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Precision development - Part One

As the major implications of the pandemic finally ease off, organisations are starting to cautiously breathe again. However, now more than ever organisations need to be focused. With so many new areas of flux to consider; the impact of potential recessions, different ways of working, and a severe shortage of applicants in specific industry sectors, it is even more important to focus resources where they will have the most impact.

With the continuing threat of a recession, those responsible for people strategy come under increasing pressure to manage costs and ensure the organisation is operating efficiently. Budgets are tight, development activities reviewed and proving return on investment becomes even more essential.

Focusing your budget where it will have the greatest impact is critical. It’s about being precise in five key ways:

  1. Precise about what to target. Which key people capabilities will help the organisation achieve its strategy?

  2. Precise about who to develop. Target the development opportunities on those who will benefit and deliver most.

  3. Precise about how to develop. Ensure the development interventions have been designed to deliver an increase in capability.

  4. Precise about the ongoing support of development. Support individuals post development, put a plan in place to ensure they can and do use their new capabilities to benefit themselves and consequently the organisation.

  5. Precise about how to measure the impact on the individual, the organisation, and the ROI.

In this, the first of a 2 part guide, we look at what you need to target and how to identify who you need to develop.

Be precise about what to target

This stage is about identifying the key people capabilities that will help the organisation drive its strategy forward to achieve its goals and objectives. This means that right from the very start you need to be clear about what the organisation’s strategy is so that you can keep checking back to ensure your solutions are going to precisely meet the needs of the organisation.

The key actions at this stage are to:

Think to the future - Where does the organisation want to be, and what does it want to be doing in the next few years?

Articulate the strategy - What is the organisation going to do to meet its goals and


Analyse the people capability - What do the employees need to be doing, and what people skills are needed to make that happen? What knowledge, skills and attributes (KSAs) do they currently hold, and what might they need to develop? Is it a change in skills, knowledge or is it attributes? Pin it down to specific behaviours and outcomes. Something that can be measured. Remember, any development activity needs to be supported by good management and leadership skills. So don’t confine yourself to technical skills; consider how the managers within the organisation can lead their people through any change.

Involve everyone - Communicate and consult from C and board level, through learning, development & HR stakeholders right the way down to the job holders and their managers. Having a common understanding of the strategy and the role each individual can play in helping to achieve it is crucial.

Prioritise development activities - Focus your attention on those interventions that are going to have the biggest impact on achieving the organisation’s goals and objectives.

Be precise about who to develop

Not everyone wants, needs, or responds to development in the same way. Some are already achieving what needs to be done and more – these are your current high-performers who can help to move the organisation forward straight away and be your leaders of tomorrow.

Others are raring to go, eager for every opportunity, but haven’t quite got the right skills yet, these are your potential high-performers.

Some are happy to see things stay the same, minimally contributing at a just satisfactory level, but with no discretionary effort – sometimes unflatteringly referred to as the ‘grey mass’.

The final group are the underperformers – the interventions for whom need to centre initially around straight talking on expectations, after which development may or not be considered.

It is vital that you are precise about identifying the different types of individuals in the organisation. Focus on those who will give you a return on your investment, your current and potential high performers. Interventions that don’t meet the needs of the individual will fail to engage or motivate them to learn, so within this group focus on those who want to develop and target the development opportunities to them first.


Who has the desire to develop? They are by definition in the potential high-performer group but it is not a given that they will be in the current high performer group. Having thoroughly assessed your employees, you may be surprised where the strongest pockets of motivation to develop and contribute to the organisation lie.


Why put the majority of your development budget towards a mediocre improvement in performance of ‘grey mass’ when we know that top talent outperforms the rest? Instead identify the superstars, whichever category they are currently in, and invest in accelerating them. So in summary you are looking at assessing a combination of who needs to develop, who can develop and who wants to develop. This is the group that should get the first piece of the investment pie, prioritising the current high performers, then the potential high performers before the more usually focused on ‘grey mass’. At a leading telecoms company for example, those who have attained the highest two levels in the Sales Academy are offered a choice of development interventions. Only the most motivated and dedicated are able to achieve these levels and the appetite to utilise the development is tangible.

How do you identify these people?

Objective assessment is the key to obtaining reliable data on which to make decisions that are transparent and fair to those involved. Best Business Psychology practice advises that any assessment methodology used is empirically sound as well as tried and tested so you can be sure it is sufficiently accurate. Bringing together the very best methods of assessment techniques also means that you can assess all of the facets of the individual in order to get a holistic view of the individuals in an organisation.

GFB are experts in talent assessment and development. We work with our clients to help identify what to measure, how to measure it and most importantly how they can use the resulting data to populate their talent strategy - ensuring every individual achieves their potential. If you’d like to know more about how we can help please do get in touch:

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