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How to Develop Talents without Forced Employee Training

Organisational HR processes are designed to attract, develop, motivate, and retain productive, engaged employees. One common way companies take to develop their talent is through providing employee training – whether it be sending them on formalised courses, or even to acquire a degree at the top business school. 

It is a great initiative to retain and engage valuable employees, but not enough to ensure the long-term success of the organisation. 

In fact, many companies’ talent development strategies are struggling to do that, starting a global “war to develop talent”. So, what can we do to win this war? How can we revamp talent development? 

Here are some top tactics on how to develop employees without forcing them to go on training. 

#1. “Flexi-fy” Training Programs 

Employees are likely to have very different working patterns. 

We can all relate, particularly through the pandemic. It is hard to juggle all the piling deadlines, back-to-back meetings, and a 17-month old baby in hand. 

Make sure employee training are tailored to suit the learning styles and needs of the workforce. This will help guarantee the effectiveness of the program.

When you offer employee training that doesn’t suit individual schedules, it comes at a personal cost to them. 

If the training cannot accommodate a wide variety of working patterns and personal needs, employees care less about the training and development courses being offered. Ultimately, this can negatively impact their performance and increase the risk of losing them to an employer who will accommodate their schedule.

You can make life easier for employees by offering development programs on a several dates and times, and in a variety of formats. 

In particular, most employees, when given the opportunity to improve their current skills, will eagerly participate in self-paced training. Bite-sized online modules are perfect for employees to learn at their own pace and time. 

Hubspot has done well through their self-paced training. It is tracked and recorded. Each certificate gained by a member of the team is visible to the entire team. 

#2. Rethink the Relationship between Learning and Working (Autonomise Opportunities for Employees) 

Employees who want to focus on their own growth and development will always be up to do and learn more. So why not combine both? 

This is often overlooked as Lynda Gratton, Professor of Management Practice at London Business School describes

Organisations seem to miss the connection between on-the-job learning, and the actual work itself. 

As job design researchers add, these on-the-job touchpoints are often more effective and more long-lasting than formalised training courses that employers send employees to.

Employees are also more motivated and engaged to be learning the things that they are interested in while contributing to the organisation’s goals. 

In fact, successful organizations are making very good use of experiential learning: On-the-job learning where experiences are gained; and just-in-time learning.  

Particularly, this appeals to the millennials who consist of roughly 50% of the working population! The Millennial Survey has found that 2 out of every 3 millennials expect career development opportunities.  So for them, it is being able to use their talents and capabilities to make meaningful contributions.

Therefore, companies should reconsider how they deliver employee training. 


Consider giving employees the opportunity to put their hand up to help, or explore new skills to develop themselves without formalise training. 

That way, they can sign up to stretch assignments themselves which can act as training to the employees. See the flow-on effect here. 

Autonomising opportunities for employees can allow them to explore new and enrich skills that they already have. These stretch assignments are another way of training employees without forcing them to go on one that may not interest them. That way, organisations can foster cultures of development and collaboration, which can reap benefits in higher motivation and productivity levels as well as performance. It will also lead to a stronger employer brand and market reputation in the long term.


First, you will be fostering the culture of development and collaboration in the organisation. Maximising employee knowledge and capabilities.  

A study by the Institute for Corporate Productivity found that companies with a collaborative culture are 5.5 times more likely to be high-performing than companies that don’t have one. 


Second, those who can see that their work is helping and has an impact are more motivated.

Behavioural economist and MIT Professor Dan Ariely revealed that people tend to perform better when they see how it can help

Supplemented by Adam Grant, his research also indicates that the warm fuzzies from knowing that our work is helping others. It sparks a more subconscious source of motivation, leaving us more motivated and productive


Third, this contributes to the employer brand with time.

That is, boosting the company’s reputation as an “employer of choice” and attracting those who are also excited about their own growth and development! An organization’s brand is one of its most important assets and conveys a great deal about the company’s success in the market, financial strengths and position in the industry. 


Of course, the intricacies lie in how you communicate with your employees about the opportunities available to them. 

To do this effectively, organisations must have a strong digital tool, capable of aligning employees’ skills and interests with various opportunities offered internally. 

At the same time, the piece of technology needs to be capable to surpass organisational barriers (such as departmental, local levels) to engage the wider workforce. 

Further, it must also be compatible with other systems that your business is already using for seamless integration. Otherwise, the difficulty in putting their hand up for stretch assignments may deter them from embracing such self-motivated employee training. 

#3. Make leadership (including yourself) available 

This is another area often overlooked, found Gratton.  Mentoring and coaching relationships are one of the most crucial relationships in the workplace. 

She found that companies struggle to realise that on-the-job mentoring, coaching, and stretch assignments are important to the talent development process. 

Seen as developmental relationships by researchers from Boston University, coaching relationships with peers and senior leaders can help employees see new perspectives and understand bigger picture issues. They are fundamental touchpoints to deliver training to employees. 

So, leaders, it is time to make people like yourself available. 

From the employees’ point of view, they don’t know what they don’t know. Leaders, here’s for you to personalise employee training and development.  

  • Utilise your managerial experience and guide employees.
  • Help them determine what may be holding them back.
  • Put their best foot forward to continue to grow and develop within the organisation. 


Be a leader who is available for your people and utilise these touchpoints. On the job mentoring, coaching and stretch assignments are ways to develop and train employees naturally.

#4. Build a Company Culture on Upskilling and Reskilling 

Well, first of all, the two are not interchangeable. Then, we will go into why this is important. 

As you may know, upskilling is the “process of learning new skills or of teaching workers new skills. Therein, helping employees to become more skilled and relevant at their current position. 

Whereas, reskilling is the process of learning new skills so you can do a different job, or of training people to do a different job. It is to make employees available for OTHER jobs WITHIN the organisation. 

Employee training can be delivered in many ways. Fostering a culture of upskilling and reskilling will allow you to attract those who are also motivated in self-developing and training.

Not only does this encourage ongoing learning and self-motivated training. It is also important for several reasons.  

With the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” unveiling AI and automation in the workplace, the World Economic Forum predicts that 75 million jobs will be displaced by emerging technologies. While 133 million new roles are expected to be created by these very same technological advances, we are now playing catch-ups to provide the relevant training

Coupled with intensified competition as we become more globally interconnected, businesses must differentiate themselves  to stand out. That’s why it is paramount to nurture an agile and diverse workforce who is continuously learning, adapting, acquiring, and perfecting new skills. Therefore, a culture of upskilling and reskilling is extremely valuable, and indispensable in any organisation in the not-so-distant future. 

Let your employees choose what they want to get better at. 

#5. Offer Global Mobility

Now, this may not be suited for all organisations. However, as multinational companies expand into fast-growing economies, so do their opportunities to offer global assignments. 

Transferring  competent employees within the global organisation helps foster knowledge sharing. As well, it helps bolster productivity levels and the international competitiveness of the company. 

Global mobility is another way of delivering employee training without forcing them to go on formalized courses.

For instance, Schneider Electric, one of the largest French manufacturers of electrical systems and components, changed its structure from centralized operations in Paris to having multiple headquarters across the globe. That increases the number of opportunities for talent to develop and grow. 

The same goes for Solvay, whose international assignments are also used as to enhance employee performance before sending them off to headquarters in other countries. The global mobility program is fundamental to the employer brand, in attracting and retaining top talents. 

All in all, the key to a successful talent development program starts by aligning  business’s needs with long-term human capital goals. 

That is, having an HR presence in business forecasting and other long-term business planning meetings. This will provide you an in-person and unique perspective, in turn giving you further insights to ensure that your strategies align with the overarching business needs.