Talent development should be at the top of the priority list of every firm today! Unfortunately, many firms have cut back on their Training & Learning budgets over the last couple years. The difficult economy has caused many firms to focus on cost-cutting and this is one area that has been at the front of the line to the chopping block. This is a short-sighted approach that will dig a hole that will be difficult for firms to climb out of as we started to recognize brighter financial results. We’ve talked a lot about the importance of developing a Training & Learning culture over the years and based on the actions of many firms during these last couple years, I think it’s time for a refresher on why it is so critical to your firm’s success.
Building a Training & Learning Culture
The goal of a Training & Learning Culture is to create an environment where everyone teaches, everyone learns and everyone enhances their unique abilities. Achievement of this goal starts at the top. Leaders of the firm must commit to developing a Training & Learning Culture. They must also share their ideas and values about Training & Learning as well as your leadership approach to motivating team members and the ability to make difficult decisions. A Training & Learning Culture devoted to the development of knowledge has several key benefits to your firm.
|Develop leaders at every level
||You have capable people at every level of |
the firm ready to step in and lead a team.
|Attract and retain the best and
|Intelligent people are always on a quest |
for knowledge. A culture dedicated to this
quest is a magnet to these individuals.
||Skilled workers are always more efficient |
and efficiency has a direct impact on your
firm’s financial performance.
|Succession planning through a
|When adding or replacing partners, you don’t|
have to go outside to look for candidates. You
have a pool of qualified successors in your own backyard.
The idea that everybody teaches is an important one. When people are required to teach, they will inherently want to know the topic inside and out for fear of embarrassing themselves. Encouraging people to teach forces them to let down their guard and make themselves vulnerable to their peers discovering what they don’t know. Once the guard is let down, the barrier to collaborative learning is removed and the teacher can focus not only on delivering the knowledge they possess but also learning from the experiences and knowledge of others.
While vulnerability is often an uncomfortable position, there are several aspects of a Training & Learning Culture that provide satisfaction. By opening our minds to others’ ideas, we learn new skills and concepts. We also have the satisfaction of watching others develop into tomorrow’s leaders before our very eyes. With a more intelligent and collaborative workforce, we will also watch the firm increase its performance.
By contrast, "At Risk Firms” (those that do not commit to a Training & Learning Culture) have several defining characteristics as well.
Focus on Talent Development
|Command & Control
||Intelligence is based on tenure. "I know more |
than you because I’ve been doing it longer.”
|Cram Down Attitude
||The firm’s leaders are set in their ways. Employees |
will learn and perform consistent with those ways or
they can find another job.
||Worried about job security, employees |
hold onto valuable information for fear of
making themselves replaceable.
||A culture of competition. Everyone wants |
to know more than the others AND prove it.
|Leaders Learn Nothing
||"I’m the leader; there is nothing I could possibly |
learn from these kids fresh out of school.” The leader’s
knowledge gets stale and outdated over time, putting the
firm at risk of falling behind.
Most firms tell us that talent (or people) is their number one asset. However, cutting Training & Learning opportunities is not an action that supports those words. While your team might not have voiced concerns over the last couple years, they were making note. The resource supply is cyclical and we’ve been in a period where employers had the power. It’s not likely that things will remain that way and we’ll soon be back in the battle for talent. Investing in talent development in good times and bad (especially bad) sends the message that professional development is a priority and it is non-negotiable.
When your firm continually invests in the development of talent, they no longer have to worry about retention and attraction. The best and brightest are naturally drawn to the firm. And, your star performers won’t be tempted to stray when you are continually investing in their futures.
Culture starts at the top of the firm. Without the commitment of the CEO and firm partners it is difficult, if not impossible, to build a Training and Learning Culture. Partners must "talk the talk and walk the walk” to ensure the future success of the firm.