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8 Tactics to Build a Talent Development Strategy That Works

Retaining top talent takes more than just competitive pay. Employees want to feel valued and know your organization is willing to invest in them. 

According to research from Mckinsey & Company, the number one reason people left their jobs from April 2021 to April 2022 was a lack of career development and advancement. Therefore, a strong talent development strategy is crucial for employee retention.

Talent development combines personalized learning systems—like career mapping, coaching, and mentoring—to create a company culture based on continuous learning to upskill employees and create an empowered, unstoppable workforce. 

What is talent development?

Talent development is supporting and nurturing employees’ skills throughout their time with your organization. It’s a term you’re most likely familiar with, but it’s easy to confuse with talent management. 

Talent development vs. talent management

Talent management is an organizational system that recruits and hires from the best talent pool. An example of this is having an external recruiter on your staff. This person develops a system for navigating LinkedIn and other networking websites to research, contact, and build relationships with potential future employees.  

On the other hand, talent development goes even further and supports existing employees throughout their entire lifecycle, so your workers feel supported even after onboarding ends. 

Not only does a talent development strategy nurture your workers, but it also protects your bottom line. Employees who find their work meaningful tend to have improved performance by as much as 33 percent. These employees are also more loyal to their organization and less likely to leave. 

An effective talent development strategy offers tremendous money-saving opportunities when you consider the cost of replacing one employee ranges from one-half to double that employee’s salary. So, the added cost of replacing an employee who makes $60,000 a year can be anywhere from $30,000 to $120,000. 

What does a talent development strategy look like?

To get your talent development strategy off the ground, take stock of the programs and systems you already have to upskill and reskill your workforce. This could include webinars, website subscriptions, professional development stipends, and mentoring opportunities. 

Get employee feedback on the initiatives you already have in place, and ask if there are any additional opportunities they want to pursue. You can use an anonymous online form to ask employees to rank existing programs in order of importance.

Analyze the results and look for programs that can be removed from your strategy. Look for new programs or systems that are mentioned frequently. If 90 percent of respondents say they want a mentoring program, that’s a system you should consider developing. 

5 tactics to build your talent development strategy

An iron-clad talent development strategy requires a holistic approach that engages your employees at all stages of their careers. Whether your workers are entry-level or senior-level, everyone can benefit from resources and training programs to gain new skills, grow their existing competencies, and learn to communicate better among colleagues. 

We’ve compiled a list featuring eight of the most effective talent development tactics—including career mapping, mentoring, L&D, and leadership development. 

These tactics can be effective on their own, but the real magic happens when you combine them for a full-fledged talent development strategy. That’s when your team will start to see long-term improvements that lead to employee engagement, high levels of retention, and a skilled workforce. 

Career mapping or growth plans

Career mapping, sometimes called a growth plan or a career path happens when an employee and their supervisor work together to establish goals and the steps a person needs to take to achieve them. 

The primary purpose of a career map is to create a clear-cut path for growth in their current role and beyond. 

Because career goals are personal, no two employees will have the same path. That’s why it’s important to bake this process into every employee/supervisor relationship. 

The easiest way to get started is to encourage managers to integrate career-based conversations into their one-on-one meetings. For example, managers can talk with individual team members about their goals, organize them into lists, and share resources to help their teams achieve their goals. 

For example, if a high-potential employee wants to be a manager by the end of the year, their career map might be a list of skills they need to be promoted. These can be hard skills, like knowing how to use Microsoft Excel to build spreadsheets, or soft skills, like decision-making and communication. The manager can share resources and opportunities, like webinars and conferences, to help the employee build these skills. 

Mentorship and coaching

Coaching and mentorship are similar in that they are relationship-based: an employee gains skills and becomes an empowered worker by learning from another person’s experience. 

While they’re both highly effective tactics for any talent development strategy, they look slightly different in practice. 

Coaching gives employees direct instructions on how to do something, like a manager walking an employee through a new reporting software. 

Mentoring, on the other hand, is less formal and less structured. It usually looks like a manager or company leader meeting with an employee regularly to share advice about a specific topic, like negotiating a pay raise or navigating a difficult situation with a peer.   

Learning and development programs

Learning and development (L&D) plays a vital role in your talent development strategy because it’s an area that directly influences what and how your employees learn. 

It also directly ties into employee motivation levels, particularly younger generations like Millennials and Gen Z. These workers choose what organization they want to work for based on these kinds of L&D opportunities. As a result, it helps them to be more effective in their roles, allowing them to be more productive. 

This is an excellent opportunity to get started if you don’t already have a formal L&D program. Here are some resources to help you create or improve your L&D program:

Leadership development

Talent development can help you give personalized support to your top-achieving employees; your organization’s future leaders. 

Investing in your top talent rather than hiring makes sense, and your existing staff knows your organization well. Plus, promoting internally can save you money in the long run by lowering your cost-per-hire. 

Think about the employees who consistently meet or exceed their goals, seek additional professional development opportunities, and work well with their colleagues. They are the obvious choices for your future leadership.

Ask these employees about their interest in learning from existing leaders to gain a deeper perspective of the roles and responsibilities and grasp the softer skillsets they’ll need to cultivate to be successful leaders — like conflict management, negotiation, and public speaking skills. 

From there, be sure to consistently provide learning opportunities to these workers that hit on the areas they will benefit from the most. 

Read More: How to Create Leadership Development Training That Works

Employee feedback

Talent development plans only work if they’re helpful for everyone. That’s why regularly asking for feedback is the best way to manage employee expectations and refine the employee experience over time. 

Find ways to get feedback regularly, monthly, quarterly, or semi-annually. For example, send out an anonymous survey via Slack or email.

Collect the feedback and analyze the results for any significant trends, like a program that isn’t effective or an in-demand skillshare session that needs to be repeated. 

Similarly, managers can talk with their employees during regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings to gather feedback about what’s working or not working for them. 

The most important thing to remember when building your talent development strategy is to ensure it aligns with the wants and needs of your workforce. 

Maintain open and honest communication with your employees. Because talent development is personalized for every employee, it’s a simple fix if an opportunity isn’t the right fit for someone. 

For example, a person whose goal is to gain stronger Photoshop skills isn’t going to benefit from a webinar on public speaking. Instead, let them know it’s OK to disagree with the systems in place and that there is always room to adjust if a particular tactic is not working. 

Skill gap analysis

The more highly skilled your workforce is, the more productive and competitive your organization has the potential to become.

However, before you create specific goals around upskilling or reskilling, your first step should be to perform an in-depth skill gap analysis. A skill gap analysis measures the gap between an employee’s current skill set and the skills that are needed to achieve optimal success in their role.

Taking this step will enable you to determine which soft and hard skills need the most strengthening, which empowers your organization to deliver effective, efficient training tailored to each team member’s skill development needs. This also highlights the importance of personalized learning, which we’ll cover later in this guide.

Read more: What is Soft Skills Training + The Best Ways to Train Your Team

Since skills—and industries—continuously evolve, skill gap analyses should be performed regularly. By performing a skill gap analysis before and after training, not only can you gauge employee progress but also the efficacy of your training program itself.

Not sure where to get started? Try following these six strategies to improve your organization’s skill development strategy.

Performance reviews

We covered some benefits businesses can gain by seeking out employee feedback—for instance, using that feedback to build talent development programs that align with team members’ needs. 

However, you shouldn’t just collect feedback—you should also provide it. Performance reviews are the perfect opportunity. 

During performance reviews, you can speak with your team members about not just their past performance but their goals, skills, interests, and ultimately, where they see their careers heading. That means performance reviews can provide insights about ways to nurture and leverage talent on your team, which makes your entire organization stronger. 

By tracking how an employee’s performance evolves over time, you can identify opportunities for upskilling and internal mobility. Some team members may even be suitable for future leadership roles

Read More: Why Performance Reviews Are Important (And 4 Ways They Benefit Your Organization)

Personalized learning

In 2017, Gartner made the following prediction about the future of learning and development

“Personalization will revolutionize L&D by providing customized learning experiences for every employee, based on the challenges they face in their role, their career aspirations, and their personal preferences.” 

That prediction has come true over the past half-decade, with more than one-third (35 percent) of businesses surveyed in one 2020 study saying they were planning on implementing custom learning paths over the next two years—more than any other strategy featured in the survey, including self-paced virtual training (18 percent), instructor-led virtual training (16 percent), and peer-to-peer informal learning (12 percent). 

In 2021, LinkedIn wrote that “the desire for personalized learning is building steam, with 78 percent of respondents expressing the need for course recommendations based on career goals and skill gaps.” 

With personalization now becoming such a key feature of corporate learning, how can organizations better personalize their training and L&D strategies to reach more employees and accommodate a broader range of learning styles

In addition to some of the strategies discussed above, like personalized coaching and career mapping, here are three more ways you can leverage personalization to nurture and develop your team’s talent to the fullest: 

  • Develop personalized learning paths for team members, which allows them to set their own pace and focus on the most relevant skills 
  • Empower employees to learn autonomously, which gives learners more control over the shape and direction of their education 

Use an LMS like the Learning Cloud to develop and deliver a broader range of courses and certifications, including customized and role-specific content, so that team members have more learning options

Build your talent development strategy with WorkRamp

An All-in-One Learning Platform like the Learning Cloud can help you create a culture of learning at your company and deliver employee learning and development programs.

With the Learning Cloud, you can:

  • Create learning designed for all employees to help onboard, upskill, and develop your top talent 
  • Offer a library of resources for employees to upskill or discover new learning opportunities to help develop their careers
  • Build career mobility opportunities by offering learning paths that can serve as signals or easy conversation starters for promotions
  • Build leadership development programs to equip middle management with the training, skills, and resources to help them succeed

A sound talent development strategy can help you attract and retain skilled workers. Based on LinkedIn’s Workplace Learning Report, 94 percent of employees say they would stay at a company if it invested in their learning. 

Want to learn more about how the Learning Cloud can help you develop engaged, talented, and loyal employees? Contact us to schedule a free demo.


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