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Developing Talents Through Experiences

June 5, 2023

The quality of our talents depends on a shift from ‘what development do you need’ to ‘what experiences do you need.’

Despite widespread recognition that experiences accelerate development, few organisations use them as their development framework. Instead, managers and employees are left to struggle with complex and difficult to apply competency-based development models.

Typical competency-based development approaches do not support organisations to accelerate development or provide employees with a guide for managing their career growth. They mainly focus on centralising the development plans on the behaviors that describe the competency dimensions, not on the outcomes that define performance success within the organisation.

Therefore, a fundamentally different solution is needed if we want to grow better talent faster.

From Competency-Based Development towards Experiences-Based Development

Experiences-based development is a promising approach as a far more efficient, and easier approach for talent development. The experiences approach answers the key question: What is the most effective way to enable managers and talents to quickly develop new capabilities?

The experiences approach contributes to the growth of talents through accelerating their career development by defining the specific experiences needed to excel in a role or function. It describes the outcomes that an employee must demonstrate to prove competence (i.e., create a forward-thinking business strategy for entering new global markets) while the competency-based development approach only describes the precursors to that outcome (i.e., is a strategic thinker; understands the business management). 

The experiences approach is not intended to be an exhaustive list of org. capabilities or the key business drivers. Rather, it describes the key experiences needed to grow or evaluate one’s competence. For examples, the core experiences of the talent management leader, that contribute to being fully competent, include (building talent strategies aligned to the organisation’s competitive performance & its future scenarios, developing leadership bench-strength to ensure the organisation’s business continuity, and developing, engaging, retaining & mobilizing talents).

How to design the experiences?

Adopting the experiences-based development approach as the basic development framework requires integrated collaboration between the business senior leaders and the talent management leader, to discuss and agree on the critical experiences that define success in key roles. The defined critical experiences are a perfect reflection of the key business capabilities and business drivers that shape the organisation’s competitive performance, and its future scenarios: the experiences approach contributes to develop talents through ensuring that all the development initiatives are focused on the business context of the role, not just a list of competencies. It defines and measures the success of developing talents through the extent to which employees can understand the business context of the organisation, and master the key experiences and themes needed for the role success. Managers and employees should meet to review the defined experiences in the development plans, to categorise these experiences under key development themes, and to discuss which next experience makes the most business sense to pursue.

Why the experiences approach is more successful than other approaches?

There are five key reasons for why the experiences-development approach is successful in developing talents.

Business Connected: While competencies can feel abstract, experiences are real, tangible, and familiar. “Create an expansion strategy for the business growth in the MENA market” is easier to comprehend than “Increase our leaders’ strategic thinking capability.”

Focused on Results: Experiences approach describes actual outcomes that must be achieved, not the behaviors or skills that precede an outcome. Experiences approach describes the expected results (present an expansion strategy for the organisation’s growth in MENA Market), while competency approach describes only the ingredients (to think strategically, to present strategic solutions for the business growth).

Easy To Assess: It is a simple process to evaluate which experiences someone has had and which they need. Given that experiences are tangible and observable, assessing their completion is far more objective than assessing progress against a competency.

Practical Career Guides: Experiences approach provides specific insights into what’s needed to move up or over in an organisation. It presents an integrated framework for the identified experiences needed for organisation success in specific roles.

More Certain: The human brain craves certainty and predictability – such as knowing the potential paths for career advancement. Stress levels increase as certainty decreases. Making concepts like career progress more explicit can potentially reduce stress and the workplace distractions it causes.

Experiences are an effective business-focused tool to identify, assess and develop talents; they are more successful when all the assessment and development activities are experience focused. This means talent professionals must now rethink the adopted talent development tools and consider a shift from Individual Development Plans into Individual Experience Plans

Author
Mohamed H. Ameen

Thought-Leader, Talent Management Magazine

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