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(In) House Construction

Kevin Wheeler predicts an HR revolution will turn corporate training on its ear. In order to survive and thrive in the future, he says, every fast company must deploy a strategic minister of talent. Here’s why.

Who?

Kevin Wheeler, former senior vice president of staffing at Charles Schwab and current president of Global Learning Resources, a consulting and training company that assists organizations in developing business-focused corporate education strategies as a tool for recruiting and retaining top talent.

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What’s the Problem?

“How can I control the shape and personality of my team if I’m constantly reacting to talent shortages and work overloads?” Wheeler repeatedly encountered that question during his tenure at Charles Schwab, a fast-growing company with escalating talent demands. The answer seemed so obvious, and so obviously overlooked, that Wheeler left Schwab to start Global Learning Resources.

Background

Competitive employers today have three choices: import talent, export work, or develop talent on the home turf. The first option is expensive. The second affords managers little control over the day-to-day work. And the third represents a long-term investment in education, training, and retention. You choose.

“If you work out the formula in your head, you’ll find it’s cheaper and more efficient to hire two new college grads who have an interest in programming and teach them to be Web designers or Web masters than it is to compete in the open marketplace,” says Wheeler, who spoke at Fast Company’s recent TalentLabs event in San Francisco. “Education and recruiting are coming together.”

That union will yield great changes in the HR field, Wheeler says. Soon, HR will concentrate on just two objectives: acquiring and developing talent. The remainder of HR’s current responsibilities — from payroll to benefits to off-sites — will be outsourced or administered by contractors, Wheeler says. The ground will shift beneath HR’s feet.

“People are the critical factor today,” he says. “If you have really smart, talented people with above-average skills, you’re going to win. That’s a given. But how can you build a training and education effort that will bring them in and keep them?”

What’s Your Solution?

Wheeler calls it the Greater Education Effort — the push within fast companies to hire or promote chief learning officers, ministers of talent, and people gardeners — keepers of the talent who are specifically responsible for acquiring, developing, growing, and deploying talent. “If the tech team says, ‘We need a Web master,’ the minister of talent should be able to say, ‘Good — I’ve got three people in training. We can hire someone tomorrow, but I’ve done a market analysis that shows it will cost an additional $25,000 to recruit an outsider.'”

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Wheeler urges burgeoning companies to seek out ministers of talent and to think outside the limits of traditional HR. He contends that recruiting must become a proactive process rather than a reactive one; recruiters need to acquire and prepare talent strategically for a company’s growth and change. “Every company needs at least one person who is asking, ‘How can I help this company achieve its business goals through its people?,'” he says. “Most importantly, that person must follow up with, ‘Who, specifically, do we need? Are we going to find them inside or outside the company? And how much will they cost?'”

And the answers to those questions? “We’re still in the dark ages. In 1900 we had pretty lousy factories compared to today. Today we have pretty lousy training, development, and acquisition tools compared to what we will have in 10 years. We can make history today.”

Learn more about Global Learning Resources on the Web at www.glresources.com

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