What is Talent Development?

by Pranav Ramesh
March 01, 2021
What is Talent Development and Why Does it Matter?

Talent development is many things to many organizations. To some, talent development is a process or program used to bring the best out of employees. To others, it is an overall strategy used to guide hiring, training, and retention decisions. Regardless of how formal or informal the organization’s view of talent development is, the goal is the same.

Talent development aims to find great employees, help them realize their maximum potential, and ensure they stick around.

Topics Covered:

  • What does talent development mean?
  • What is a talent development strategy?
  • What does a talent development manager do?

What does talent development mean?

According to the University of Kansas, talent development is “a set of integrated organizational HR processes designed to attract, develop, motivate, and retain productive, engaged, employees.” Let’s break that down into simpler terms.

“a set of integrated organizational HR processes” refers to a series of steps or actions talent development professionals (usually in the Human Resources department) take that are in alignment with the rest of the organization. HR is not working in a silo, sheltered from other departments. Instead, they are enacting processes and following procedures that coincide with the larger business goals.

“designed to attract, develop, motivate, and retain,tells us the purpose or intent of those HR processes. Their goal is to find, teach, train, inspire, and ultimately hold onto people longer than they would have had they not focused on talent development.

“productive, engaged, employees.” describes exactly who HR intends to hold on to. The talent development specialists are not necessarily trying to retain every employee. Instead, they want to keep those who do their job well, bring positivity to the team, and buy into the organization’s big picture. They look both internally, at current employees, and externally, towards future candidates, for these ideal employees.

Talent development specialists understand the importance of their employees and look to build them, both personally professionally, into their company’s all-stars.

What is a talent development strategy?

Talent development is more than just a list of boxes to check. It needs a well-thought-out strategy, efficient execution, and continual optimization. Strategies will differ between organizations, and even between teams inside the same company, the great ones tend to rely on these pillars.

Accurate, bias-free job descriptions

Basic, copy-pasted job descriptions don’t tend to attract the best talent. Top performers have seen them before, know there was little to no thought put into it, and don’t actually learn much about the position from them. Using a template is fine, and even preferred to ensure they are compatible with your ATS, but be sure to write the actual content specifically for each job.

Apt culture fit

Matching the right person to the right team is critical when it comes to talent development. Someone who feels like they don’t belong is likely to underperform, become disengaged, and possibly bring down those around them. Talent development professionals have a deep understanding of their organization’s unique culture and what type of person fits in the best.

Coaching and mentoring programs

Coaches and mentors are often the keys to a successful talent development strategy. In order for people to truly reach their potential, they have to feel comfortable asking questions, making mistakes, and taking risks. This doesn’t mean all is forgiven when something goes bad, it all depends on the situation. But the mentor/mentee relationship is just that–a relationship. Putting a structured program in place to match people who not only have the right knowledge to share but are also likely to get along, is critical.

Rewards and Recognition

Most organizations have reward programs in place for performance. Those with a strong talent development program look to recognize an individual’s growth as well. Look for professional benchmarks employees could hit, such as earning a new certification or teaching a virtual class on a skill they just learned, and reward them for these types of achievements.

Reviews and optimization

No talent development program is ever truly ‘finished’. People change. Teams grow, shrink, and evolve. Business goals and values adapt. The organization’s talent development strategy needs to be able to change too. Schedule both formal meetings, and informal touch-bases, with key stakeholders of the organization to ensure the goals of the program are always focused on what’s most important.

RELATED: Developing a foolproof Recruitment Process


What does a talent development manager do?

Talent development managers lead the organization’s efforts to attract the right candidates, teach and train them, help them develop both personally and professionally, and ultimately retain them. They design, execute, and continually improve programs that help the organization with performance management, talent attraction, team assessment, and leadership creation and succession planning.

The best talent development managers strike a rare balance between being both emotionally intelligent and business savvy. They tend to be great with people, but are keenly aware of the effect every person, and decision has on the larger business goals. They also tend to be passionate life-long learners who are constantly looking to grow and develop themselves, not just show others how to.


Talent development understands that the foundation of any organization is its people. The goal of talent development, then, is to help these people develop the right attitude, skills, and knowledge. A successful team that is constantly learning and growing is more engaged, more productive, and generally more fun to be around. And what employer wouldn’t want more of that?

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