Today's Talent-Based Workforce
Imagine the US workforce in 1876. America was still a relatively young country at 100 years old. And our workforce hadn't materially changed in that 100 years. The majority of the workforce was still in the agriculture sector. For every three farmers, you had one person working in a factory. By 1920, the numbers were essentially equal.*
Like the introduction of machines changed the landscape of occupations in America, technology and its use in services industries (which compose around 80% of the workforce today) has again changed the landscape in the modern era. In 1876, you would've been hard pressed to find a farmer not investing in the tools to ensure his end-product was amazing: water, nutrients, soil, bug-killing. In the age of the machine, investment in maintenance became a necessity for factories: grease, oil, replacement parts. The crops and machines in these timeframes stand out as the most valuable resources in which to care for and invest.
With that said, when you think about the companies of today and their most valuable resource, what is it? Is it the computers on the desks? Is it the food in their new-age, fringe-benefit kitchens? I've found the most valuable resource is the people sitting in the seats and the intellectual property they produce.
The Value of Talent
As a business owner, I know that the right person is worth their weight in gold. Even that cliche analogy vastly undervalues their true impact. They can design a platform without having done it before, like our designer. They can do engineering cartwheels to stand up a platform that leaves people saying, "Wait, this isn't just a prototype?" as our two-man engineering ninjas did. So these people, these amazing brains, when I think about why they are what they are, beyond the nature vs. nurture debates about their personalities and what at the core makes them hard working, it also boils down to one word for me: TALENT.
They are experts in their discipline in a way that provides tremendous value to our organization. Their talents, like those of many modern workers, were honed through a community of contributors: our company, other companies, mentors, articles, schools, partners, peers, friends, trade shows. Yet, when I think about what I see in the market from companies for systematic investment in their most important tool, it's surprisingly absent from most budgets, or dismally small if it does exist. I'm of course talking about training.
The most valuable resource is the people sitting in the seats and the intellectual property they produce.
According to a 2015 report by Training Magazine, "employees received 53.8 hours of training per year, 13 hours more than last year." That's about an hour a week. At the pace of technology and business, is an hour a week enough commitment to professional growth and development to actually make a difference? Is it enough to truly nurture talent?
Even within services, how you acquire and maintain talent is vastly different. To illustrate, let's compare the talents of a marketer to those of a mason. Masons learn through lengthy apprenticeship to lay bricks from those who have mastered the trade before them. Likewise, today companies rely on business masters to mentor and coach incoming professionals, like marketers. The difference? Brick laying technics and advancements are seldom, once you learn the skill, you practice it and it forms talent. If you were a talented mason in 2002, you are likely a talented mason in 2017. A marketer, on the other hand, if well educated by talented professionals in 2002 and deemed themselves to be "talented," could today have no value. The speed of technology and business in general means that marketing professionals will gradually lose market-needed talents.
Business is a rapidly moving river. If you sit on a floatie, you will fall behind. Whether you're looking to maintain or gain, you MUST be swimming.
So again, I'll ask, is an hour of training enough to stay or improve your position? Granted, I own an education company, so my view on this is probably obvious. I think we are not investing as heavily in continuing education as we should be.
Human capital, but more pointedly, the talent in that human capital, is the most important resource in companies. When properly nourished, your company's harvest will be plentiful.
We are not investing as heavily in continuing education as we should be.
Case Study: LeadMD
As a quick demonstration, at LeadMD, a marketing operations consulting firm (which I am also CSO at), there is a tremendous amount of knowledge share that must occur. We specialize in a niche area of marketing, specifically marketing automation, and specifically Marketo. Onboarding new consultants includes LeadMD-as-a-company stuff, Marketo technical elements, as well as our specific methodologies around digital marketing. I owned all new employee training and invested around 500 hours per employee in the first year. Because I was a billable resource, billing at no less than $200/hr, that's a cost to the organization of at least $100,000 per employee.
And frankly, it sucked. I never provided two employees consistent information. I became frustrated at having to repeat the same talk tracks over and over. Any attempt to record the trainings and have new people listen to them was fraught with issue. The videos were boring, information had changed and changing it in the video was a pain in the ass. The feedback was constantly, "I didn't know about this." "I've never seen or heard about this before." It sucked.
When we created Six Bricks, it was a means to alleviate that suck. At some point I'll detail how we moved all of our on boarding into Six Bricks, but for now, the results: We have invested just under 500 hours of man power to create four full weeks of on boarding training. Of course there are still daily touch bases with managers and the real-world experience of hopping on client calls, but by in large anything that CAN be scaled, tested and optimized, IS within Six Bricks. Now, our managers' have cut down training time by 80% and our employees are saying thing like, "Yes, I know how to do that. I learned it like day 3."
Talent is the product LeadMD sells. It is created through the tribal knowledge we've amassed. Investing in talent has always been a priority for LeadMD. It's the reason that companies like Amazon, Google and Apple see the employees of our little firm as rockstars.
Now, our managers have cut down training time by 80% and our employees are saying thing like, "Yes, I know how to do that. I learned it like day 3."
Talent is the most important resource and the investment in it is the way for companies to experience exponential growth. Talent begets talent. Investing in that talent is frankly just good for business.
*Smart stats from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2760060/