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Talent Development


In the world of training, which has been around since one cave man taught another how to build a fire, we have used a variety of terms for training.  Some that I’ve encountered are:  coaching, drill and practice, education, exercise, instruction, schooling, teaching, cultivating, indoctrinating, preparing, sharpening the saw and tutelage to name a few.  I think Talent Development was originally created to show that those involved were a “cut above” the rest of the people in a given organization.  As originally used, this was a way to identify a pool of high performers who were “fast tracked” into more senior positions.  This is actually part of a larger concept we call “succession planning”.  But now, I believe talent development is the latest and perhaps the best and most appropriate name on the age old name of training.  As proof support, I offer to you the recent name change of the largest American training organization, the American Society for Training and Development which has now rebranded itself as the Association for Talent Development.  ( ->

Sometimes people refer to talent development in a very myopic view meaning theatrical talent development, such as a singer, actor or dancer.  While this is true, this is not the definition we are dealing with in this article.  I believe talent development has but one real goal, organizational productivity.  A secondary goal is individual productivity.  It bears saying that if individual productivity is high, organizational productivity should also be high.  While training has traditionally focused on developing skills geared to the job at hand, I believe talent development is larger than just in time (JIT) training.  While talent development certainly can and should prepare a person for tasks at hand, it should also prepare the person for their next job.  And this is where we touch on succession planning just a bit.  Doing great work at ones’ current job is fine, but most people in America want more out of life and are looking to move forward in their chosen career.  It doesn’t matter if you have an MBA and are and have always worked as some type of manager or if you are a welder and aspire to be not only a great welder but the Senior Welder on a crew of 10 welders.  Talent development prepares you to move forward, both enhancing skills for your current job and preparing you to take on greater roles in your career field.  So while Talent Development has traditionally been reserved for the few elite who were being groomed for management within a given organization, I believe the new and much more inclusive definition means developing skills for a current position as well as preparing for a future position. 

Talent development can come from a number of different sources, and while some companies develop their own training programs, many companies look to outside agencies for training.  Often outside trainers (or talent developers) are brought in to conduct development programs on specific topics that may be beyond the ability of internal instructors such as Lean Six Sigma, or Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).  No matter who conducts talent development classes, the common thread should be that all talent development efforts are focused on meeting stated goals, either personal or organizational and ideally, a combination of both of these.  I believe the smarter managed companies have a resident Talent Development Manager or specialist to plan and oversee the conduct of talent development programs.  In its simplest form, this effort aligns talent development with the organization’s strategic planning process and consequently, its succession planning effort.  Here is a graphic that I believe shows a simplistic view of aligning talent development and organizational planning


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