Using Teaching To Build A Talent Pipeline


“I don’t know what Tweeter is, but I think you’ll be good at it.”

Famous last words from my CMO at VisualCV. This was in 2009, just two years after Twitter launched. The audience was mostly marketers trying to see if this thing was worth their time and bloggers trying to get someone to listen. Ironically, I hated the whole concept of social media at the time. I was one of the last people to join Facebook at my college and had no interest in running a Tweeter or even knowing what it was.

I learned the channels pretty quickly despite my distaste for the whole thing. How ego drove response rates. How attention was the only real currency. How to build a relationship from a retweet. It helped that I was simultaneously learning traditional and digital lead gen 101 from one of the best marketers in the world.

That was the best part of my job. No one hesitated to put me in a course or send me to another company to learn for a day. Now that I reflect on that time, that’s probably because they couldn’t afford social media experience at the premium it was sold at back then. But as a kid just two years out of college, I was stoked. No recruiter on earth could have talked me out of that place.

Unfortunately our lack of funding ended that gig, but to this day if someone on that team asked me to work with them, I would. Our connection was bigger than “just a gig.” They were my teachers, my mentors, and people I really trusted. I compared every job to that team for a long time and realized pretty quickly just how special it was.

It’s rare that a company grows from the inside up and the leaders invest in their people instead of new hires – which is pretty weird if you ask me. We’re over here complaining about not being able to find candidates and that we need better employee engagement, yet we’re doing very little to engage the people we already have by growing them into the top talent we need so they can be the ones who attract new people. It’s obvious if you ask me. Teachers play such fundamental roles in our lives.

Why don’t companies teach to build a talent pipeline?

If you’re suffering from a talent shortage where you could be training people in your community, you should 100% be doing that. The money and investment will absolutely pay off – in a few different ways.

  1. You build an incredible referral network of people who learned how to do their job from you. They will tell their future mentees and protégés. 
  2. I would imagine you would also see engagement skyrocket because you could move older workers into training and teaching roles where they can reinvest everything you’ve taught them into your business. 
  3. It’s a great retention strategy too. People would be more emotionally attached to a company when they say, “I learned everything I know from them.”

This isn’t just a hypothesis – I’m seeing it play out in real life.

Three Ears is working with a local non-profit to do exactly this. The idea came up after we interviewed employees and heard that the number one complaint and driver of low retention was growth. They loved the brand and giving back, but it wasn’t clear to anyone how they could develop in their role or learn something outside of the job requirements.

We put those employees into a management rotation program. Think “Enterprise Rental Car Management Program” lite. The immediate benefit was that it was easy to cover hard-to-fill shifts with people who were very motivated to learn. Long term, we’re seeing rising retention simply by providing learning and an opportunity for change in their routine.

I’ve seen the same with manufacturers in remote areas. Something as simple as a job prep course at the local community college contributed over 100 qualified candidates in four weeks when they struggled to see six applicants in six weeks with traditional ad placements.

In an economy where you can Google anything and get training online to be whatever, it’s important to remember that learning and mentorship are some of the most valuable things to humans. We’re more than our jobs, and we want to be treated that way. If your company invests in its people, it will always pay off.