4 Implementing the Plan: How Do You Execute an Effective Talent Development Program? – Starting a Talent Development Program


Implementing the Plan: How Do You Execute an Effective Talent Development Program?


In This Chapter

• Delivery options and decisions based on 70-20-10

• Exploring possible services the talent development professional could offer

• Post-implementation steps

• Roll-out plans

It’s tempting to put off starting a talent development program indefinitely, waiting until there is more time or more money. But for an organization to succeed, it must have competent, engaged, developed employees. As you saw in previous chapters, skilled employees can help an organization grow and prosper. Employee development is one of the most important investments an organization can make in its future.

The steps you took in chapter 3 flow directly into the decisions required to execute your talent development program. The strategic decisions, or the “how,” make it easier to decide what you ultimately incorporate into the design. You might consider chapter 4 as how, part 2.

Implementation in this What Works book may be a bit different from other books in this series. Other topics focus implementation on the I in ADDIE—implementing the onboarding session or the first blended learning course or a new compliance training program. You can probably imagine that starting a talent development program—a larger, more complex effort—will be slightly different.

Implementation for starting a talent development program focuses on the decisions you incorporate into the final plan. What instructor-led classes will we offer? What is talent development’s role in on-the-job learning? How can we support “learning from others” in person or through social networks? What services shall we offer departments and managers to ensure employees are developed efficiently and effectively?

Design Planning for Executing a Talent Development Program

And now the fun begins! It may seem as if you have been planning and planning to get to this point. It’s true, but all that planning has put you in a good place to make the decisions required to implement and execute a talent development program. If you’ve followed the plan I’ve outlined so far, you now know:

• what your leaders expect and how they will evaluate the program

• how talent development supports the organization’s strategy

• what managers need

• what your talent development strategy will be.

You’ve also conducted a needs assessment to ensure that the problem can be resolved using a talent development approach.

The Needs Assessment

Your needs assessment helped identify the skills and competencies in which employees are least proficient. It also probably highlighted common learning needs and problems across the organization. Your needs assessment may have been a very simple listing, where employees selected the top requirements or you may have observed employees and recorded their needs. Or perhaps you conducted a more complex gap analysis or discussed needs with managers and leaders. The needs assessment also identified who needs training by groups or segments or individuals.

At any rate, you probably have uncovered more requirements than the budget can deliver. Therefore, you will need to prioritize the needs. For example, higher priorities may depend on the content and organization’s needs, or even topics that have the broadest impact. Lower-priority needs may include a smaller group of employees or may be less critical to the organization’s goals.


Create a decision matrix to make prioritizing development needs easier. You could include criteria such as safety, risk reduction, urgent, morale, retention, engagement, senior leader expectations, innovation, competition, and other measures that may be important to your organization.

Ideally, the best strategic development plan is the sweet spot of where the organization’s and individual’s needs and desires overlap (Figure 4-1). The organization is interested in managing succession, filling its leadership pipeline, and achieving its strategic imperative. Employees are interested in managing their careers, improving performance, and developing skills. When the desired competencies and development needs come together, everyone wins.

Figure 4-1. Overlap of Organizational and Individual Development Needs

Selecting Design Plan Options

You have many design and delivery strategies available to you. We won’t be able to cover all of them in depth, but additional resources are listed that will help you make decisions that cannot be covered within the space in this book. Keeping your focus on organizational priorities, let’s look at the plethora of possibilities for learning that are available.

We will operate from a 70-20-10 perspective—which by now you know is simply a guide to remind us that learning occurs in many ways. While in the past the focus was often on the 10 percent, formal learning, you now have the chance to implement a plan that spreads across all development opportunities and throughout the organization.

Many of the kinds of learning activities that we are about to explore could cross over into two or even all three categories. For example, following an experiential activity in a formal setting, you could plan to share contact information and organize peer accountability groups that discuss implementation ideas on the job. This section is not about disputing which category is better, but more to present all the options for you to consider. Learning doesn’t stop and start again; learners move from one activity to another—they all blend together to form a well-developed employee. Most important for you is to consider how activities from all three areas can work together.

No matter what kind of learning methodology you are planning, remember the visual presented in chapter 3 (Figure 4-2). It is a reminder that learning should link to the business strategy—either directly or indirectly to support general employee growth and development. An example of that would be general communication. Everyone needs to be the best communicator possible.

Figure 4-2. Linking Learner Development to Business Goals

Because you are just starting out, you have a blank slate. Later on, you may have many more decisions to make to determine the best way to budget your time and resources. You want to do a great job. The funny thing is, the better job you do, the busier you become!

What to Consider for Formal Learning—10 Percent

We discussed a number of learning events in chapter 1 that are included in this category. Let’s expand on the delivery options here, and consider how to select content for formal learning.

Delivery Options

What delivery options are available? Instructor-led training in both the traditional classroom and virtual classroom, professional accreditations—such as college degrees, certification, or apprenticeships—and self-directed or self-organized learning are all possible. Others that you might not think of include reading, independent research, and even casual events you might deliver, such as lunch & learn events or guest speakers who have been invited to your organization. And you may also want to determine how MOOCs fit into your talent development plans.

Remember that there will be crossover in the kinds of events that could be classified as part of the 70, 20, or 10 categories. Many criteria come into play. We mentioned some when discussing budgets in the last chapter. This is not about memorizing an “approved list.” It is more important that:

• You consider all options as a part of your strategy.

• You determine what works best in your organization.

• When you specify content, you determine a good match to the methodology you select.

• You decide upon the best choice for the learner. What will be the most effective and efficient process available? Remember, it’s all about the learner.

We can examine the options one step deeper. For example, you have choices of one-on-one versus group sessions, e-learning versus in-person instruction, on-site or off-site, canned or customized, internal trainer or consultant. Can it be mobile? Your answers will be determined by a combination of factors: what’s available, what best suits your needs, what platform and equipment you and your learners have available, and what you have in your budget. The number one decision criterion is what the organization needs.

Delivery Support

What happens prior to and follows the training event are equally critical to success. You can support the delivery using workbooks, participant manuals, job aids, models, checklists, follow-up help sessions; by getting supervisors involved; or by encouraging learning partners or communities of practice. You may not know what is necessary as you develop the strategy, but add a placeholder in your design so that you remember what to include.


“Sometimes All You Need Is a Job Aid” is a tool at the end of chapter 6 that will help you identify the best job aid to use in various situations.

Designing to Meet Business Requirements

As a trusted adviser to your leaders, you have an opportunity to educate management and provide data that support your rationale. Take the following steps to ensure the formal learning events you design and develop link to organizational goals:

• If you haven’t already, review all relevant documentation, such as corporate strategic and business plans, and if the training is linked to a specific department, the departmental business plans.

• Interview the leaders of departments that have requested training to clarify the problems they are trying to solve.

• If formal events are already available either internally or externally, discuss how they are aligned to and support an organizational requirement.

• Be alert to future changes your organization is facing, and anticipate the kind of support it will need.

• Frame your questions to be certain that you have considered the issues of aligning formal learning to organizational goals and strategy.


The “Alignment Questions to Ask While Designing Formal Learning” tool offers a few starting questions you might ask of your stakeholders as you design formal learning. You’ll find it at the end of this chapter.

Talent development professionals must incorporate many tasks when designing training, including developing objectives, and materials; considering instructional methods, timing, and participation, and addressing questions. They must also assess session length and cost, develop audiovisuals and experiential learning activities, create a safe learning environment, practice delivery skills, and more. So, concerns about adding “meeting business requirements”—yet another thing to remember—are understandable. Don’t think of the business requirement as one more thing to do. Instead, think of it as a process that ties everything together so that you can systematically design an expanded, yet holistic learning experience.

The design doesn’t begin when your participants walk in the door, and it doesn’t end when they leave. It begins as soon as you identify a need and continues until you are sure the participants are contributing to the intended organizational goals. Here are a few ways you can ensure the design meets business requirements:

• Incorporate steps into your design that prepare employees for what will happen during training prior to the learning experience. These steps should include a conversation with the employees’ supervisors.

• Talk to management about what the employees are expected to do differently or better, and how this aligns with business goals.

• Identify what actions management will take to support changes following the training session (including reinforcement and feedback); share these actions with participants.

• Design support—both hard copy and online materials—that can be used following the training session.

• Ensure that participants know how their efforts will affect business goals.

• Be certain that participants know what is expected of them and how they will be held accountable following the training event.

• Clearly identify the facilitator’s role in support and follow-up.

• Be sure participants know how they can find assistance following the training session.

Ensuring Follow-Up and Application

Ensuring transfer of learning is possibly one of the most important and most overlooked aspects of producing successful training. Yet if you step back and think about it, this is where success is defined. Many books have been written about the “did training take?” conundrum. It is important to identify what you can do to ensure that training takes, rather than fixating later on why it didn’t. Let’s look at a few ways you can ensure that follow-up and application of the skills and knowledge learned in the training session are implemented:

• Follow up with managers and supervisors within 24 hours of the training session to answer questions or to goad them into action if necessary.

• Email or text participants asking what on-the-job actions they have taken since the training session.

• Review the accountability plan put in place during the design process.

• Gather data about how many participants are using the support systems (coaching, blogs, and any others) you created. Use the data to make improvements where necessary.

• Review the talent development department’s role to determine the level of support that is provided and whether it is appropriate for your organization’s culture.

Remember that your organization invests in training and developing its employees. Therefore, talent development should be treated like other investments—goals need to be aligned, appropriate plans made, and accountability measured.

What’s in Your Implementation Plan for the 10 Percent?

What are all the possible options you may be responsible for in formal learning, commonly called the 10 percent? You will have the results of your needs assessment; a list of classes that address the needs at an organizational, task, and individual level; a plan and schedule for the design and delivery of all formal events; a calendar of events that will be rolled out to the organization; and a list of next steps.

A Word About Blended Learning

Let’s consider blended learning for a minute, because it often bridges delivery methods between various ways we learn. I’ve written about blended learning in several other books—mostly to clarify confusion about the topic. Blended learning is a planned combination of training delivery options such as coaching, online classes, reading, breakfast with colleagues, or reference manuals.

Blended learning is not about using as many different delivery options as you can, but using the right one for the content, the learner, and the organization. Ask yourself, “What do learners need to know, and what is the best way to deliver the content?” Blended learning designs:

• Optimize resources, providing the most effect for the least investment.

• Consider what is accepted and expected by the organization.

• Stay solution-focused; that is, what is the business problem to be solved and what is the best way to solve it?

• Consider learners’ needs, the time that is available, how motivated they are, and access to technology that may be necessary.

• Require that you focus on the kind of development that is needed: knowledge, skill development, or attitude changes (Biech 2015b).

Actually, I like to think of 70-20-10 as the first blended learning design.


According to Jennifer Hofmann, author of Blended Learning, the second book in this series, “All learning is blended learning.”

What to Consider for Learning From Others—20 Percent

This category is sometimes called social, self-directed, or just general informal learning. Be careful, though, when you add the phrase social learning to the mix; it immediately conjures up weaving people together into a social network, such as Yammer or Jive, and expecting that the experience will radically help them learn. This is certainly one way to learn from others, but it isn’t the only way. I do believe that learning is “social,” but I do not believe you have to always use technology to facilitate learning from others. It has its advantages, especially when learners are separated by time and location. But I don’t want you to think that if your organization doesn’t have the hottest new social infrastructure that you can’t participate in social learning. That’s not true. There are many other delivery mechanisms—like talking to one another.

Delivery Options

Your organization faces many challenges, including a shortage of talent and an expanding skills gap. Talent development professionals have a unique opportunity to enhance their value to the organization by showing how we can adapt and use our skills to develop today’s employees beyond the classroom. This includes on-demand or informal learning, which is often enhanced by online learning options, such as podcasts, tablet-based learning, and mobile learning. Employees can also leverage professional development opportunities.

Consider learning from others an integral part of talent development. Capturing perspectives from internal and external colleagues, in real time, enables the informal learning environment. And it is growing every day. According to the report Informal Learning: The Social Revolution, from ATD and i4cp (2013), 27 percent of respondents stated that more than half of their learning was done informally. And the actual number is probably higher. It’s difficult to estimate informal learning because most of us are oblivious to the fact that we are actually learning during conversations with colleagues.

It takes a team to create a social media plan for your organization. Talent development professionals can help organizations by coordinating with other department such as IT and legal. You can take the lead by learning what social media are currently used, how, why, and who owns the processes. IT will be interested in security and technical issues, and will also help with archiving and deployment. Legal will help with approval strategies and guidance for sensitive corporate knowledge, processes, or practices, as well as reporting requirements. You have expertise in learning tools, cultural readiness, community management, and what employees need to learn.

Talent development professionals help employees learn from others in several ways, including establishing systems channels to easily request peer feedback in a one-on-one setting or from many in a peer accountability group. Learners may be engaged as a mentor or protégé in a traditional arrangement, a reverse mentoring scenario, or a peer mentoring group. We can help employees locate and learn from blogs, wikis, or online professional communities, such as those at ATD or on LinkedIn. The 360-degree feedback process is great a way for them to learn from others. You can connect learners through social media by using discussion boards, incorporating Twitter feeds, and sharing content on Facebook. You can enable watercooler learning by emailing a question of the day to an employee group. In addition, the social aspect of gaming can enhance problem-solving skills, because it is experiential and provides a way to share personal and professional experiences.


The tool “Fifteen Quick Ways to Continue to Learn From Others,” located at the end of this chapter, will spark your own creative ideas to encourage employees to learn from one another.

Delivery Support

How can you support employees? One way is to make it easy to establish a community of practice. Find ways your organization can use technology to share information for immediate use. Remember, however, that the true value is using the information to build skills, knowledge, and attitudes for the long run.

It is important to learn about your organization’s policies for using social media, so you know what boundaries exist. You may be able to adjust them to be more user friendly where necessary, depending on your organization. If increased mobile learning is in your company’s future, get involved with figuring out how to make it work for everyone.

What’s Your Role in Helping Employees Learn From Others?

Your role is not about designing and delivering training. Instead, it is about helping learners create methods to learn from one another. Consider having learners curate the content so that it is available anywhere at any time—just remember that this might require you to establish a taxonomy and curation plan. Other responsibilities may include organizing accountability relationships, establishing mentor-protégé relationships, identifying coaches, helping others utilize apps and mobile learning, connecting learners through social media, inspiring feedback, and enabling watercooler learning.

What’s in Your Implementation Plan for the 20 Percent?

What items are you responsible for when employees are learning from others, commonly called the 20 percent? Your role is one of a facilitator—I like to think of it as a matchmaker role. Your implementation plan will have a list of social network tools currently available; potential research you want to do to expand social tools; a plan and schedule for informing supervisors about the benefits of informal learning; a plan for capturing and curating learning that takes place among employees; an implementation plan for mentors and protégés; initial guidance for coaching efforts; an exploratory plan for implementing a coaching effort; and plans to use discussion boards, Twitter, texts, and other tools to keep watercooler learning alive.


What happens to our brains when we learn? Take a look at Lara Boyd’s TEDx Talk, “After Watching This, Your Brain Will Not Be the Same,” to find out (http://bit.ly/29RKdNV).

What to Consider for On-the-Job Learning—70 Percent

This category is sometimes called practice, work flow, or assignments. Some also call it experiential, but I completely disagree with this label. Why? As much as possible, everything we do to help employees learn should be experiential. We know that practice—spaced practice—is one of the best ways to ensure that learning is retained. Don’t limit your thinking by calling the on-the-job learning effort “experiential.”

Delivery Options

The practical aspect of on-the-job learning may make it one of the most beneficial for employees because it enables them to discover, make decisions, and deal with challenges that ultimately upgrade their job skills. The talent development role in this area is unique because the focus is on the supervisors as you help them find ways to increase employees’ responsibilities and to learn from their mistakes. You will also help supervisors learn how to prepare their employees before attending any kind of learning event, as well as how to support them when they return.

You can use structured on-the-job programs to ensure employees gain the same skills, but it’s more likely that you’ll use informal on-the-job programs to develop individuals who have different assignments at different times. An IDP enumerates what each employee needs to learn or experience, and talent development professionals help ensure that the IDP process is as effective as possible.

Talent development professionals may be asked to provide or recommend assessments such as a multirater (commonly called 360-degree feedback instruments), team building, communication styles, or conflict management skills. Assessments provide an opportunity for supervisors, coaches, and mentors to open discussions about personal goals and developmental activities to grow and learn. As a coach to the supervisors, you may be able to guide them to ensure that employees see the value in the results—seeing the feedback as a way to further develop their careers rather than as criticism.

Delivery Support

Delivery for on-the-job learning is often trial and error. But it doesn’t have to be. Matching the most appropriate challenging experience to the developmental need of the employee is powerful. It is your chance to put learning where the work is. You can coach supervisors to ferret out opportunities to match the right employee who has a developmental need with the perfect developmental opportunity.

Is your organization creating a team to address a customer problem? Who in the department needs to learn more about teamwork or how the organization addresses customer needs? Or perhaps a supervisor is leaving for a weeklong vacation. Who in the department can use that chance to learn more about organizing work, being a leader, or making decisions? Does the organization have a formal mentoring program? Who in the department needs to learn more about the politics of the organization? Perhaps the department’s internal customer is very upset about something that the department screwed up—badly! Who in the department needs a stretch assignment to practice restraint under fire, negotiation skills, and conflict resolution?

Give supervisors the tools and techniques they need to successfully pair employees with the right opportunities, including checklists, guidelines, models, job aids, communication skills, delegation skills, providing feedback, and of course coaching skills.

Ideally, learning activities will lead to creative developmental assignments that help learners combine new skills with current skills. For example, a job-shadowing assignment may pave the way for the manager to offer the learner a role on a cross-functional team. This may in turn introduce the employee to another part of the company or to a potential mentor. As a professional development leader, you can help supervisors see the value in these kinds of assignments so that they can help their employees look for other opportunities. Every time this happens, it helps them extend the impact of the learning activity.

It is also important to coach supervisors to have productive career development discussions with employees. Help them understand the value of developing employees constantly, not only during an annual performance review.


“The 4Cs for Developing Others” is a tool to equip supervisors to develop their employees. Use it to guide a discussion about an employee’s career.

What’s Your Role in Selecting Content for On-the-Job Learning?

You probably have less of a role in selecting content for on-the-job learning. You do, however, have an obligation to ensure that managers know what developmental opportunities are available and how they can use them to grow employees.

In 2016, the Center for Creative Leadership surveyed tens of thousands of leaders and asked what skills were critical for career success. The responses included being a quick study, managing change, learning agility, interpersonal relationships, and collaboration (Scisco, Biech, and Hallenbeck 2017). When supervisors search for content that will help their employees, you can confidently share those five as a start.


“The Stretch Zone” is a useful tool to help supervisors understand how to focus a stretch assignment.

Your role in on-the-job learning is more supportive coach and less trainer. You will work with managers, encouraging them to identify rotational opportunities and stretch assignments for their employees. You will help them see the value in sharing their tasks with employees and selecting a variety of employees to fulfill their role when they are out of the office—not just the department star. You can also suggest that they seek community and volunteer options that will help employees grow outside the organization. Keep managers informed about improvement or cross-functional team projects in which employees could be involved.


You can share “ebb’s Supervisor’s Employee Development Ideas Checklist” with supervisors who need to learn what opportunities exist for developing their employees.

What’s in Your Implementation Plan for the 70 Percent?

What are all the possible options you may have for in learning on-the-job, commonly called the 70 percent? Your implementation plan will include a coaching plan for supervisors; a list of possible job aids for supervisors to be better employee developers; a list of developmental ideas supervisors could recommend to employees; a list of job aids to support employees on the job; a communication plan to keep managers and supervisors abreast of learning opportunities; and a list of community and nonprofit organizations in the area that supervisors could contact.

Learning at Kohler

Kohler Co. was founded in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, by John Michael Kohler in 1883. He was promoting an enamel-coated “horse trough/hog scalder,” which “when furnished with four legs will serve as a bathtub.” This was the beginning of the Kohler plumbing business. Famous throughout the world for its high-quality, innovative plumbing fixtures, Kohler is also a model learning organization.

Laura Kohler, senior vice president for human resources, says, “We believe we can do almost anything if we learn it.” Kohler’s Learning Academy courses are so popular that most have a waiting list. Kohler marries the tradition of education passed down through generations of the Kohler family with new strategies that reinforce the culture of learning.

The ATD research report Building a Culture of Learning found that the essential traits of a learning culture are “closely aligned business and learning strategies, organizational values that affirm learning’s importance, and an atmosphere in which learning is so ingrained that it simply becomes ‘a way of life’” (ATD 2016). Interestingly, while only 31 percent of respondents described their companies as having extensive learning cultures, companies with high-performance metrics, such as market share and profitability, were five times more likely to be strongly identified as having a learning culture.

Kohler epitomizes the processes that create a learning culture (ATD 2016):

• Executives are involved in learning decisions.

• Leadership promotes learning.

• The culture of learning is built into the hiring practice.

• Employees are motivated by individual learning and development plans.

• Employees are motivated by advancement opportunities made possible by learning.

• Coaching and mentoring are organized.

• Learning programs are used to reinforce the corporate culture.

• Employees are empowered to stretch and take risks to learn.

• An environment of trust encourages on-the-job learning.

Each of these can be built into your talent development program.

Exploring Possible Support Services

Think about all the services that are tied to your talent development role. You may be responsible for your organization’s talent management survey or addressing the results of the organization’s engagement survey. You may be asked to conduct employee surveys, including multirater assessments. You might be put in charge of recertification efforts or college degree programs. Will you be asked to build teams or onboard new employees? Will you have to provide services that support IDPs, coaching, establishing mentoring programs, selecting high-potential candidates for your leadership development efforts, performance consulting, leading change, instilling agility, increasing innovation, or a host of other services your organization needs? Talent development is not defined as training or even training and development.

Think about the services that your organization will most likely need in the next couple of years, and how you can roll them into your talent development program. How will you manage it? What kind of budget will you need? What skills will your staff require? And most important, what is the payoff to your organization?

Roll-Out Plans

Your implementation plan lists the items that you will complete for each area: formal learning, learning from others, and on-the-job learning. Use this content to create a roll-out map that shows how and when each developmental activity will be available and who will be involved. Your map may also show how the plans tie back to the organization’s strategy. Begin to communicate as soon as it is practical to do so.


The “Roll-Out Map Template” is a good planning tool and can help you organize everything in one plate. It is located at the end of this chapter.

Once you have a strategy, goals, action items, and a general idea of the program’s features, you can begin to establish a communication plan. You will most likely add to it and change it as you continue with the implementation, but begin planning early. Get the word out and update the communication plan as the program unfolds.

As you develop the communication plan, identify people who will need to know and those who will want to know, the specific information you want to share, the methods you have available to deliver the information, who will deliver the messages, and the timeline. It’s important to get employees involved in the plan early, because this will increase buy-in and collaboration.

In the next chapter, we’ll examine evaluation; for now, be sure that you tie the success of the talent development program into the communication plan. What went well? What will you improve? How is the talent development program affecting employees and the organization? These are great opportunities to obtain quotes from participants and their managers.


Ask your marketing colleagues for ideas. They are experts in creating communication campaigns, so tap into their knowledge.

Think about the talent development brand and the consistent look you want to have. This will make it easier for employees to immediately recognize when something arrives at their desk or in their inbox from the talent development function. Consider using colors, symbols, or themes to tie together emails, resources, tools, and messages. You will also want to ensure that the talent development brand complements the organization’s logo, colors, and other brand elements.

You may wish to invite different groups to a 60-minute meeting to introduce them to the concept. If possible, have a senior leader at each session to introduce the program and the plan. This demonstrates their support for the talent development program.


The tool “Communication Plan Tips” can help you develop your internal communication plan. It is located at the end of this chapter.

Incorporate the Effort Into Current Organizational Practices

If you are truly starting the first talent development program in your organization, you may not have other legacy courses or directions. However, spend some time thinking about other organizational activities and departments that may be connected to the talent development program. Some of these might include:

• a succession planning process

• a set of competencies around which you want to build your talent development program

• a union, with which you would need to coordinate.

Here are some additional questions you should think about:

• Have your leaders been involved in any sort of development effort, assessments, or university courses?

• Do you have any apprenticeship programs? How will they be incorporated?

• How is talent development related to HR, talent management, employee services, orientation, or other departments?

• Do external consultants or contingency workers exist with whom you need to coordinate?

Of course, if your organization has initiated other formal or informal learning events, be sure to review them before moving forward. You will want to have a uniform, consistent, coordinated plan across the organization.

Post-Implementation Steps

As you recall, implementation means that you have made choices and know what content you will deliver to whom. There is a likelihood that those formal events still need to be planned, designed, and delivered. One of the most important things you can do is return to your evaluation plans: Who is responsible for what? What are you measuring? What data do your senior leaders want to see? How will you evaluate your efforts?

You’ve Launched

With execution under way, you’ll have long to-do lists. No matter how busy you are, stay connected to the managers in the business units and the senior leaders. They are your stakeholders and your customers. Communicate regularly so that you can keep them informed of your progress and learn what they may need. Continue to build the relationships.

Questions to Explore

• What skills and knowledge did the needs assessment reveal to you?

• How will you ensure that you balance your time among the ways that learning occurs in your organization, remembering the 70-20-10 guidance?

• What is the biggest concern you have for rolling out your first formal training session?

• What unique ways will you support employees to ensure that they learn from others?

• How can you assist your organization to implement a social learning platform?

• How can you work with other departments, such as IT and legal, to create a social learning platform?

• What tools will you need to bring supervisors up to speed regarding their role to develop their employees?

• What just-in-time tools do you have available to you?

• What value does your plan offer your learners? Supervisors? Leaders?

• How have you captured the drivers that are making this talent development program a priority?

• How do you define what success looks like in five years?

• Who is your target audience, and how do you know what they need?

• Who are the learning champions in your organization who can help you get this effort off the ground successfully?

• How’s your executive team buy-in?

• What support services is your talent development program likely to offer?

• How carefully have you thought through your rollout plans? What can you do that creates excitement about the talent development program?

• What current organizational practices will need consideration and a plan for alignment? Do you anticipate any problems?

• Measurement is next. Are you prepared?

Tools for Success

Alignment Questions to Ask While Designing Formal Learning

Managers often ask talent development leaders to design training. Prior to designing a formal learning event, you may need to interview department leaders to clarify the problem they are trying to solve. You may also consider this an opportunity to educate managers about the importance of linking formal learning events to organizational goals. These questions can get you started.

• What organizational requirement will be addressed with the requested training?

• How is this training aligned to the organization’s vision, mission, and values?

• What organization or industry issues are driving the training request?

• Is training the solution? Is it the only solution?

• If you could have anything you want designed into this program, what would it be?

• How will you support this solution?

• How will participants’ performance improve as a result of the training?

• Who are the suppliers and customers who will be affected by the training? How will they be affected?

• How will we know we are successful?

• What will change one year from now?

• How far into the future will this effort reach?

• What can the organization expect as a return on its investment?

• What is the value of the results?

• How will we measure the value?

Used with permission from Biech (2009a).

Fifteen Quick Ways to Continue to Learn From Others

Are you looking for ideas to spark excitement about how employees learn from others? These can get you started.

• Start a blog tag. Write a short content piece and then “tag” someone in the content to respond and add to the learning topic. Keep them short.

• Create accountability partners as “living job aids.”

• Organize personal learning groups to share best practices.

• Create a round-robin needs assessment where all learners share what they need to learn.

• Introduce the idea of having a team of learning advisers, much like an organization’s board of directors.

• Develop a list of questions learners can ask one another about topics that are important to the organization or their departments. The goal is to create a dialogue.

• Assign learning buddies following a formal learning event.

• Start a “my one big thing” group, where each person collects ideas about the one big thing they need to achieve or improve.

• Encourage employees to create their own career path and work with someone to achieve the plan.

• Implement peer coaching circles.

• Initiate a LinkedIn or Facebook group.

• Encourage employees to visit one another’s workspace and learn about what they do.

• Encourage the use of posting videos about how to do something.

• Create opportunities for employees to Skype with those at other locations to share what they know and what they learned.

• Encourage learners to volunteer for community settings and share what they learned from the experience.

The Stretch Zone

This tool is useful to help supervisors understand how to focus a stretch assignment.

Stretch and rotation assignments should push employees to develop just beyond their comfort zone, but not further. There are three performance zones:

The comfort zone. When we are fully performing our role, we experience “unconscious competence” and mastery. We are able to perform easily and without exerting great effort. We do not find our work overly challenging—we may be doing just enough to get by if we get too comfortable.

The learning or stretch zone. Just outside the comfort zone, this is where we leverage what we know and do well, and are able to focus our energy on new skills, tasks, or requirements. We are in a state of “conscious competence,” where we are building skills but still have to be conscious of how we are performing to avoid mistakes and missteps. Our new responsibilities are manageable.

The panic zone. If we push employees too far and stretch them beyond their capacity, they may become anxious, confused, and discouraged by so many unknown or unpracticed variables. Here we operate in a state of “conscious incompetence” and even “unconscious incompetence,” which feels uncomfortable and which we would like to avoid.

Yes, we could stretch someone too far. And we could stretch someone too little. The learner has to identify the sweet spot—the learning zone—to get it just right.

Used with permission from Azulay (2012).

The 4Cs for Developing Others

You may need to give supervisors the tools to develop their employees. Here’s one to guide a discussion about an employee’s career. The 4Cs encourage employees to consider whether various parts of the jobs they currently have are tasks they want to complete, continue, circumvent, or close down (stop doing).

As a supervisor, you need to plan discussions with all employees about their careers and future desires. You can initiate a career discussion using a couple of these questions that you think are appropriate to open the career discussion with each employee.

• What would you like your next position to be? How do you think you can best work toward reaching that position? What do you need to learn?

• What is your favorite part of your current role? What skill would you like to develop to improve your abilities?

• How is your present job preparing you for the goals you have set for yourself?

• What do you still need to learn about the position you would like to have?

• What would be helpful for your career development? What kind of training do you need to be more productive or successful? What experiences would be helpful?

• What goals have you set? Where do you see yourself in three years? Ten years?

• Who else can help you achieve your goals?

• What changes are needed to reach your goals? Can you achieve your goals in your present position?

Once you’ve started the career discussion, you will want to help employees consider the skills they need to accomplish their goals. The 4Cs tool can help identify these skills based on the tasks they currently do or want to do in the future. Begin by asking about the tasks they currently do:

• “What tasks do you want to be able to do that you don’t do now?”

List those in the position labeled complete.

• “What tasks do you enjoy and want to continue?”

List those in the position labeled continue.

• “What tasks don’t you do and would prefer to avoid doing?”

List those in the position labeled circumvent.

• “What tasks do you currently complete that you want to stop doing?”

List those in the position labeled close down.

Review the completed grid with the employee, asking questions such as:

• What does this summary tell you?

• What skills do you currently have that you could use to complete some of the tasks you desire?

• What skills will you need to develop to be qualified for the tasks you want to do in the future?

• What options exist that could allow you to quit doing some of the tasks you don’t want to continue doing?

• How can I help you make this become a reality?

ebb’s Supervisor’s Employee Development Ideas Checklist

Share this checklist with supervisors who need to learn what opportunities exist for developing their employees.

Find Out Who They Are

  Meet each person at least once a month to talk about longer-term goals and new ideas they want to implement.

  Communicate with employees at least once a week to learn about their progress on their current projects, updates, and any struggles they are facing.

  Listen to them.

  Provide opportunities for 360-degree feedback options or other assessments.

  Identify specific books for each employee that help them understand their strengths and learning needs.

  Help them find a mentor.

  Hold them accountable for all they do.

  Introduce them to communication styles (for example, the DiSC or Myers Briggs Type Indicator).

  Provide performance metrics and create constructive conversation.

Help Them Explore Their Professional (and Personal) Opportunities

  Have all employees read leadership books and hold monthly discussions.

  Demonstrate how to seek feedback.

  Introduce employees to someone who can connect them to other experiences—such as someone in another department.

  Provide constructive feedback, always asking whether they liked or disliked certain tasks or parts of the job.

  Ensure that everyone has an IDP and uses it appropriately.

Show Them How to Learn

  Teach them how to network.

  Coach them.

  Allow them to struggle.

  Ensure that they have opportunities to experiment, fail, and learn.

  Create an ownership mentality by trusting them, providing experiences, and giving them authority.

  Share your own mistakes.

  Link them to a professional association or network.

  Provide a way all employees can share what they are learning.

Give Them New Experiences

  Turn over a small part of your supervisory responsibilities to them.

  Have them give a presentation to another department about what your department does.

  Invite them to conduct a lunch & learn about the department for the rest of the organization.

  Ask them to run a meeting in your absence.

  Find a project for them to lead.

  Take them to one of your meetings with the next level up.

  Offer development options beyond the job.

  Trade employees with other departments for a month.

  Trade employees with suppliers or customers of your organization for a short time period.

Explore Ideas for Development

  Use your meetings to share new skills or knowledge.

  Delegate something you like to do (not only what you don’t like to do).

  Identify an employee for a stretch assignment instead of giving it to someone who can already do the job.

  Define the organizational politics and culture, and show them that politics isn’t a bad word.

  Discuss how to navigate organizational politics.

  Lead them to classes, conferences, online learning, or other opportunities to develop them; spend the money to help them learn.

  Assign the work of an employee who is away learning to a co-worker. This gives the co-worker a developmental opportunity, and it also means the learner won’t return to a stack of undone work.

  Help identify volunteer tasks outside your organization.

  Arrange for an employee to shadow someone in another department or a step or two up the chain.

Develop Yourself

Most important, develop yourself first. Be a model for lifelong learning to build trust and demonstrate credibility. Accept feedback, be open to bad news and change, and invest in your learning.

Roll-Out Map Template

Use a template similar to this one to organize a roll-out plan for your talent development program. You can also use it as a communication tool. You will probably start new pages for each learning type: formal learning, learning from others, and on-the-job learning. The map will show how and when each developmental activity will be available and who will be involved. Ideally, you will also include a column that states how the plan ties back to the organization’s strategy. Examples topics are included. Customize this tool to communicate the opportunities that are and will be available in your organization.

Learning Solutions: Putting Learning Where the Work Is

Used with permission from Elaine Biech.

Communication Plan Tips

Use these ideas as you develop your internal communication plan. You don’t need a big budget; fun and creativity go a long way!

• Communicate often. Repetition is good. People forget and need to be reminded.

• Develop a notional timeline for getting the word out.

• Give the talent development program credibility by leveraging your leadership team—their participation will generate enthusiasm and demonstrate support. They should also be available to communicate informally.

• When possible, have your CEO announce key events.

• Use a variety of communication methods, such email blasts, messages from the CEO (that you write), flyers, newsletter articles, video teasers, podcasts, or posters.

• Develop tools that will be useful and practical to employees, such as FAQs, program overviews, and tip sheets.

• Make it fun with contests and branded items that you can give away.

• Create a list of events you want to share with employees, such as the first day of your first class, the implementation of the mentoring program, or the availability of a new social media tool.

• Keep it simple, using stories, metaphors, symbols, and analogies.

• Communicate to share program successes.

References and Additional Resources

ATD (Association for Talent Development). 2015. Managing the Learning Landscape. Alexandria, VA: ATD Press.

———. 2016a. Building a Culture of Learning: The Foundation of a Successful Organization. Alexandria, VA: ATD Press.

———. 2016b. Kohler: Making Learning a Way of Life. Alexandria, VA: ATD Press.

ASTD and i4cp (American Society for Training & Development and the Institute for Corporate Productivity). 2013. Informal Learning: The Social Revolution. Alexandria, VA: ASTD Press.

Azulay, H. 2012. Employee Development on a Shoestring. Alexandria, VA: ASTD Press.

Biech, E. 2009a. 10 Steps to Successful Training. Alexandria, VA: ASTD Press.

———. 2009b. “Learning Eye to Eye: Aligning Training to Business Objectives.” T+D.

———. 2015a. New Supervisor Training. Alexandria, VA: ATD Press.

———. 2015b. Training and Development for Dummies. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons.

———. 2016. “The 90% Solution,” TD, December.

Block, P. 2011. Flawless Consulting: A Guide to Getting Your Expertise Used, 3rd edition. San Francisco: Pfeiffer.

Driscoll, M., and A. van Barneveld. 2015. “Applying Learning Theory to Mobile Learning.” TD at Work. Alexandria, VA: ATD Press.

Haddock-Millar, J., and D. Clutterbuck. 2016. “5 Critical Conversations to Talent Development.” TD at Work. Alexandria, VA: ATD Press.

Reinhold, D., T. Patterson, and P. Hegel. 2015. Make Learning Stick: Best Practices to Get the Most out of Leadership Development. Greensboro, NC: Center for Creative Leadership.

Scisco, P., E. Biech, and G. Hallenbeck. 2017. Compass: Your Guide for Leadership Development and Coaching. Greensboro, NC: Center for Creative Leadership.

Tauber, T., and D. Johnson. 2014. “Meet the Modern Learner” Infographic. Bersin by Deloitte. www.bersin.com/Lib/Rs/ShowDocument.aspx?docid=18071.