Given the global shift to remote, distributed work and ongoing digital transformation, the skills workers need to drive positive business outcomes are constantly evolving. Impactful talent development strategies can help workers build new skills to meet current market demands, while setting companies up for success as business needs and priorities shift.
A talent development strategy is a comprehensive, proactive approach to attracting, engaging, growing, and retaining workers at an organization. Effective talent development strategies are tailored to both support broader business objectives and empower individual workers to reach their full potential.
Effective talent development strategies include:
- Understanding and aligning with company objectives
- Engaging a professional talent manager
- Identifying talent needs
- Looking within the company
- Bringing in outside talent
- Providing career development options
- Analyzing performance to identify strengths and opportunities
Some business benefits of a strategic approach to talent development include the ability to:
- Attract qualified candidates. Highlighting in job descriptions and on your careers page the talent development opportunities available at your organization can help your organization attract qualified candidates who are eager to learn and grow. Research from the American Staffing Association found that 80% of employed U.S. adults consider a company’s professional development and training offerings an important consideration when accepting a new job.
- Increase productivity and performance. Ensuring workers possess the latest in-demand skills is critical to maintaining productivity. Offering development opportunities can provide workers with the resources they need to build relevant skills and drive positive outcomes as business needs evolve.
- Improve worker retention. Top-performing workers are motivated to improve their skills and build new ones. If development options aren’t offered by their current organization, they’re likely to seek new job opportunities. In fact, a survey by The Conference Board found that 58% of professionals say they are likely to leave their company if they lack professional development resources to develop new skills, stay up-to-date on current trends, and drive career advancement.
- Enable succession planning. Implementing successful talent development strategies can enable your business to proactively evaluate skills gaps and offer training and development programs on an ongoing basis. As a result, your team will be better prepared when you need to backfill roles as team members transition—either by moving to a new role internally or leaving the company.
Understanding and aligning with company objectives
A first step in any successful talent development plan involves aligning your strategies with overall company goals and objectives. This includes understanding any skills you will need across departments, both now and in the future.
Start by discussing overall short- and long-term business goals. With specific goals in mind, your team can be better prepared to identify the skills needed to achieve key objectives, along with the talent development strategies needed to do so.
Company objectives that can impact your talent development planning and skill requirements might include:
- Improving customer service
- Increasing sales
- Expanding into new geographical markets
- Targeting new industries
- Developing additional product or service offerings
- Automating and streamlining internal processes
Engaging a professional talent manager
Once your team has an understanding of overall company objectives, consider tapping into the expertise of an independent talent management professional to build and implement an effective talent development plan.
Benefits of engaging an independent talent management expert include:
- Building your plan with the help of a fresh, outside perspective
- Learning best practices from the talent manager’s experience working with other companies
- Saving time by finding a skilled professional and kicking off the engagement within a matter of days
- Reducing costs by engaging an expert as-needed to develop your plan, rather than hiring a full-time, in-house team member
Experienced talent management professionals are available on Upwork with the skills you need to achieve talent development goals. Through Upwork, you can easily post jobs and access qualified individuals that meet your specific requirements.
Identifying talent and skill needs
Keeping overall business objectives in mind, build an inventory of the skills your organization needs, along with any current or anticipated skills gaps. Maintaining a skills inventory will help inform the content and resources in your talent development plan, and outline steps for improvement over time.
As you build your skills inventory, include both hard and soft skills.
- Hard skills are specific, technical capabilities and competencies that an individual possesses and can be measured in a quantifiable way. Examples include business analytics, accounting, marketing automation, and coding.
- Soft skills are traits that help individuals work well in a team. They can’t be measured as easily as hard skills, but are no less important. Examples include flexibility, teamwork, self-discipline, communication, and critical thinking.
Looking within the company
Once you have an understanding of which skills workers already possess at your organization, as well as your skills gaps, a next step is to look for opportunities to use and develop skills among your current team members.
Looking within the company can help your team:
- Discover untapped skills at your organization
- Encourage workers to strengthen existing skills
- Empower team members to develop new skills to reach the next level in their careers
- Identify transferable skills for team members to transition roles internally
- Reskill workers to align with business needs
Research from TalentLMS and the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) found that more than one in two companies are facing a skills gap, and half of them are addressing it by training existing employees. In addition to addressing skills gaps, training existing employees can help ensure their skills remain relevant, so they continue positively contributing to the organization as business needs shift.
Bringing in outside talent
While some skills gaps can be filled with existing talent at your organization, this isn’t always the case. Whether you have an immediate skills gap or anticipate that you’ll need to tap into emerging skills in the near future, expanding your team with outside talent can help.
As you look to engage outside talent, think beyond traditional approaches such as hiring full-time, in-office workers. Forward-thinking organizations are leaving behind old ways of working and adopting hybrid workforce models that include remote, distributed teams of both full-time workers and independent talent.
Our Future Workforce Report 2022 found that 78% of hiring managers who engage independent professionals are confident in their ability to find talent with the skills they need, compared to 63% for those who don’t leverage independent talent. Additionally, 85% of hiring managers who work with independent professionals say it allows them to access talent with specialized skills or expertise.
Engaging independent talent offers your team access to professionals with specific, expert skills, enabling you to quickly fill skills gaps while driving cost savings. It also offers the flexibility to engage independent talent for a single project, or build long-term relationships for projects of any size, depending on your needs.
Related: This Is How We Work Now
Providing career development options
No two individuals learn the same, so offering a range of career development options to both existing and new team members is important. This way, workers can learn at a pace and in a format that works best for them, which can lead to more successful talent development outcomes. In fact, research from Realizeit and Brandon Hall Group shows that 93% of companies feel personalized learning is “very” or “critically” important to both individual and company performance.
Examples of career development options include:
- Structured onboarding sessions
- Individual development plans
- Performance reviews
- Skill assessments
- Stretch assignments and experiential learning
- Mentorship opportunities
- Online learning platform access
- Stipends for professional development events and courses
Keep in mind, formal options such as performance reviews and development plans are intended for full-time, in-house workers. One way to set independent talent up for success is by providing succinct project descriptions and well-defined project milestones. Offering independent professionals on your team onboarding and online learning resources can also be helpful, especially if you’re engaging them for long-term projects.
Analyzing performance to identify strengths and opportunities
Talent development is an ongoing effort and a work in progress, especially as in-demand skills continue to evolve. Research from LinkedIn found that the skill sets needed for jobs have changed 25% since 2015, and this number is expected to double by 2027. Additionally, a Gartner survey found that HR leaders list building critical skills and competencies as the top priority for 2023.
Tracking the performance of your talent development strategies and identifying areas for improvement is critical to both business success and team member career growth.
Some metrics you can track include:
- Talent development spend and return on investment
- Online learning tool adoption rate
- Skills gaps and improvement over time
- Training session attendance rate
- Assessment completion rate
- Assessment scores
- Team member engagement and satisfaction
- Worker retention
- Internal mobility (lateral moves and promotions)
To streamline the process of tracking and analyzing performance, consider investing in a learning management system (LMS). This is a software solution that helps organizations centralize their talent development strategy, distribute learning resources, track engagement, and measure returns.
Find help to develop your strategy
Keeping up with the latest in-demand skills in today’s ever-evolving world of work can be overwhelming. But effective talent development strategies will help your organization streamline the process, while ensuring your team has the skills necessary to succeed both now and for years to come.
Whether you’re building talent development strategies from the ground up or have identified areas for improvement with your current strategy, consider Upwork to help. Skilled talent management professionals are available on Upwork to help you build an impactful strategy. Through Upwork, also access diverse independent talent with more than 10,000 skills to fill in any gaps you identify in your skills inventory. Forward-thinking businesses tap into talent on Upwork to scale their teams and drive business agility while reducing operational costs. Learn more and get started today.
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