How to Develop Talents Without Spending a Fortune and Getting Better Results

January 13th, 2020/ 0 comments/ andreapetrone

January is a critical month for organizations to plan and define a budget for developing their own people.

Most often, the result of this process leads to two possible scenarios: 1) organizations decide to invest a very small figure and do what they can 2) they put aside a large budget to embrace a long and large training program for many employees.

In my experience, these two strategies are equally risky and hardly will generate a return on business.

What to do then? Despite disruption due to all new technologies, the best businesses are still those they have the best people on their side. As a result, it’s not a surprise that organizations compete to find and get the best talents, and spend much time in developing new initiatives to mobilize and retain their employees.

In this article, I evaluate options and propose an effective model to deal with talent and resource development without burning cash or doing nothing, but still getting results.

Small Budget – Tick the Boxes

With a small budget available, often organizations fall into the trap to do something just because something needs to be done. It’s often and unconsciously a “tick the boxes” exercise, where HRs are forced to invest in few activities (normally group training) for soft skills development.

Most of the time, these courses don’t stick long because they are either superficial or too fluffy. Hard to remember the learnings and apply them in the daily jobs.

Worse, I see small budgets used to develop only managers or first-time executives. Besides some positive short-term outcomes, in reality, this approach leads to a bigger gap between executives and managers/employees.

Finally, I see sometimes small budgets used to do only coaching with a selected pool of talents that normally doesn’t last long though. Three or Six individual sessions maximum with no clear goals to achieve at the end of it.

In my experience, these initiatives a very limited impact on results. They are not designed to improve performance. They are simply not enough to change key behaviors and lead to improvements.

Large Budget – Lead to Waste

On the other hand, too much money is wasted across the globe (Hundreds of Billion Dollars every year) in non-sense, too academic and expensive training and education programs.

Large training programs are normally designed as one-size-fits-all. They are very expensive and primarily based on general soft skills development. Even when the courses include more business and organizational development topics, often participants find the context in which they work makes it difficult for them to apply what they learned.

Often, the newly developed skills can’t be really used or implemented because there are more systemic issues rooted in the organization that can prevent the resources to apply what they learned. This is particularly pertinent for those organizations that have a rigid culture that doesn’t allow people to make changes. Either on behaviors or on business processes.

The good news is that coaching is now much more ingrained into these leadership development programs but it seems as a general benefit in the program, not the core of the whole development program.

Given the nature and the design of these programs, leadership development is very broad, generic and lack of personalization. This exactly why it can’t work. Every participant is unique, with proper strengths and weaknesses. With specific behaviors to change or to build. Each resource requires an individual approach and individual development journey.

A Third Way

Based on my experience in leadership development, I suggest focusing more on the following:

Assess First

Irrespective of small or large budgets available, the starting point is not developing a generic program but understanding better who are the participants and assess their core competencies. In addition to that, it’s critically important to identify specific behaviors that, if changed or built, can have a massive impact on performance.

This leads to developing a specific and personalized program. It’s not expensive and it helps managers and executives to understand more about their own people.

More Coaching, Less Training

Managers often use the terms “training” and “coaching” interchangeably. This leads to a lot of confusion and makes it difficult to evaluate the outcomes of each.

The point here is that coaching is, by far, much more effective than training to develop skills and new behaviors.

Given that, once the assessments are completed, a personalized coaching program should be launched with each participant. They will build new skills and shift mindset and behaviors that will lead to better results.

To maximize results and decrease costs, I recommend combining group coaching with individual coaching in particular for specific skills or business areas, where participants from the same team or also different functions and/or seniority, can work together on developing a specific skill or behavior that is very relevant across all organization. If necessary, some of these sessions could be turned into training sessions, as long as they are pragmatic and use real and pertinent business cases that can generate discussion and true learning.

In fact, in my opinion, to develop a robust and effective program, the best approach is therefore hybrid. Assessments, Coaching, Training, Mentoring, Facilitation.

The Role of the Managers

Irrespective of using external or internal coaches to develop and lead the whole program, more responsibilities should be given to the managers. Their role is to become the new coaches within the organization.

This requires a major shift, as often managers have a more directive style or act as mentors, so they lead their people by teaching and showing them what to do. To develop and execute a terrific leadership program, they need to truly coach their own people. Coaching managers to become coaches should be a priority.


These three simple initiatives (focus more on assessments, coaching versus training, and managers act as coaches) can be developed by all organizations. They don’t require large budgets and are more effective than most of the traditional ready-made training packages offered by many big companies or other institutions.

Based on my experience in designing and implementing leadership development programs, I believe this approach as a number of benefits: without spending a fortune, you will build effective leadership skills for your resources, get better business results and performance, and you will attract and retain more talents.

They will love working for you. This is how you beat competition.


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If you want to discuss how I can help you to develop and lead your development programs, please contact me here. 



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