Talent Development

Build vs buy? Develop talent in-house with the right learning technology

Building vs Buying Talent

Research by Josh Bersin found that it costs roughly $30,000 or more to recruit a mid-career software engineer earning £150,000-200,000 a year (recruitment fees, recruiting technology, advertising, onboarding and increased risk of rapid turnover), compared to $20,000 or less to reskill an employee.

The research and advisory company says the reskilling route leads to savings of up to $116,000 per person over three years.

Developing talent in-house – the cost effective option

So, it’s more economical to develop your own talent than it is to buy talent, but, and this is a big but, you do have to have the right learning technology to support effective talent development. That means digital learning platforms and tools that are sophisticated, agile and multi-functional, while also being accessible to all, multi faceted and easy to use. The need for this kind of technology became both apparent and urgent to a lot of organisations during the Covid-19-induced digital revolution.

Further benefits of tech-enabled talent development

Learning platforms are more than just a cost-effective way to develop talent. They enable continuous learning, reskilling and knowledge sharing to flourish throughout an organisation. They enable communication and collaboration. They drive productivity and performance, employee motivation and experience, recruitment and retention. They also achieve the holy grail of a skilled, future-ready workforce.

These are major benefits for organisations. And for employees, who really want employers to invest in their skills and career trajectory. Growth opportunities and clear career paths are vital to employees, particularly younger ones, as numerous studies show. LinkedIn Learning’s 2021 report for example, says that 76% of Gen Z think learning is the key to a successful career. And a whitepaper by recruitment specialists Robert Walters Group found that 91% of Gen Z say professional training is an important factor when considering a new job.

Why do people attach such importance to learning? Because we all know that the future of work is changing and changing fast. Study after study tells us that skills are changing and those who don’t change as change is happening will be left behind. A report by the professional services network PricewaterhouseCoopers called Workforce of the future: The competing forces shaping 2030 found that 37% of the 10,029 people polled are worried about automation putting jobs at risk, with 74% saying they are ready to learn new skills or re-train in order to remain employable in the future.

The upshot is that when people look for a new job, one of their top priorities is a company’s attitude to skills development – will their prospective employer continuously invest in them so that they have the skills of the future?

Any employer that takes the approach of buying talent rather than developing talent and promoting internal staff into future-facing roles will suffer. The cracks will soon appear in terms of low workforce morale, declining performance and poor retention.

Developing talent in digital workplaces

A strong, tech-enabled talent development strategy is key to a successful work environment. It’s a digital first world that we live, work and learn in now. Even when the pandemic has settled, there is no going back to the way things were. A Deloitte Insights article talks about the shift from the physical workspace to the digital workplace. It says: ‘The new workplace is where the work lives: the shared digital environment used by a team, the collection of digital collaboration and communication tools that workers navigate as they find ways to get things done’.

For this digital workspace to do its job, it has to connect people, bringing them together in the digital space to work and learn in a way that suits them best, individually and collectively.

Learning technology that facilitates talent development

Learning tech needs to be sophisticated, agile and multi-functional, while also being accessible, multi-faceted and easy to use. One of the things that users of the 5app say they like about it is that it is very simple to use. It provides a great user experience – people can use it without any training. They can get to the content they need, at the point of need, and update their skills and learning quickly and easily. This makes it an easy sell for the top team and helps to develop and embed a strong learning culture.

That’s what happened at Greystar, a global leader in real estate management and development. When Greystar, a direct customer of our partner, Hemsley Fraser, signed up 5app it was doing very well – business was strong and it was expanding rapidly across Europe. As a result, employees were often promoted rapidly into new managerial roles and required support in developing the skills they needed to succeed.

Greystar used 5app to build a learning culture throughout the business. This involved the launch of the Greystar Business School and the creation of contextually-relevant content and resources that helped employees at the point of need. It’s been a real success – 89% of the workforce are accessing the learning, there’s been a 24% improvement in performance and productivity, a 90% increase in understanding of Greystar’s goals and objectives and a 35% reduction in the likelihood of employees leaving Greystar to work elsewhere. Greystar, Hemsley Fraser and 5app won the Brandon Hall Gold Excellence in Learning Award in 2020 for this work.


Build or buy? The reality is that the best approach to talent development is a mix of both, but with the focus being on developing talent from within. It’s about workforce planning and horizon scanning – making sure you know what skills are critical now and in the future and then planning how to develop a strong internal pipeline. Achieving this requires organisations to have the right learning technology in place.

And remember, if you don’t think it’s worth investing in the skills of your people, they do. If you neglect internal talent development, chances are your top talent is already scouting around to find a more forward-thinking employer who is committed to taking their skills to the next level.

Use a learning platform that supports your new ways of working and helps develop talent in-house. 5app can support your L&D strategy, create a learning culture, and align learning with the business needs and objectives.

Get in touch to find out more.

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