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Dear Workforce How Can HR Support The Development Of Our Consultants

What best practices can we use to support the development needs of highly qualified and competent consultants?

September 7, 2011

Dear Looking:

Even experts learn things from time to time. There are some simple ideas that may be effective with your employee population.

The easiest--yet somewhat overlooked--tactic is communication. Before you can determine development needs, you'll need to find out what goals and objectives have been set for your consultant population. These days, all types of spending have to be justified, and if you can tie the training to specific goals that have been set for them (and subsequently are linked to the organization's goals), you have a better chance to get the funding approved.

Of course, you'll need to take an individual approach with each person. Talk to their respective managers to see how they believe the consultants will perform against those goals and objectives. Are there any gaps between the goals and their current abilities? If a manager believes an employee will overachieve, then ask where they see the consultant in relation to his career path. What skills, abilities, and experiences are needed to make it to the next level? With that you may find areas where development is needed. Overall, it may not be a classroom, workshop, or seminar setting. Sometimes the best training is on the job.

You, as an HR professional, should make sure the manager and consultant meet and agree to what the goals and objectives are, and what the development plan should be. Follow up with the employee to get his perspective on the meeting. You can coach both sides to ensure that they develop a plan and timeline for development. Hopefully, you'll be able to set some short-term (three to nine months) and long-term (12-24 months) plans for development. Usually, the more highly skilled and senior the individual, the longer the development plan is.

Once you've reviewed the needs of your entire population you may see trends across the organization. This should be identified to your senior management team. If a classroom workshop or seminar is necessary for a larger group, it may be more cost effective to have a specially designed course rather than sending employees to a generic class. You'll also need to prioritize your development needs against your budget to see what you'll be able to accomplish in any one year. This may be a "time budget" more than it is a "money budget"--it's about how much time will be spent these development activities. Very often it has been effective to involve key senior management in the training process (as guest speakers or facilitators). They will have to designate some time away from their current responsibilities.

Lastly, don't forget that not all development needs are met through a workshop or seminar. In fact, with your employee population you may find they need to "live" an experience to achieve their development objectives. Look at this like the MasterCard commercials:

Cost of seminar: $1,275

Cost of billable time: $2,500

Real-life experience: priceless (and probably free).

SOURCE: Don Gaile, principal, DMG Consulting Co., New York City, New York, Feb. 20, 2003.

LEARN MORE: Read a previous Dear Workforce article, "What Steps Should We Take to Develop a Training Function?"

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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