Talent Development as a Tool for Recruitment and Retention

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If you’re an HR executive or CLO, employee talent is always on your mind. How do we find top talent? How do we recruit them? How do we keep them engaged and help them grow?

According to a recent article from Cornell HR Review, organizations spend anywhere from $90,000 to $250,000 per employee per year on leadership development programs. And, while there are certain metrics we can use to understand whether or not those programs are working, ROI often doesn’t truly become apparent until years after an employee completes a program.

These internally developed programs are exorbitantly costly in terms of both money and time, and they rarely involve any ongoing learning—especially in critical leadership areas such as communication.

As a result, HR leaders may be better off incorporating programs that offer both immediate results and long-term development, which they can use both to recruit and develop talent, justifying that larger budget.

The War for Talent

Today’s job market is one of the tightest in recent memory. That may be great news for our economy, but it also means it’s harder than ever for employers to recruit top talent, as the relatively few available candidates have significant leverage in the shape of other job offers.

This means that, rather than seeking to “buy” talent, most HR departments are realizing they’re better off “making” it by hiring entry-level employees and then grooming them to rise through the ranks.

Fortunately, this method is attractive to potential employees, as well. Today, most recent graduates—and job seekers of all ages—are looking to join an organization for more than just the paycheck. Candidates want to become part of a company that is ready and willing to invest in their ongoing professional and leadership development.

These programs, then, become critical for talent development, employee engagement, and recruitment. Suddenly, that price tag seems a little less galling.   

What Do Successful Talent Development Programs Look Like?

In order for these programs to be successful, we believe they must contain three key components:

Ongoing Training

Traditionally, leadership rotations and training programs are finite. They have a strict beginning and end, and once they’re over, employees are at a loss for further development opportunities. As they begin to feel they’ve plateaued in terms of their own development, they start to disengage from their work. Morale and productivity decrease, and the employees become a drain on the company and its culture until they eventually leave.

However, if companies can offer continuous training programs, empowering employees to keep learning and developing new skills for the duration of their employment, they’ll find their top talent remains engaged and productive for the long run.


Chalk it up to participation trophies and millennial entitlement, but there’s nothing more motivating than immediate results. How are we doing? Have we improved? What’s the next step? But so often, talent development programs end with nothing more than a checkmark confirming the program has been completed.

But what if, based on their participation in each rotation or module, each employee could receive a detailed assessment highlighting strengths and development opportunities, and even recommending some resources or exercises to drive improvement?

By feeding employees’ desire for feedback—and nudging their competitive spirits—results-driven programs are likely to pique the interest of candidates and employees alike.

Universal Leadership Development

Finally, while it’s important to train and improve in the technical skills that are specific to a given company’s operations, too many talent development programs stop there.

In reality, it’s most often the “soft” skills that make or break an employment candidate’s chances or an existing employees performance review. After all, corporate recruiters rank communication as the top skill they look for MBA graduates—so why wouldn’t those companies focus on developing that skill among their employees?

Admittedly we’re placing a tall order, here. There are few leadership programs out there that offer ongoing training, immediate feedback, and leadership skill development in a way that is tailored to individual employee needs and that doesn’t break the bank.  But maybe HR departments will soon be able to create programs that meet all their needs, one piece at a time.

If you ask us, communication skills aren’t a bad place to start.