need to assess their training priorities in light of their overall corporate strategy and workplace culture. This will help them make a wise decision on whether to target the training on a specific group or deliver it more broadly. Develop the talent that you need to grow and compete.

For the optimum use of your training budget, align your talent with your business and people strategies.

To learn more about taking your training approach to the next level, download The Top 10 Warning Signs that Your Training Function May Be in Trouble

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