There’s a reason the middle market is known as the engine for the U.S. economy. It consists of about 200,000 companies producing a third of the U.S. GDP in six industries and four geographies. According to the National Center for the Middle Market, that’s about $6 trillion generated in business services, construction, health care and pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, technology and telecom across the country. In the second quarter of 2015, the middle market revenue growth of 6.6 percent significantly outpaced the S&P 500.
All of this means the middle market needs to hire star talent quickly to keep up with growth and competition. Therein lies the challenge: The middle market cannot attract, develop and retain talent fast enough. Learning leaders can help the middle market company to drive change and leverage growth.
According to Hudson Global’s 2015 report, “Fulfilling Talent Objectives in High Organic Growth Middle Market Companies,” learning leaders must address three things to attract talent: brand name, employee value proposition and speed. Although they can’t compete with Fortune 500 and Global 2000 brand names, development departments along with the C-suite and executive management can drive initiatives so organizations can make a name for themselves using social media; focusing on the customer, product and service excellence; and walking the talk via their mission and vision with active community engagement.
Learning leaders who partner with smaller human resources teams can accelerate their speed-to-market rates by being internally efficient, smart and agile. For instance, they can adopt lean tools and simple tips relatively easily. That includes sharpening their web presence, starting with their webpage, and actively engaging in LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media platforms to accentuate their brand.
Here are three basic steps that can create results faster for the midmarket company, or any learning organization, because of the “big fish in a small pond” effect.
1. Partner with lines of business to understand their challenges with customer needs, operations and service delivery. Together, the two parties can map out business goals, and the learning function can tie the talent skills needed to deliver on those goals. Define three to five metrics to capture what success will look like. Initially, these metrics must tie directly or indirectly to increasing revenue, cutting cost or mitigating risk.
2. Assess talent and help close the gaps. The line of business goals and talent skills offer the learning function a benchmarking framework. Assess talent in a line of business and map out the gaps by person, by role and by business goal. Next, the learning function in conjunction with the line of business and potentially an external learning solutions provider can develop learning solutions to address needs and close the gaps for the talent slated to deliver on those business goals.
For steps one and two, partner with one key line of business and pilot the effort over 12-18 months, documenting results and assessing against the three to five success metrics. Use the pilot to build a business case and have proof that learning can have a positive impact on the bottom line.
3. Build credibility with proof of value. The input here is the output from the previous step. If the pilot results show added bottom line value, the learning function in partnership with the line of business can go to the C-suite for support to champion a companywide rollout.
To retain talent, middle market learning organizations must act strategically by focusing on knowledge transfer from seasoned and retiring baby boomer managers to newly hired millennials and further develop the latter.