2nd May. '12

Talent and Training: Harvest or Grow?

A post by Kari Hakola

The competition for the best talent is a fierce one! As an organization you compete for their attention, results and harnessing their ability to act as a catalyst of change for others. It seems that today it is a rare organization which can address all their human resource needs from the basic available labour pool. Most have to do it the hard way and take the time to cultivate their own talent.  For most companies the cultivation of good talent comes a lot easter if there has been healthy development from the start. This requires a solid base or foundation. For example lets take a took at two cases of rich soil for talent to grow.

Germany is the motor of European growth. During the crisis times of the Eurozone it is amazing to see a country with powerful growth as well as record lows in unemployment. They must be doing something right! A great article in the economist highlights Germany’s formidable strengths in the industrial sector.  The article reaffirms the message of how Germany’s strong foundation has created a recipe for success.  With a vast system of apprenticeships and vocational training, and organizational structures which gives workers a say in management , they have kept  unemployment lower and allowed the country to thrive in such uncertain economic times.

While Germany’s dominance in the industrial manufactoring sector is quite clear, the articles carries on to argue that their successful model may be difficult to replicate. They go so far as to state that the country itself is  struggling when translating it’s industrial strengths into domination in the the service sector. I agree that naturally the German education system will face major challenges when manufacturing quickly evolves into a knowledge business. It requires the ability to combine general knowledge with indepth specialization and the attendant skills necessary to complete the job. The lesson to learn in Germany’s industrial success is that basic education and business need to be interwoven, and skills as well as behaviors need to be imparted, in addition to theoretical  knowledge. Most importantly,  you don’t win by copying the winner. Everyone needs to find their success the hard way, from their own starting point. It is an ecosystem in the real sense of the word.

Another great example of a healthy substrate for talent to grow is Finland’s not so well known winning education system. The nation takes great pride in its students and is now just starting to get international recognition. An interesting article in The Atlantic presents an interesting case on how the American education system has much to learn from our little country in the North  The courage to be different and execute things with a long term perspective are present, but PISA measures knowledge, not skills. The next major challenge and the key to reaching the next level is in balancing knowledge with skills and behaviors, especially in  group dynamics. We’re talking about the way people wield influence and take responsibility. This should be possible by concentrating on the best colleges, universities and polytechnics have to offer, but it requires NO FEAR leadership, too. Command and control will not make it happen.

Training is the most important aspect of the public & private partnership. Real, future-oriented leadership is necessary to make the vital choices regarding what knowledge, skills and behaviors are needed. As far as activation goes, the trickier part of the public & private partnership is making companies take a more active role in the development of their people. Obviously they need to do this anyway, since there aren’t enough top talents in the labor pool to go around and they have to work on combining experience with new skills and behaviors in their own organizations. When companies do this, they have the motive for public partnership – to learn what professional training is on a large scale and to be near the sources of new talents.

The easy argument from companies is that this is too long term. Sure it´s long term, but there are also quick wins. You have to learn better ways to develop human resources anyway. It’s only when a company has a serious reputation in this area and an operative reality that meets that reputation can it expect to attract those top talents who are also team players.


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