Building a better talent development strategy for your business

Creating a strong future for your company takes more than just hard work—it also requires long-term succession planning. One of the hallmarks of effective future-proofing is having a process in place to select and develop talent within an organization to prepare employees to manage it in the future.

Of course, having a plan for the future takes planning, too. Talent development programs help recruit strong talent and keep them on track to build the skills necessary to lead the company. What does it take to get great candidates to join your company and stay there? What tools can managers and HR departments use to make that happen?

In this blog, we’re talking about how to build a strong talent development strategy.

Solidifying a philosophy

Knowing what you want is the first step to getting it. When it comes to talent management, managers and HR teams should have an idea of which values they expect in future leaders, as this will make it easier to spot the right candidates during recruitment and prevent any surprises down the road.

What does the ideal candidate look like? How will their personality guide your company in the years to come?

HR Memos D

Here are some initial questions to help assess your current talent development philosophy:

  • Do any examples of career progress highlight talent development? Success stories that start from recruitment can illuminate how your company values employee growth and advancement.

  • Are internal promotions balanced with external hiring? This question examines whether or not your talent pipeline prioritizes internal talent, which is essential to talent development.

  • What is our approach to continuous employee learning and development? Do employees expect to keep learning and growing, or are skill enhancement and professional growth mere afterthoughts?

  • How are we identifying and prioritizing skill gaps within our workforce? Companies need to know where and what to improve before talent development can target those gaps and have an effect.

  • What opportunities are there for further education or certifications for employee roles? A big part of talent development takes place after hiring but before promotions, and companies can strengthen their support of employees who want to enhance their qualifications.

  • Are mentorship or coaching programs in place to facilitate employee development? Companies that are committed to employee growth should have mentorship and coaching programs in place.

  • How are we encouraging a culture of learning, knowledge-sharing, and collaboration? Understanding how your company fosters a collaborative environment can provide insights about its commitment to collective learning.

  • Do performance evaluations shape individual development plans? Knowing how employees are progressing should play a role in how individual talent is developed.

  • Are technology and e-learning platforms being used to support talent development? Investing in interactive technology for talent development can help your company stay current on learning methods and make development more convenient for employees.

  • Which metrics measure talent development effectiveness? It’s important to evaluate your talent development metrics in order to make better, data-driven decisions.

There are plenty more questions worth asking, but as long as you’re asking, you’re on the right track. Your business strategy should center around brand identity, which includes talent management strategy.

Attract, retain, develop, reward

The header above says it all: solid talent development comprises hiring the right people, keeping them around long enough to grow, and moving their careers in the right direction.

There’s no need to overthink your strategy or reinvent the wheel. Effective talent development only requires that you keep the basics in mind and stick to a plan. Plenty of digital tools and platforms exist to help track individual progress—ranging from free options to wallet busters—to keep you accountable to your goals.

Attracting the best talent

Since 2020, the job market has been largely dominated by employers (rather than employees), which is great news for businesses—there are hundreds of applicants per position, and it’s never been easier to find talented candidates who want to work for you. However, there’s a catch.

The turbulent job market has created employees who are loyal only to companies able to provide the compensation and opportunities they deserve. Companies that get lazy about taking care of their team members are seeing higher turnover, thus the whole “nobody wants to work anymore” fever.

Pay both existing and new employees competitively and provide career growth opportunities, and none of this should be a problem.

The process of attracting new talent begins with community investment. People need to know your company exists. Operating for long enough will have this effect, but to expedite the process, you’ll need to engage with the community.

Employer branding

What are the reasons why someone would want to work at your company? What kind of personality best represents your brand?

These are a couple of the important questions to ask when considering the link between branding and recruitment. Before they become new hires, prospective candidates will see your brand and make judgments about it.

Does your brand have forward-thinking ESG policies and initiatives? Does it sponsor local events and spend resources on community building? Unless there’s a detectable brand presence that people want to be part of, it’ll only be compensation that convinces them to take a job.

You may consider participating in college job fairs to find young people interested in working for your company. In these cases, branding is everything. Your booth will speak to their interests and prove that you are invested in being a force for good.

In short, branding is the identity companies present to the world. It’s important to have a plan for what it is and how to share it. Take some time to learn more about what employer branding is, and employer branding can attract top talent.

Web presence & social media

The internet moves fast, and most of us don’t/can’t keep up with it. This is forgivable, but there are still some bare minimum requirements that companies need when others look them up.

First, have a decent website. Social media is secondary to an actual hub because social media is always changing to where accounts may not accurately represent a company. A good website, on the other hand, showcases your work and acts like a portfolio for prospective candidates to truly learn more. There should be a clear mission statement and description of the work you do so that anyone who visits will know what to expect when doing business there.

Does it help to have an eye-catching website? Absolutely. People love being able to show off an employer’s cool website.

Next, it’s a good idea to curate a respectable social media and LinkedIn profile. Some companies are passionate about political affairs or social causes, and that can speak to the right candidates from time to time. Other companies keep a low social media profile, and honestly, that strategy works too, as long as it’s a strategy and not an accident.

Social media is mainly there to make it easy to get to the website. Outside of that, it’s a crucial piece of building brand awareness and engaging with a company’s industry at large.

Retain top employees

Bringing high-performance talent into your organization is a win, but it takes a different strategy to keep them there long enough to have an impact.

Retention strategy involves a lot more numbers and analysis than recruitment. There needs to be an emphasis on ongoing engagement programs and a continual look at attrition rates. Human resources should interview people who leave, but also those who stay from time to time.

There should also be programs to motivate employees and keep them engaged.

Measure the numbers

Knowing who stays and why is critical information for employee retention. A company’s attrition rate tells the story of how long people stick around before they leave, whether voluntarily or involuntarily.

You can calculate attrition rate like so: choose a given period (such as a year or a decade), then divide average departures by the average number of employees during that period. Multiply the total by 100 and viola, you have the attrition rate.

Fixing high attrition rates requires taking a hard look at what makes people leave and addressing the problem, which usually stems from one or more of the following: pay, career advancement, company culture, and environmental stress.

Interview often

The best way to find out how people feel about their jobs is to ask. Unfortunately, many companies either choose not to or create an environment where being honest is a liability.

Exit interviews are one way to get past the pressure of a stressful work environment, though the information they yield can be biased. Still, it’s important to find out why people leave and make changes to organizational goals as necessary.

Another approach is to conduct periodic interviews with employees who have been there a while. These workers have an understanding of the general gripes and frustration around the office, and if asked nicely, may even have some insight as to why people leave.

It’s rare to find employers who conduct these kinds of interviews, sometimes called Stay Interviews, but their concern with employee well-being tends to result in less turnover.

Finally, offer a chance to leave anonymous feedback. Many companies are scared of this. To them, I would suggest that they investigate that guilty conscience and remedy what they’re afraid of. Feedback can’t hurt you.

More opportunities for employee engagement

It’s good to change your employees’ routines every now and then. One way is to get them involved with engagement programs such as mentoring, wellness programs, and employee resource groups (ERGs).

At its core, engagement is a feeling of belonging. Where peers share that sense of belonging, people do better work and get more done. This is why it’s a good idea to help employees find peers.

Create chances for career development

Cultivating an employee’s career is something most employers don’t do. They rely on workers to do their jobs and occasionally reward outstanding performers, but pay little attention to everyone else.

The vast majority of employees want their employers to take an active role in helping them grow and advance. As a result, employee development and training programs have become staples of strong companies, complete with ongoing education departments and leadership development.

Ongoing education, online training opportunities via learning management systems, and elective courses are all effective means to drive the development of new skills and show employer buy-in. This is important because the more opportunities individual employees have to grow, the better they’ll feel about their long-term career prospects at your company.

More responsibility takes more

It’s always exciting to have the chance of a promotion, but it does make life a little harder. One issue employers have is thinking that offering professional development and upskilling is as good as providing higher pay—it isn’t.

People who take on more responsibility need to be compensated fairly for their work. It’s good to show confidence in an employee by giving them extra responsibility, but it’s equally important for the company to commit to that change.

Some managers will hint at a promotion to squeeze a little extra work out of their employees only to upset them once they go months without a promotion or a raise.

If more responsibility is given to an employee, they need the resources to see it through.

Rewarding top talent

The final aspect of good talent development is asking what your company can do/is doing for employees. These days it’s not enough to simply provide pay for good work—there needs to also be recognition and reward.

The obvious and easy choice is a bonus. Employees who get paid when they go above and beyond are more likely to do it again. On the other hand, when they have to fight for raises that barely keep up with inflation, expect them to seek employment elsewhere.

Top talent deserves top pay, and when companies hesitate to loosen up the purse strings, it creates resentment and frustration.

The best strategy for employers is to invest in what makes business happen: people. The more chances employees have to score a bonus or enjoy other perks, the more likely they will be to stick around and get to know the business.

Time and experience are what create the great leaders of the future. Your company’s talent development plan should plan accordingly.