Back in 2015 during the AFC football championship, New England Patriot Julian Edelman threw a 51-yard touchdown pass that changed the course of the game.
Edelman, we should note, is not a quarterback. But he surprised many with his lesser-known throwing skills (he was a QB in college) and turned the tide for his team.
The moral of this little story (and you’ll have to excuse our walk down Patriot’s memory lane; it’s Super Bowl season, and our home office is in Massachusetts): never underestimate an employee’s ability to fill an unexpected gap in the playbook.
Where to Look for Star Players
In fact, the subject of leveraging undiscovered skills is not just for football coaches; mining less-conventional talent pipelines – such as an employee development program — is much on the minds of CEOs these days; and for good reason. Employees are in short supply. Unemployment is dropping at the very time Boomers are poised to head out the door. Not surprisingly, in 2016 the time it takes to hire for open positions continued to tick up, reaching an average of nearly two months to fill a job.
Worse, the talent pool is shrinking at precisely the same moment the demand for more sophisticated skills is edging up. By 2020, a shortage of 5-million employees will lock step with a growing number of positions (more than half) that will require at least some college training. Recruiting alone won’t fill the skills gaps. It’s no wonder that CEOs in a PWC study say concerns about talent have changed the way they develop employees.
And a solid employee development program will become key for engagement, too. Why? Employees who grow into roles are exceptionally engaged, wrote Bright Horizons Chief Culture Officer Dan Henry on Huffington Post. “People need to learn and grow to stay inspired.” On the flipside: “Without a template illustrating how careers can progress,” he said, “you’re all but guaranteeing a revolving door.”
Why Your Employee Development Program is Retention Gold
And employees themselves say growth opportunities are indispensable. In our 2015 survey of Millennials, more than ¾ called development an important factor in their job choice; nearly 2/3 called it more important than getting a raise. That means that an employee development program can do double duty, not just training employees (employees who, by the way, have already proved themselves as cultural fits), but engaging and retaining them, too.
The latter is important since the hot talent market is fueling expensive competition for new employees. It already costs about 150% of salary to replace someone. A well-designed education program could save budgets from the arms race of signing bonuses and increasing starting salaries.
It also paves the way for a big move by an as-yet undiscovered star who might already on your roster; one who can go on to do something unexpected – and game changing – in the future.
So, here’s to big plays and sustainable talent pipelines.
And, let’s go Pats!