Turning staff potential into financial gain

Staying successful by developing employee skills

Given their full potential, over 80 per cent of employees in Germany are underchallenged. Two thirds of HR managers report that staff potential remains untapped. Johannes Klingele, a student at Steinbeis University Berlin (SHB) and the head of purchasing at valve drive maker Mahle Ventiltrieb, plant Zell i.W., decided to investigate this for his bachelor’s thesis. Using a modified Balanced Scorecard alongside key performance indicators, he evaluated how well staff potential was being used in the business.

Failure to capitalize on employee talent is money down the drain – which holds a company back in the market. This becomes particularly apparent during a crisis when all the company can do is use existing staff skills. Klingele’s project demonstrated exactly why companies need to prioritize their skills development strategies – and ensure employees are living up to their full potential. Every employee can be worth more to a company.

Klingele’s results prompted Dr. Wolfgang Nauendorf, head of the faculty for Organisational and Personal Development at Steinbeis University Berlin, to follow up the thesis with a research project. This was conducted at a Mahle plant in Zell im Wiesental, Germany.

Just how much does staff skills training affect company success? To answer this question, the Steinbeis team developed a model tailored to company goals. Relevant variables were determined via field work in different departments of participating companies. The team developed and validated ways to measure these variables, using them as indicators to assess levels of skill transfer. Finally, a detailed cost-benefit analysis was used to quantify the effect of skills training and “talent tapping” on company business.

This model for making the most of employee talents provides a range of solutions to a number of key questions: how can measurement systems like these be integrated into existing corporate cultures? How do different skill levels affect employee behavior? What different stages does each project go through? How can we encourage staff to strive to be more than just “average”? How can we manage when each measure takes effect? And last but not least: how much added value will employees offer – in figures – if their potential could be put to better use?

The project was presented at HRM Expo in Cologne, Europe’s biggest trade fair for HR management. Taking the stand were Johannes Klingele, Dr. Wolfgang Nauendorf, and Nina Kessler, an MBA student at Steinbeis University Berlin. The presentation met with plenty of interest, which in turn led to action: several companies got in touch afterwards to hear more about implementing and assessing methods for maximizing potential. 

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