How to use learning technologies to develop leadership talent

Reading time: 9m

AuthorSteve FinchCustomer Success Manager
Reading Time9 minutes

The Great Resignation – the overwhelming number of people quitting their jobs across the world over the past 12 months – has led to worrying shortages in human resources and skills. It’s also imposed restraints on the ability of organisations to recruit and scale.

This is bad news for businesses. The Open University’s Business Barometer highlighted the growing cost for UK employers of plugging skills gaps, which stood at £2.2bn when the annual survey began and by 2020 had risen to £6.6bn per year.

This challenge is particularly pertinent in leadership and management roles.


Overcoming the challenge of leadership succession planning

As your high-cost, high-value people are either choosing an alternative career pathway, early retirement or being headhunted by rival organisations, the task of filling these skills gaps becomes ever more challenging. You might be finding it difficult to plan succession for your organisation and to move it forward against growth targets.

A recent report from Humu revealed that managers are ready to quit. In fact, they’re twice more likely than individual contributors to be looking for new jobs.


While the Great Resignation has likely been subjected to a little dramatisation by the media, there’s no denying that finding and recruiting talent is tough at the moment. This has meant having to be more resourceful when it comes to filling gaps in skills and resources and looking outside the box for solutions. You may, for example, have considered the following:

  • Agencies
  • Headhunters
  • Competitive perks

However, your answer may lie within…and may just be right under your nose.

What if your existing people have the potential to fill these roles? What if, with the help of some focused development, coaching and mentoring, you can liberate talent and reap the benefits of investing in your own people?

According to Fit Small Business, the average time to hire for internal recruitment is around 2-3 weeks compared with 1-3 months for external hires. What’s more, turnover for internal recruitment is nominal whereas this is around 20% within the first two months for external hires. Costs can also be between four and six times higher for external recruitment.

Along with the added benefit of loyalty and retention with the people you’ve invested in, it’s time to stop and think about what’s really holding us back.

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How learning technologies can help develop leadership talent

One major factor in this is the difficulty in understanding who in our organisations has the potential to fulfil these roles. What competencies do they have, what do the roles require and where are the gaps? Who in your organisation is ready now, or will be ready soon? And lastly, how do we get them to where we need them to be?

Talent management and performance management platforms – whether standalone or as part of your HR system – have been around for a little while. However, we’ve seen a recent trend where the learning technologies used to deliver and monitor learning programmes are starting to incorporate talent and performance tools. This enables you in L&D to join forces with your HR department, and get involved in conversations around performance management and people development.

This trend has been highlighted by Fosway, which sheds light on how the wider, talent-oriented view is becoming “a consistent feature of organisations’ buying decisions behind their LMS and other learning systems”.

Some of these emerging tools include competency frameworks and success profiles, such as those in Thinqi’s smarter learning system, where you can define the criteria a person needs to fulfil a role successfully. This is not limited to specific knowledge or experience – this could also cover any competencies you define as essential for the role. It could also include those valuable soft skills such as leadership capability or emotional intelligence.

These tools help people to achieve their true potential. These are most often the people who have been at your organisation for a few years and who have demonstrated loyalty and trust.

Now it’s about seeing how far they can go in your organisation.

Underpinning this is a framework for competencies. This is about understanding your organisational competencies, putting them into a taxonomy and making sure they are aligned with the ethos of your organisation.

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How to connect talent and performance management with your learning programmes

Let’s take a look at how you can bring together talent and performance management with the delivery of your learning programmes.

To support people in achieving their potential and fulfilling critical roles, you need to define the competencies needed for each role, diagnose the gaps between the individual and the role, and then join the dots with effective learning programmes.

This doesn’t have to be complicated if you can break it down with a bit of careful planning around the following actions.

Outline your competency frameworks

A good place to start, if you haven’t already, is to create a competency framework for the roles within your organisation. This should provide a complete picture of the competencies required for the organisation to achieve success.

First, identify and represent their existing competencies in a digital system. What competencies do people have currently?

Create competency profiles

Once your people have an up-to-date competency profile, you can start letting them explore your directory of success profiles. They can then measure themselves against what is required for these roles. This empowers people to look beyond a typical linear career path. It also allows them to evaluate their current competencies and see what opportunities are open to them, how far they are from the role they want and what steps they need to take to get there.

You can also use tools such as 360 evaluations to assess where people think they are against how they are perceived by their peers and managers.

Map out your success profiles

Next, you can start to map out your success profiles. Which of the competencies do each of your job roles need? This will put you in good stead for filling roles and measuring your people against their existing or aspirational role.

You could start a pilot project by taking one role you wish to fill and seeing how many people are close to this profile. You can then nurture this talent pool to bring them to a state of readiness to fulfil that role.


Award the successful application of competencies

You can provide people with a pathway of learning as part of a rich, blended learning journey with the observational awarding of competencies. Note that someone (e.g. a line manager) will need to validate this.

The ‘Badges’ feature in Thinqi can be used to empower line managers with the ability to award people who are demonstrating successful application of the learning to their daily work (for more on this, check out our blog post on the importance of learning transfer).

Use evaluation and reporting

Your talent management tools should also let you run reports across your organisation against the success profiles you’ve created. This allows you to target audiences or identify who in the business is ‘ready now’ (i.e. fulfils all the required competencies) or ‘ready soon’ (i.e. fulfils many of the competencies, but not all).

This is an effective way to see how healthy your succession pipeline is, where you are exposed and how prepared you are to fill critical roles from within.

Prescribe relevant learning pathways

Once an individual has checked their competency profile against the desired success profiles, you can link any missing competencies to programmes of learning to help fill the gaps.

Your learning programmes can be a workshop, coaching, mentoring or blended learning experience where the learning outcome is to address that specific competency. The learner can then identify these programmes through your platform and self-enrol. Alternatively, you can report and identify a cohort of individuals who are ‘ready soon’ and put them on the relevant pathway to develop any missing competencies.


In summary…

New talent functionality in today’s learning systems will help you nurture talent to not only future-proof your organisation, but to ensure everyone has the opportunity to achieve their ambitions.

Who knows? You may find that your top leaders of tomorrow are already with you today.

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