Talent Development

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Rewarding talent, in the way talent shows such as American Idol do, is only one way to develop it-or to provide incentives to further develop it. Comprehensive talent development is actually more diverse and challenging than that. Recognizing talent-in both senses of "recognizing", i.e., identifying and acknowledging-is only one way to develop it and perhaps the simplest. More complex, but equally important, is prioritizing specific talents to develop (or even choosing which among the employees as well as which of their talents to develop, given ever-present limits on time, money and other resources to be allocated to development).

Of course, in developing talent, an organization must consider the risk-to-reward profile of the efforts (including an employee's using the enhanced talent to jump ship), the opportunity costs associated with (not) investing in talent and, among other things, the work-life balance implications of developed targeted talents.

Talent development is a unique challenge for any organization. The major challenges faced in talent program development are those of recognizing talent, recruiting it, fostering it, optimally utilizing and rewarding it. Failure to meet any one of these in the talent link will mean waste. One additional key consideration is whether the staff member wants to have a given talent developed. If (s)he and the organization don't agree that the talent in question is desirable to develop, there can be unconstructive friction between them.

Nurtured and channeled talent becomes skill; neglected talent becomes loss, unless other talents are sufficiently engaged to require no others on the job. Implicit in this kind of choosing among talents is the challenge of prioritizing recognized talents to target for development. Sometimes "talent" is used to describe the person, rather than a person's attributes, e.g., "He is a real talent" (as opposed to "He has real talent"). "Talent" is also used in a collective sense, to designate a group of employees, applicants, etc. These distinctions can be become very important to and definitive of the talent development program path created for organizational talent.

For example, if a company gives greatest priority to developing a specific talent (as a capacity), it is less likely to take a "big picture", holistic view of its staff-instead, being more likely to emphasize the fit of the identified talent-as-skill into organizational needs. On the other hand, if "talent development" is construed as "development of the whole individual and his or her talent set", the organization is far likelier to not only explore many of a given employee's talents, but also to do so in a way that results in an optimal integration and application of that employee's talent set. Finally, if "talent" designates a group of individuals, talent development requires careful consideration of the feasibility of standardizing the talent development process and of creating the right mix of talents for the group as well as possibly for each individual in the group.

This is one of the differences between thinking of "human resources" as people vs. as their capacities. Another, expressed in terms of talent development is the difference between developing talents of staff vs. for staff. Ideally, a talent developed is a talent that will benefit both the organization and the individual. That, of course, doesn't always happen, e.g., in the development of the talents of chimney sweeps or unprotected asbestos workers. Taking care to develop talents for the benefit of both the organization and the employee can make good business sense as well as good ethical sense, since the exercise of a talent that is rewarded only financially is less likely to be manifested at its best levels, when compared with more "self-actualizing", engaging and satisfying applications of that talent.
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