Talent development is the process by which organizations ensure their workforce possesses the right skill sets and abilities to execute their jobs today and be prepared for changes to those jobs in the future.
Organizations need to invest in talent development opportunities to make sure that their employees are learning what they need to succeed. Talent development, also known as employee development, includes learning experiences in hard skills, such as coding languages, marketing automation or understanding regulatory compliance. Talent development also covers soft skills such as leadership, working in a team or understanding how to spot a colleague who is struggling with work or mental health.
Organizations not only invest in strategic programs to support their employees but also look for learning opportunities wherever they occur. Organizations that embrace a holistic talent development strategy may offer incentives for employees to learn additional skills on their own time.
Common examples of these incentives are class stipends, paying for some or all of a continuing education or Masters’ program. Another incentive includes bringing in guest speakers to discuss non-core topics, for example, how athletes make decisions or how an entrepreneur grew a different type of business.
A comprehensive talent development strategy involves human resources teams coordinating with executive leadership to establish required core competencies for existing and incoming employees. It is ideal for organizations to establish this process as early in their history as possible and refine it as jobs and skills change. It should be a critical component of existing employee development cycles and part of the onboarding process for future hires.
Focusing on talent development enables organizations to build an agile, adaptive workforce that is prepared for how technology, virtual and hybrid work, and other future trends will impact their careers.
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Talent development and talent management are both important parts of overall employee relations. While some organizations may treat talent development as a sub-sect of talent management, others use the two topics to discuss different approaches.
Talent development identifies ways organizations can help employees learn new skills relevant to their career paths. Talent management focuses on a broader array of topics1(link resides outside ibm.com) related to human resources such as recruitment, onboarding, retention and salary and benefits.
While every organization’s talent development plan is different, some key components are shared by most. Most importantly, the organization will need a comprehensive training program, which engages employees in both practical and theoretical learning about the skills they need to either enhance or learn.
Organizations must always plan for leadership changes, whether executives and middle managers change jobs, move companies or retire. Succession planning is a key component of leadership development. In succession planning, organizations identify the top talent for whom they should create a pathway to future leadership. After they’ve identified these future leaders, they must train them to have the right leadership skills to manage and motivate people.
Organizations create initiatives to empower and solicit feedback from employees. Organizations have learned over time that a key part of the employee experience is being able to share your feedback with senior leadership. Sharing feedback allows employees to express what parts of their job they like and in which areas they need help.
Organizations may find that their employees were trained to do tasks or jobs in a certain way. These employees may need to learn a new way of doing things while remaining in the same role. For instance, marketers who are used to building programs from scratch could benefit from learning and incorporating generative AI in future programs.
Customer service representatives had to learn how to use social media to deal with requests and complaints that began proliferating across those channels. Organizations should invest in reskilling employees to ensure they have the updated skills to address changes in the marketplace and advance their career paths.
This approach helps organizations address employees’ skills gaps in existing and incoming employees. It focuses on one particular job or task that will either be replaced by technology or will no longer be valued by that organization in the future.
For example, cashiers and other retail employees are at risk of displacement by self-checkout and other retail technology advancements. Organizations have the opportunity to upskill their employees to focus more on higher-level problem-solving and customer engagement. This training can allow them to keep their jobs even as more retailers opt for fewer cashiers and more self-checkout.
In corporate America, data entry professionals feel at risk of having their jobs taken by AI and machine learning. Organizations could upskill them to focus more on the insights that stem from the collected data and learn how to derive strategic next steps based on those actionable insights.
Identifying senior talent to guide team members or employees from different departments is a key component of any strategic talent development program. One way to promote efficient mentorship, especially from the leader’s perspective, is job shadowing. In this method, mentees follow mentors around as they do their jobs, allowing the senior leadership to work while teaching.
Organizations are increasingly using technology and asynchronous learning methods to manage their employees’ on-the-job learning. Here are the various channels organizations can use to educate their employees through talent development programs.
Often the best way to communicate the importance of learning a specific skill is to request employees take time away from their desks to attend a seminar or conference. Organizations should consider inviting guest lecturers to demonstrate their knowledge in person so attendees can easily ask questions and avoid distractions from computers and mobile devices.
Virtual recordings, which employees can either view live or on-demand, are an efficient way of one-to-many communications. Employees can watch and rewatch events when convenient, and skip to certain parts to focus on key takeaways.
Sending employees informative emails that they can read immediately or save for the weekend or other areas of free time is a great way to encourage continual learning. Organizations can use newsletters to highlight stats about their talent development program, for example, skills learned and classes completed. They can send reaffirming messages from the CEO or head of talent development, and offer in-depth articles about key skills.
A core component of any learning development program is ensuring the organization can gauge how much knowledge the employees are retaining. Online courses can both serve as educational resources and diagnostic tools to determine whether each employee understands the material and is on their way to developing the skill.
Organizations that deploy talent development programs will reap several key benefits.
Talent development is a valuable pursuit for organizations of all sizes, but it does introduce some challenges that need to be resolved.
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1 What is talent management, McKinsey, 22, May 2023
2 Taking a skills-based approach to building the future workforce, McKinsey, 15, November 2022
3 2023 HR trends: a look ahead, HR Digest, 9, January 2023
5 The real costs of recruitment, Society for Human Resources Management, 11, April 2022
6 How Americans view their jobs, Pew Research Center, 30, March 2023
7 The benefits of employee engagement, Gallup, 7, January 2023
8 These are the top 10 job skills of tomorrow–and how long it takes to learn them, World Economic Forum, 21, October 2020