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How to Build a Talent Development Strategy and Track Its Success

Employee Management icon6 min read

Preparing your workforce to meet the challenges of tomorrow requires a robust talent development strategy. When your strategy comprises an optimal mix of training, coaching, and other developmental opportunities, employees receive the skills and knowledge they need to adapt to the changing workplace. As you measure your progress and refine your talent and development program, your organization and employees can reach their goals for skill-building and growth.

How Talent Development Delivers Value

Talent development raises the bar of individual and team performance, helping employees build the technical and soft skills required for success in today’s workplace. Your talent development program can help you achieve the following results:

  • A highly skilled workforce poised to meet workplace challenges
  • A pipeline of qualified internal candidates for open positions
  • Improved capability in helping employees reach their career aspirations 

Besides giving employees the skills and knowledge they need to perform, talent development also supports employee engagement and retention. Research shows that employees feel more committed and less interested in leaving a role that fulfills their aspirations for growth. For example, in a LinkedIn study, 94 percent of employees said that they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development.

How to Build a World-Class Talent Development Strategy

According to Training Magazine’s 2019 Training Industry Report, organizations deciding how to allocate resources for talent development are most concerned with increasing the effectiveness of training programs and measuring their impact. Given the required investment of time and money to develop employees, your training and development strategy needs to help you transform the workforce and deliver a strong ROI. Here are 10 steps to help you build a talent development strategy and measure its success:

1. Tie talent development goals to your organization’s mission and values.

Talent development strategies have the best chance of being successful when they tie back to organizational strategy. For example, if your organization builds its success on innovation and new product development, your talent development strategy will likely need to be centered around building skills for creativity, problem-solving, research, and new idea development. With a list of your most-desired skills, you can begin building customizable reports for employee performance, certifications, and training courses in specific areas.

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2. Assess current skill levels and development needs.

Before you determine which training and development activities make sense for your workforce, you’ll need to identify any gaps between the capabilities employees possess and the requirements of their roles. Using a gap analysis, you can identify and rank the areas in most need of development. After employees have participated in training or other development, you can conduct another gap analysis to see where they have improved.

3. Involve senior leaders.

Talent development is not an HR-only initiative, and any investments you make in employee growth should have the support and enthusiasm of senior leaders. Leaders can show their support for new training initiatives, and they can also encourage their employees to be active participants in those initiatives.

A recent PWC study found that 79 percent of CEOs were concerned about a lack of skills among their workforce and its impact on organizational growth. To help senior leaders see the steps you’re taking to build a skilled workforce, use human capital management (HCM) software to generate reports illustrating training delivery, training costs, and where you have closed employee skill gaps.

4. Focus on soft skills.

A LinkedIn report found the number one training priority for employers was soft skills, for example, creativity, adaptability, time management, and collaboration. It’s essential to include soft skills in your talent development strategy because they are not job-specific and can help every employee improve performance. For example, soft skills can help employees make better decisions, and they can also help employees communicate better with others.

To see the impact of soft skill development in your workforce, you can measure employee productivity rates over time. You can also survey employees and customers to better understand how well employees demonstrate strengths in areas such as communication, teamwork, and problem-solving.

5. Build a solid leadership pipeline.

Leaders set the tone for great performance. As a result, your talent development strategy needs to include plans for developing a leadership pipeline for key positions. Through a combination of leadership development courses, stretch assignments, coaching, and mentoring, you can develop leaders who are ready to progress and take on new management challenges. By tracking metrics such as team performance by manager and turnover by manager, you can continually assess the strength of leadership development activities in your organization.

6. Recognize differences in employee learning styles.

It’s no secret that people learn differently. Some are visual learners, while others need to learn by doing. Because your employees are likely to have a diverse mix of learning preferences, you’ll need to determine the type of development activities that will make the most impact. In some areas, you will rely on classroom training, and in other areas, on-the-job development will be more appropriate.

To understand how different learning styles impact the effectiveness of training and development activities, you can measure the performance of employees as they participate in different learning activities. You can also conduct surveys and skill assessments to measure how well employees learn in different settings.

7. Leverage technology.

New technologies, such as gamification, virtual reality, and mobile learning tools can advance employee development and make learning more engaging. You can provide employees with self-service access to learning resources and measure the impact of digital training tools with the following metrics:

  • Hours spent using training technology
  • Change in productivity before and after digital training
  • Employee engagement levels before and after digital training

8. Hire the skills you need.

Another effective way to develop your workforce is to hire talented individuals who can bring new skills and capabilities into the organization. These individuals add value in their individual roles, and they can also help others by introducing digital tools and processes they’ve learned elsewhere. 

By regularly reviewing your hiring metrics, you can assess the talent you’re bringing into the organization. For example, an applicant tracking report can tell you which new hires possess valuable certifications, licenses, and other credentials.

9. Incorporate talent reviews and succession planning.

As employees develop and grow over time, they benefit from promotional and other opportunities to use their new skills. Regular talent reviews can help you measure employee performance against potential, and also provide an opportunity to assess employee readiness to move into the next role. By conducting talent reviews regularly, you can keep track of possible successors for key positions and make sure they’re ready for the next stage of their career.

10. Align compensation and rewards with employee skills.

As employees develop, you’ll want to provide the right combination of compensation, benefits, and perks to retain them. To ensure pay is competitive and fairly compensates employees for their skills and performance, you’ll need to review it regularly and make adjustments where necessary. With the help of an integrated payroll platform, you can build consolidated reports that include salary, incentive compensation, and other benefits.

Build a Talent Development Strategy that Exceeds Expectations

A robust talent development strategy delivers benefits for your organization and employees, now and into the future. It helps you build a highly skilled workforce, while also offering the development activities and experiences employees desire. By following these steps for building an effective talent development strategy, you can help employees reach their goals and grow in their commitment to your organization. To learn about more ways to develop and retain your workforce, read our e-book, Exceeding Employee Expectations.

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