Talent development programs are an essential component of any organization's strategy for attracting and retaining top talent. These programs provide employees with opportunities to learn new skills, enhance their existing abilities, and advance their careers within the company.
By offering such programs, organizations can demonstrate their commitment to their employees' growth and development, which can help to keep them engaged and appreciated in their roles.
In this article, we’ll break down the basics of talent development and go deep on 7 ways to take your talent development initiatives to the next level.
A quick recap on the history of talent development
While traditional methods such as increasing compensation and offering training programs have their merits, they often fall short when it comes to creating a sustainable culture of high performance.
Likewise, studies conducted have shown that 70% of employees considered a company’s culture before considering employment and 56% valued culture over salary.
What do we make of this?
Employees increasingly desire to work in an environment that values their contributions and invests in their growth and development, not just a paycheck and a list of benefits.
Broadening that investment to all employees has shown that businesses are 4.2 times more likely to outperform companies than restrict development to management.
Statistics show that investment in training and development can often fall short of expectations, with the average business spending $2,200 on average, per employee – with only 30% reporting a positive return on money invested.
However, it doesn’t have to be this way. With the right understanding and approach, talent development can help you build a culture of high performance for your organization.
Let’s now unpack the right approach to talent development.
What is talent development?
The book Capabilities for Talent Development: Shaping the Future of the Profession by ATD (Association of Talent Development) Press defines talent development as,
"the efforts that foster learning, employee engagement, talent management, and employee development to drive organizational performance, productivity, and results. To some, talent development is an important tool for unleashing human potential. To others, it is a set of practical capabilities for driving organizational results by creating the processes, systems, and frameworks that advance training and development strategies, succession planning, and learning opportunities."
Simply put, it is a method of identifying an employee’s strengths and creating growth opportunities for them in the company that capitalizes on those strengths.
Or, put another way, it equips employees with new skills and sets them up for career advancement in the company.
It includes activities such as:
- Acknowledging the potential of each employee
- Building on employee strengths
- Moving workers to positions where they are better suited
- Creating plans to help teams grow and thrive over time
- Focusing on talent development initiatives that encourage growth
The ultimate goal for talent development is to cultivate a high-performing organization that can meet its goals and objectives.
Why is talent development important?
Talent development should be a key activity of companies that want to secure a strong future. It helps increase employee engagement and reduces turnover, and saves your company money in the long term. Studies have found that younger employees are at a higher risk of leaving their jobs sooner, mainly because they are not satisfied at work.
One survey found that 48 percent of Millennials and 78 percent of Gen Z expected to leave their jobs within two years. But these employees are still here – which means if executives and business leaders find the right way to engage them, they may become happier and more productive workers.
For example, LinkedIn’s 2019 workplace learning report found that “94% of employees say they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their learning and development.”
Here are some other reasons why you’ll want to think about developing the talent at your organization.
Engages employees by putting them in the driver’s seat of their career
Employees that lack a vision or career plan are more likely to be disengaged and unmotivated in their work. They don’t see a purpose in their jobs. Moreover, they don’t see how they can be promoted to a higher position.
You can increase the engagement of employees by designing a career path uniquely suited for them. Consider their skills and interests and create a learning plan to help them move to the next level.
Retains top talent
The 2020-2022 period marked a change in employees’ willingness to stay in their jobs.
Millions of U.S. workers quit sparking The Great Resignation. Keeping employees and high-potential talent in the face of this change can be a challenge for HR leaders. By investing in talent development, you will help employees see a future at your organization.
Provides autonomy to employees and intrinsic motivation
Allowing employees to take responsibility for their careers can be an important turning point for many. Rather than just passively waiting for a promotion, employees can take the initiative to move their careers forward.
Offering them talent development opportunities allows them to take control of how they apply their skills and strengths to their work. This is core to a successful talent management life cycle.
Supports equity, inclusion, and belonging within the company
Talent development can help employees feel valued as they understand that company leaders want to help them grow. It can also help minorities within the organization feel recognized and know that their leaders want to help them define a path for their career advancement.
Although equity, inclusion, and belonging are hard to measure, it’s so important to invest in because companies can’t afford to build organizations where certain individuals feel undervalued.
Leaders and managers should actively solicit feedback from members of diverse backgrounds within their organization to understand what they can do better to help them progress along their career path.
Check out this article to learn about how this startup became a diverse organization by doing just that.
Talent management vs. talent development
Many people often use the terms talent management and talent development interchangeably, but in reality, they are two distinct concepts with different goals.
Talent management is a collection of processes and practices designed to attract, hire, and retain top talent within an organization. It includes tasks like recruiting, onboarding, performance management, compensation, and benefits.
The goal of talent development is to foster a high-performance culture in which employees are constantly learning, growing, and improving.
Talent development is becoming increasingly important for organizations in today's rapidly shifting and highly competitive business environment – Attracting and retaining top talent is no longer enough to ensure success in a crowded job market.
Organizations must create a culture that promotes high performance and continuous learning in order to stay ahead of the competition.
This necessitates investment in talent development initiatives that assist employees in developing new skills, improving existing ones, and staying current on the latest trends and technologies.
Talent management and talent development are, in the end, two sides of the same coin.
While talent management is concerned with acquiring and retaining top talent, talent development is concerned with maximizing their potential and improving their performance.
Organizations can create a team of high-performing employees who are motivated, engaged, and committed to achieving organizational goals by combining both concepts.
What is a talent development strategy?
A talent development strategy is a comprehensive plan that outlines an organization's approach to improving its employees' skills, knowledge, and performance.
The strategy is designed to support the organization's goals and objectives by creating a culture of continuous learning and development.
A well-crafted talent development strategy typically includes a range of initiatives and programs, such as training and development, coaching and mentoring, job rotation, stretch assignments, and leadership development.
The strategy should be aligned with the overall business strategy of the organization and tailored to meet the specific needs and goals of the employees.
Organizations can create a motivated, engaged, and high-performing workforce capable of driving long-term growth and success by investing in a talent development strategy.
What are the main goals of a talent development program?
To build a culture of high performance and foster employee fulfillment, organizations must prioritize talent development. A talent development program is designed to help employees grow and develop their skills throughout their careers.
These typically include initiatives such as training and development, coaching, mentoring, job rotation, and stretch assignments. A talent development program's objectives are multifaceted and can vary depending on the organization's specific needs and goals.
Some of the primary goals of a talent development program are as follows:
- Reskilling employees to ensure the company stays competitive in the marketplace.
- Preparing for succession planning to set up your organization for future success.
- Foster a culture of continuous learning and development.
- Implementing growth opportunities to help employees advance in their careers.
- Enhancing employee engagement and motivation to help retain top talent.
- Improving the quality of work by equipping employees with the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed.
- Developing a culture of learning and growth to help employees reach their fullest potential.
- Strengthening organizational effectiveness by creating a well-trained and highly productive workforce.
- Aligning workforce development with the organization’s mission and strategic objectives.
- Building relationships and trust between employees and management.
Organizations can create a talented and motivated workforce capable of driving growth and long-term success by focusing on these goals.
7 ways to develop talent and empower high-performing employees
The benefits of talent development are clear. Here are the steps to actually put talent development practices to work.
1. Define your company's goals
It is critical to establish clear goals and objectives for your organization and effectively communicate them to your employees. This gives them a sense of purpose and direction, as well as helps them understand how their work contributes to the company's overall success.
Some examples might include such objectives as attracting candidates that are high quality and skilled, retaining existing highly-skilled staff, aligning with wider existing workplace goals such as diversity, or improving customer service.
2. Interview employees to discover hidden talents and interests
Individual development is at the heart of any talent development program, and it is critical to identify each employee's areas of interest and strengths.
Talent development interviews, which provide a platform for employees to share their aspirations, talents, and areas where they would like to grow, are one way to accomplish this.
These interviews enable employees to reveal their current capabilities as well as those they wish to develop, and they assist managers in better understanding their employees.
Through talent development interviewing, employees can discuss their career goals and aspirations, giving managers an opportunity to understand how they can support their employees' growth and development.
Managers can use this data to create tailored development plans for each employee, which could include training, job shadowing, coaching, or mentoring. Managers can provide stretch assignments that challenge employees to step outside their comfort zones and develop new skills by identifying areas of interest and strengths.
3. Connect leaders with high performers through mentoring relationships
One-on-one mentoring is the ideal setting for talent development, with participants reporting they were “more engaged than their counterparts”. It allows mentees to focus on their professional development through goal setting. Mentors act as advisors and guides as the mentee defines their goals and set out to attain them. Regular meetings act as progress check-ins for both the mentor and mentee.
Keeping the mentee accountable helps propel their development and goal attainment further. As trust builds in the mentorship, the mentee benefits from insights offered by their mentor. These include feedback on performance or goals and can also include wisdom and knowledge the mentor has gained and is passing along
4. Connect colleagues at the same level for peer development
Researchers have discovered that peer learning is already happening at our organizations, but informally. If colleagues have questions, they are 55% more likely to ask each other for answers before seeking out a manager or someone higher up. This may be because our peers are constantly around us, while leadership can be harder to reach when a challenge arises. There are many benefits of peer-to-peer learning in the workplace, including knowledge sharing, training, and talent development opportunities.
5. Design individual training programs
Traditional classroom training has evolved due to technology, offering efficient and flexible alternatives like individual coaching, on-demand online learning, and live digital training. Personalized guidance is provided through one-on-one coaching or mentoring.
Online platforms enable self-paced learning with various courses and resources. Live webinars allow remote access for global employees, encouraging real-time interaction between instructors and participants.
6. Organize groups to discuss common challenges and goals
Enabling employees with similar interests or backgrounds to support each other is essential for talent development. Over 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies have employee resource groups or ERGs. These groups are spaces where employees can access resources and support unique to the challenges they face at work. They also serve to build connections among employees and training opportunities.
7. Engage in career pathing with all employees
Career pathing is an important aspect of talent development because it can help employees achieve their professional goals while also improving their skills and knowledge.
It entails creating a unique path for each employee that provides insights into various opportunities and positions within the company that match their interests, skills, and expertise. It is important to note, however, that career pathing is not synonymous with traditional career advancement or simply climbing the corporate ladder.
Instead, career pathing is concerned with identifying opportunities for advancement, which may or may not be vertical or linear. Employees who move laterally within an organization can gain new experiences and broaden their skill sets while still making progress toward their career goals.
Through career pathing, career progression can be seen more as “moving within a lattice” rather than “climbing a ladder”. Employees can gain a better understanding of their career options within the organization and develop a clear roadmap for their future growth through both upwards, and lateral movement.
Kick-start talent development in your organization
Many benefits can be reaped with talent development initiatives. From increasing employee engagement to attracting talented employees, having a development strategy for your employees can quickly lead to improvements across your organization. Taking care of your best and brightest is the best way to build a better organization.
Curious about how organizations can start their own talent development programs? Starting a mentoring program is an effective way to encourage employees to explore their career goals and gain advice from leaders within your organization. You can learn all about it in our guide to starting a mentorship program.