Feature Story: Building Better Futures Through Talent Development

Casandra Robinson, manager of Talent Acquisition and Development

In 1985, a catastrophic event would uproot the life of my mother and her 3 kids. My 5 year old sister sustained 3rd degree burns over more than 60% of her body during a tragic accident in our home. She would need care around the clock for several years to come. Recently divorced and now caring for a special needs child, my mother would somehow need to find a way to make more money. Luckily, she would be one of many, yet also far too few people, who have been able to change their lives through on the job training or “professional development”. After one year of twice weekly on site training with Community Hospitals of Oklahoma, my mother was able to upskill from CNA to LVN, significantly increasing her earnings. 

My mother’s story highlights the evolution of professional development. Many talent development practices can be traced back to 1823 and the formation of the first documented “normal school” in Concord, VMT. Much like our very own UCO, these schools focused on strategies intended to provide an engaging, replicable experience for adult educators learning the craft of teaching. By the mid-1900s the normal school tradition began to be adopted outside of education as we see the formation of organizations like the National Staff Development Council in 1969. The NSDC, now Learning Forward, would go on to issue suggestions and standards for professional development across multiple industries. Coupled with this influence, the personal computer boom of the 1980s, including the release of Windows 1.0 in 1985. This set the stage for greater desire and access to structured professional development. By the time of my sister’s accident in 1985, community hospitals and many other places would be offering professional development opportunities as a means of a growing staff, limiting turnover, avoiding on site incidents and so on.

The last few years have marked a significant shift in talent development. According to the2021 Training Industry Report, organizational spending on professional development has increased from a low of 83 billion in 2019 to a near record high of 92.3 billion in 2021. The increase is attributed to several factors. First, job movement and remote requirements brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic revealed a need to provide tech related training as well as opportunities for personal growth. As the pandemic wore on, the demand for more work-life balance and fair and equitable workplace practices grew louder thus spurring a need for management training to support these new expectations. Likewise, greater awareness brought to gender based harassment through the #Metoo movement, and the murder of George Floyd drove demand for Diversity Equity and Inclusion training. A 2021 HR Policy Association Survey found that “of about 400 HR professionals, 85% said their organizations expanded inclusion activities and increased C-suite [executive level staff] involvement in DE&I since Floyd’s murder”. This changing landscape highlights and a move away from organizational value based professional development, toward personal and team dynamic training that adds more value to the individual.

Here at UCO we fully embrace the whole employee approach to talent development. UCO emphasizes growth from the start of employment with our extensive 90 Day Orientation Program. We aim to create programming that acknowledges and serves our staff and faculty not merely in their role, but as a whole person. Rather it be through events and resources offered through our Office of Inclusive Community, a conference or colloquium put on by the Center for Excellence in Transformative Learning or through our award winning Leadership UCO program. We also provide opportunities, whenever possible, for faculty and staff to engage in outside professional development that may cover things we do not offer.

Starting with the tradition of the normal school, professional development remains a vital focus at UCO. Given the fact that my mother often points to the opportunity she was given as having saved us, it is no surprise that I am a firm believer in professional development and lifelong growth. To extend one of my mantras, if not a personal challenge, I ask the question, what can you learn to improve your life today, one year or even five years from now?

If you have questions about talent development please contact their office at talentdev@uco.edu.