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Talent Development

What Is Talent Development?

Talent Development Defined

We’re living and working in a volatile climate, and businesses need to evolve if they want to keep up. But your business can’t evolve unless your people do — and that’s where talent development comes into play. One of your greatest responsibilities as a human resources leader is to prepare people to lead your business in any environment. Developing the talent you already have is a powerful way to make that happen.

Learn what talent development is, why it matters, and how to create a talent development plan that powers your business strategy.

Talent Development 101

Talent development is one way employers fill skills gaps that prevent the organization from achieving its strategic goals. To develop your talent means you’re providing learning and development activities targeting the skills your organization needs most. These could be technical skills, soft skills, or both.

A talent development program serves two essential functions in your organization. One, it invests in employees to keep their skills, abilities, and knowledge up to date. Development activities help people contribute to organizational success in new and exciting ways.

Second, a robust talent development program helps you build the next generation of business leaders. These programs identify high-potential employees and provide opportunities to learn new skills, knowledge, and abilities.

Why Talent Development Matters

Facilitating ongoing workforce development is one of your greatest priorities as a people leader. Consider these reasons developing talent should be a key part of your people strategy.

Employee Skills Gaps Are Increasing

The skills gap is the difference between the skills employees have and the skills organizations need to be successful. The skills gap can be costly, especially in a swiftly changing work environment. When employees struggle to adapt to changing business priorities, their performance and engagement worsen, which also harms the business.

As technology and business conditions change, so does your workforce. Your talent development process is an essential part of understanding your skills gaps, mitigating them, and driving tangible results.

Track performance data so you can categorize the skills your workforce has, and compare that inventory to changing business needs. Plan from there to target the skills your workforce needs most.

Top Talent Is Harder to Find on the External Market

The external talent pool is becoming increasingly shallow amid a tight labor market where your competitors are also hiring with fervor. Even during a tense economic climate, the most qualified individuals are in high demand — and command the salary to match.

With smaller external talent pools, organizations are turning to internal sources to meet their talent needs. A strong talent development program helps you upskill high-potential talent to fill key roles in the business. Instead of hiring top engineers externally, for example, consider upskilling employees who have the potential for such roles.

Keep in mind that not every career move is necessarily a promotion. Lateral moves can be powerful for the business and for employees who benefit from reskilling while filling equivalent roles in different departments or functions. Internal hires are an underappreciated pool of high-potential talent. Make sure your talent development program accounts for them.

Internal Mobility Boosts Employee Engagement

Filling skills gaps internally can create a more engaged and motivated workforce. When employees get the opportunity to develop their skills, they’re more likely to be invested in their work and helping the organization succeed.

Because talent development is a significant investment of company time and resources, it’s important that your program improves the employee experience and takes participants on a learning journey. The destination? The next important step in their careers within your organization.

Train and encourage managers to help employees discover where their skills can have the greatest impact within the org chart. Make sure managers know how to connect employees with the development resources they need.

3 Elements of an Effective Talent Development Strategy

Every talent development program is unique, but these elements are essential to the most effective programs.

Executive Sponsorship

An effective talent development strategy requires buy-in and support from company leadership.
Executive sponsors lend credibility and visibility to the talent development initiative and can secure funding and other resources. These sponsors remove roadblocks and advocate for the initiative. That support ensures that talent development is considered a priority within the culture. Without that, employees won’t feel confident asking about development opportunities or devoting time during the workday to learning and development.

As an HR leader, you can make the case for a talent development program and illustrate its importance to the business. Combine storytelling and performance data to show how skills gaps endanger productivity and profit — and how development programs solve for that.

Clear Organizational Goals

Talent development programs exist to prepare the workforce for tomorrow’s needs. But before you can identify what those needs are, you have to know where the business expects to go. An effective talent development strategy takes its lead from the business strategy.

HR leaders need a clear line of sight into business goals so they can make sensible talent plans. If you’re entering new geographic markets, for example, you’ll need a workforce with the skills to support the preparation and transition, not just the post-launch phase.

Employee Training Resources

Learning resources are an indispensable component of your talent development program. You can purchase pre-made courses on universal topics through a standard learning management system (LMS), which should integrate with your HR tech stack to collect learning data.

You can also add custom courses to your LMS, delivering even more targeted content to your employees. This feature allows you to customize learning based on the department or role, or to emphasize elements that are specific to your company culture.

Invest in customizable learning resources. Enboarder, for example, enables you to personalize learning journeys for employees through a mix of microlearning, socially reinforced training programs and implementation in the flow of work. The more you can tailor the learning experience, the more team members will get from it.

How to Create a Talent Development Plan

Creating and executing a talent development plan is one of the most important steps you can take as a people leader. Use these steps to get started.

Align Program Goals With the Business Strategy

To be successful, your talent development plan must align with the business strategy. This means understanding what the company is trying to achieve and how your efforts support those goals.
Alignment also includes how you measure progress and success. Define the metrics you use, and make sure they inform the business strategy. Regularly review for alignment, too, especially during budgeting season.

You’ll also want to keep in mind your strategic HR goals. What does your talent management strategy look like? What goals have you already set for succession planning? Your talent development program should support these goals, too.

Establish a Talent Development Process

One of the most complex pieces of talent development is delivering programming that resonates with employees. Consider your existing HR programs: Where does it make sense to incorporate talent development?

In most cases, you’ll start with performance management and one-on-one coaching conversations. Tools like Enboarder enable you to make these sessions more meaningful by providing prompts about goals and development that managers can use to guide the conversation. As managers learn about employees’ goals and potential, they can craft a customized learning path for each employee. Managers can also refer high-potential employees for leadership development and succession planning purposes.

Your process should also cover such things as course offerings, workflows, and skills tracking, as well as what to standardize and what is decided by managers and their teams.

Test, Review, and Revise

After implementing your talent development process, monitor and evaluate its effectiveness, making changes as necessary.
Gather feedback from managers about whether the program encourages learning and improves performance. Survey employees, to find out what they’re learning and whether they can apply it to their day-to-day work. Find out, too, whether your talent development efforts support their long-term career goals.

Use that feedback to inform your decisions about how to modify, reconfigure, or replace your talent development processes. This is an ongoing process, and needing to improve is an opportunity rather than a negative.

Power Growth With Talent Development

People want to develop and grow in their jobs to reach their full potential. And if your organization can make that possible, those folks will return that investment with one of their own: an investment in your organization. As your people evolve and develop, so does your organization — and that’s worth investing in.