Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Performance and potential

Performance management doesn’t get the press it used to. It seems not so long ago that every other article you read about learning and development was addressing a performance agenda. Even some learning and development job roles were being redefined, and renamed, as being about performance improvement.

And rightly so. Too often, in the past, learning was seen as being about serving time on apprenticeships, or completing courses and qualifications, as though acquiring knowledge, skills and credentials was the main objective. The emphasis correctly shifted to applying that knowledge and skills, and the changes in performance that could be achieved for individual job roles, for teams, and for organisations as a whole. Linking learning and development to performance management meant it was more business results oriented.

So what’s changed? The answer is that talent management and development has come onto the agenda. It’s still important that learning helps develop performance, but there’s now another focus as well. Potential. Instead of just focusing on performance improvement, learning and development is now also about developing employees’ potential, such as to foster critical skills needed in an organisation (key talent development) or to prepare people to take on new roles in an organisation (succession planning). Leadership development (for future leaders) is perhaps the most glaring, and common, example, of investing in the development of potential rather than performance.

Talent management is about maintaining not one focus, but two – the distinct but complementary imperatives of performance and potential.