Magazine article Talent Development

Built to Learn: Human Capital Expert Mary Slaughter Discusses the Current State of Talent Development and What Might Be in Store for the Future

Magazine article Talent Development

Built to Learn: Human Capital Expert Mary Slaughter Discusses the Current State of Talent Development and What Might Be in Store for the Future

Article excerpt

Mary Slaughter is a director with DelOitte Consulting in its Human Capital Practice, where she advises clients on their talent development strategies and broader human capital initiatives. Prior to her position at Deloitte, Slaughter worked for 30 years as a practitioner, gaining a wide variety of industry experience in roles including chief talent officer and chief learning officer. She also is a former member of the Association for Talent Development's Board of Directors. With this blend of practitioner-consultant experience, Slaughter explores current human capital challenges and trends and envisions the future of the talent development function in the following Q&A.

You have worked in the field of talent development for more than 25 years. You have seen the profession change quite a bit, and the challenges that leaders face evolve, too. With these shifts in mind, what are the human capital themes taking center stage in today's world of work?

At this year's World Economic Forum in Davos [Switzerland], a dominant theme was the global emergence of the fourth Industrial Revolution. At its core, this revolution is being described as the shift from simple digitization to innovation based on combining the power of multiple technologies.

As a result, businesses are facing accelerating challenges: new economic models, bold customer expectations, outdated organizational structures, and a relentless drumbeat for continuous innovation. From a human capital perspective, the demand for highly skilled talent seems daunting at best.

Given this human capital landscape, what are some of the greatest challenges facing those who are leading talent development in their organizations?

Having worked in the field of talent development for decades, it strikes me that roles such as chief talent, learning, or people officers have the potential to be part of the problem unless we embrace the profound shift in how learning now happens. As I talk with peers across industries and within consulting about the challenges they are facing, I've gradually been reimagining the success profile of future talent development leaders.

For years, the world of learning and development has been deeply rooted in processes and models that were linear, iterative, and oriented toward perfection. Today we know that the speed of change can work in direct opposition to those old tried and true models of learning.

For starters, we should all take a hard look in the professional mirror and challenge ourselves to give up the illusion of control. Continuous learning is the new normal, and it's driven by the individual and enabled by the organization, not the other way around.

Exceptional talent development happens when the most relevant ideas are discoverable at the moment of need. Immediacy, relevance, ease of access, and the ability to apply should become our new gold standards for learning.

What are the expectations and characteristics of today's learner that talent development professionals must pay attention to as they think about managing the future of the function?

Imagine working for an organization where employees continuously learned without the L&D function being directly involved. One metaphor that makes sense to me is that of a highway infrastructure. The architecture was designed to enable drivers to travel between locations, but the builders had no idea when or why individuals would use it. Short of a few traffic laws, each of us is free to use road infrastructure to go where we want, when we want, and for whatever purpose we choose.

If there's one common theme across all learners, it's that the bar has been raised on their expectations and there's no end in sight. Influenced by marketing and the practice of customer segmentation, learners are seeking a consumer-grade experience that is relevant, immediate, mobile, and just enough substance for the moment of need. …

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