Enablement: The Future of Talent

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Enablement – the act of giving someone the authority or means to do something.

I don’t care for buzzwords. They are detours from progress and mostly serve to make us sound silly to our future selves. I’m going to plant a flag here, however, and say that enablement is a concept that needs to generate more buzz in the talent industry, and I’m more than happy to tend to that hive. Let’s talk a bit about what enablement is, the fact that it’s certainly not a new concept, and why organizations need enablement programs and professionals now more than ever.

So What Is Enablement?

Returning to the basic definition, enablement is “giving someone the authority or means to do something,” but I’ll offer a modification of my own based on my vision for talent development:

Enablement is empowering individuals to act in the best interest of the organization (and its customers) by providing support, tools, platforms, and development opportunities that encourage an ownership mindset and by removing any possible barriers to success.

Simple, right?

Unfortunately, if you’ve been in the talent industry long enough, you would likely agree that while many components of this definition are widely lauded, we (mostly) don’t do enough to truly earn the title of “enablers.” Some organizations support enablement better than others, but most still focus on top-down “training,” hoping that their facilitators are engaging enough or that their eLearning is comprehensive enough to get the job done. They probably aren’t, in either case, at least on their own.

Enablement Has Been Around The Block

Do a Google search for enablement and see what pops up. Lots of results. Take a closer look, and you’ll see a prevalent theme: sales.

Sales enablement as a practice is well-established and accepted as a need in sales organizations. Dig a little deeper into many explanations of what sales enablement is, however, and you’ll start to see why it’s odd that the concept has mostly remained tied to the sales realm. But once you take the ‘sales’ out of explanations it sounds a lot like what talent development professionals need to be doing.

The silver lining here is that we have an excellent opportunity to learn and borrow from sales enablement practices.

Why Organizations Need to Focus on Talent Enablement

Many of my fellow talent development professionals may take exception to the idea that we don’t already focus on enablement. There are great examples out there of organizations that have turned the corner from old-school “training” to more of a service model, providing performance support as a primary goal, but for the most part, we are lacking.

To set a baseline for universal enablement as a strategy, consider consumer media and information consumption for a moment. The last time you wondered something aloud amongst friends or engaged in a debate about a specific fact, did you rush out and sign up for a seminar or college course on the topic? Well, maybe you did, but you’re in the minority. The rest of us quickly pop open our phones or laptops, search for the answer, and receive immediate enlightenment. We have to meet our talent in this same space, but we have to go further. 

For true enablement, we have to understand what people need to excel, and then we have to find ways to provide them with those resources or remove obstacles at their most critical moments of need. People can’t interrupt work for a seminar or course and then be expected to recall every bit of relevant knowledge when they need it. We have to be there with them the whole time. It has to be seamless. It has to be natural.

Enablement is more than a buzzword, and it’s more than what most organizations are committed to. Enablement must become the strategy for talent development, the center around which all other programs orbit. 

About the Author

Rich Cordrey is an award-winning learning, performance, and technology professional who has spent the last 9+ years leading key growth initiatives, building high-performing teams, and developing strategies across multiple systems and workgroups. He is currently driving a transformation in digital content delivery and distribution at the largest automotive retailer in the U.S., AutoNation, leveraging a combination of existing document storage, traditional LMS platforms, and innovative mobile performance support applications. Rich is driven by his singular passion for finding ways for people to develop their personal and professional skills, resulting in increased performance and satisfaction. You can contact Rich via email (me@richardcordrey.com) to connect regarding consulting, conference speaking, or just to chat.

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