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Training can’t buy talent

The war for talent is controversial.

It’s over, say some, with employees emerging victorious. Others highlight sobering job competition - Starbucks received 7.6m applications for 65,000 positions - as evidence that organisations have won the battle.

In reality, the balance of power shifts regularly, but what doesn’t change is intense competition for the best people. It has never been easy, and it never will be, to hire top talent. How do organisations do it?

Some offer high salaries and expect talent to come running. They think that employees are driven by money and money alone when deciding which companies they want to work for.

Other organisations believe that while remuneration is important to employees, they consider a far broader range of factors when applying for jobs. These organisations believe in the necessity and power of employer branding.

Research increasingly shows that employees consider much more than remuneration when deciding who to work for.  Talent attraction is no longer a transactional one-off event but a long term “dating game” in which organisations must make themselves as appealing as possible.

One of the key factors used to judge the appeal of an organisation, particularly among Generation Y employees, is growth and development opportunities.

High performing organisations sustain significant investment in learning and development to attract the best people in the marketplace.

They also shape recruitment strategies to achieve greater returns from their L&D investments, such as hiring people with growth mindsets. Research increasingly suggests that people with growth mindsets are more responsive to learning opportunities.

As well as attracting talent, these organisations also understand that learning and development opportunities are crucial to retaining and engaging talent. A Harvard Business Review study of 1200 high achievers found that many early exits were fuelled by “dissatisfaction with some employee-development efforts.”

These early exits do not come cheap: there’s the loss of knowledge and potential, and the time and resources needed to hire replacements - market economics for the Knowledge Economy.

L&D investment also confers an additional benefit that is crucial to long term sustainable performance: a key success factor discussed in our research report, "The impact of investing in people". Superior knowledge and skills allow employees to better organise and deploy resources, meaning organisations can deliver their services at lower cost. This is true innovation.

As former General Electric CEO Jack Welch said, "if you're not thinking all the time about making every person more valuable, you don't have a chance.” This has never been truer as traditional competitive advantages are eroded by globalisation and technology developments.

Can training buy talent? You can’t buy an employee’s decision to join your organisation, but you can create the most attractive environment by offering opportunities that jobseekers value when picking organisations they want to work for.

At the same time, by investing in L&D, you will tap into the fastest, most effective way to improve performance in the face of changing market conditions and a world where agility and continually updating knowledge, skills and abilities are essential for long term sustainable performance.

So invest in training: it isn’t something you’ll come to regret.

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