Talent Development Basics: Definition, Examples, and Strategies


What is Talent Development?

Talent development is the commitment to offering employees opportunities for growth and learning that are strategically aligned with the organization’s mission and vision. The purpose of these development efforts is to increase productivity, improve employee engagement, and ultimately produce better business results. 

ATD says it best: “At the heart of talent development are the people – the talent.” Talent development best practices are centered around the unique needs of employees by nurturing their strengths while managing their weaknesses. 

Examples of talent development include pairing employees with a mentor in their organization, offering access to professional development courses/certifications, and utilizing a leadership succession program to identify and develop potential company leaders.

5 Steps of a Talent Development Plan

A talent development plan is an organization’s strategy for identifying and growing employee strengths and skills. These practices aim to equip employees for future roles and responsibilities within the company. An effective talent development program must include specific processes for 3 components: identifying, engaging, and developing talent. The following list details the 5 steps of a successful talent development program.

  1. Leadership Development– Does your organization have a readily accessible way to identify its future leaders? Strong talent development plans incorporate metrics for assessing both employee performance and leadership potential, and then provide continued coaching. Managers and other leaders should be aware of theidentified future leaders so collaborative discussions can occur, thus minimizing potential bias and myopic viewpoints. 
  2. Employee Engagement– According to Gallup, business units with highly engaged employees experience a 23% increase in profitability, up to a 43% decrease in turnover, and a 10% increase in customer loyalty. Focused efforts to increase engagement include incorporating a recognition program, regularly tracking employee sentiment through measurable pulse checks, and holding frequent one-on-one conversations between employees and their managers. Because it is counterintuitive to develop employees who are disengaged from their workplace, employee engagement efforts are critical to any talent development plan. 
  3. Reskilling– Reskilling is the process by which employees are trained in job functions and responsibilities outside of their current role. Future-oriented talent development programs rely on reskilling to ensure employees can succeed in multiple job roles, thereby closing the skills gaps that plague many industries. Reskilling sets employees up for success by expanding their knowledge base and creating additional opportunities for their career within or outside of their current organization. 
  4. UpskillingUpskilling is the process by which employees are given higher-level training within their current area of expertise. This strategy in talent development plans nurtures employees’ potential by challenging them to surpass their current skills and achieve greater levels of expertise within their career trajectory.
  5. Mentoring– Pairing employees with a mentor in their organization promotes a healthy company culture by fostering strong relationships and providing employees with a good example to follow. When partnered with a mentor who is a few career steps ahead, employees can more clearly see the career opportunities available to them within their own company.

Key Benefits of Talent Development

Strategic talent development programs allow employees to visualize future career advancement. As employees grow, the business grows, securing the longevity of an organization. The list below highlights the major benefits of talent development program strategies.

  • Increased employee engagement– According to DecisionWise, a talent management consulting firm, an employee’s perception of internal growth and development (talent development programs) opportunities is one of the more important predictors of employee engagement
  • Improved performance– Talent development plans grow employee skill sets and track performance efforts, leading to increased productivity and improved business results. 
  • Attracts Top Talent– In a competitive landscape, top talent seeks out organizations that offer continued learning  so employees can reach their maximum potential. 
  • Business Growth– Investing in talent development leads to a workforce of highly skilled individuals with deep knowledge and expertise in their respective fields. As employees grow, so does the business, advancing at the same pace as its people. Talent development programs drive organizations to continuously strive for excellence and progress.


High-performing organizations must prioritize the talent development plan as an essential part of their business strategy.  As the world of work is constantly changing with the emergence of new technologies and innovations every day, businesses can stand out by equipping their people with cutting-edge knowledge, training, and growth necessary to stay relevant in their fields and contribute to the success of their organizations.

Talent Development vs. Talent Management

Is there a difference between talent development and talent management? Though there is overlap between the two, the answer is yes. 

Talent management refers to the organization’s efforts to find and keep top talent by determining what talents are needed for business success. In contrast, talent development refers to the organization’s efforts to grow and develop the specific talents of each individual. The chart below breaks down the differences even further. 

Talent Management

Talent Development

Focused on maximizing overall talent

Focused on advancing individual talent

General talent assessment

Specific talent development

Hiring and retaining top talent 

Offering learning opportunities to grow talent 

Broad talent needs

Individualized talent needs

How to Develop Talent: 5 Strategies

Creating a successful talent development program can feel overwhelming if you’re just getting started. The most important thing to remember is start now! Implementing thoughtful practices one step at a time will lead to a strong talent development plan while understanding that strategies can always be adjusted. 

  1. Measure performance and behaviors equally.

Identifying and growing skills begins with measuring talent against a standard set of expectations. High-performing organizations define performance objectives/goals and workplace behaviors clearly so employees know what is expected of them. WorkDove utilizes the Performance-Values Matrix to measure performance and core values equally and offer a visual representation of performance efforts. 

Performance-Values matrix

  1. Set and track cascading goals.

Organizations can foster alignment and collaboration by setting company, department, and individual goals/OKRs. When employees see that their goal progress affects department and company goals, it increases motivation and accountability. Setting and tracking goals also help managers identify talent development opportunities for their teams. WorkDove’s goal management software helps leaders visualize and analyze overall goal progress and make more informed talent decisions. 

WorkDove Cascading Goals


  1. Incorporate goals into performance check-ins.

Now that cascading goals/OKRs have been set, it is important to weave them into the natural conversations that occur during employee and manager one-on-ones. These organic progress updates give managers insight into employee work efforts and training needs and hold employees accountable throughout the year. 

WorkDove Goals integrated into Performance Reviews

  1. Utilize a leadership succession tool.

Any successful talent development program will incorporate a simple way to identify potential future leaders. Leadership succession planning is essential to the company’s future. A user-friendly and data-driven leadership succession tool helps organizations quickly identify top talent and develop learning and growth opportunities for the future of the business. WorkDove’s 9-box software allows company leaders to spend less time on data collection and aggregation and more time identifying high-performing employees.

WorkDove 9 Box Global Report


  1. Create dynamic individual development plans

Providing employees with a customized individual development plan (IDP) is a powerful tool to help employees grow and reach career goals by highlighting target development areas, noting success measures, and establishing clear action items. WorkDove’s individual development plan tool helps managers retain and develop talent by empowering employees to achieve meaningful, continuous professional development.

WorkDove Individual Development Plan


Talent Development and WorkDove

A talent development plan is a critical component to allowing a business to thrive in an ever-changing landscape. Partnering with a simple, easy-to-use platform like WorkDove ensures your organization has all the necessary features to identify, engage, and develop your talent to achieve overall business and individual employee success. Every employee deserves to be invested in with intentional coaching, mentoring, and talent development strategies unique to their skillsets. High-performing organizations recognize that the growth of their business is dependent on the growth of their people. WorkDove recognizes that the employee journey matters. If you are interested in establishing a best-in-class talent development program, contact the experts at WorkDove today!

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