Want an inspired, engaged culture – develop a talent development program

An inspirational friend and business confidant of mine (let’s call her Frieda) has held various CEO roles in the financial sector over many decades. Frieda’s key staff engagement strategy was honed over a few implementations but can be summarised as follows:

On the first day of induction where new staff are welcomed, Frieda would address staff. In a frank manner, she would share with the recruits that the average tenure for each staff member at the newly joined company was XX years. Some will stay longer and some shorter, but the average is XX. Frieda then went on to commit to each recruit; we want to partner with you to help you achieve or exceed the specific professional development and career goals you have over that period.

The goal: on the day the staff member leaves the company they will look back and feel they have made a real contribution and, at the same time, been able to develop professionally and within previously communicated expectations.

What followed was the development or revision of a personal development program for all staff – new and existing. Of course, the program was monitored and reviewed by the individual and appropriate manager regularly.

What is the difference between a training program and a talent development program? In short, a training program will be a subset of the talent development strategy. Training for onboarding or role development is the essential components of the talent strategy.

The definition of a talent development program can vary widely. Therefore, its best to stay high level and then craft out something that will suit your business’ culture and capability.

A comprehensive paper produced by the KPMG team in Malta defines Talent Development as “a set of initiatives which creates the opportunity for organisations to succeed through the development of employees assisting them each to achieve their full potential, reducing attrition and aligning people to the business strategy”.

As a small business owner, your business growth will be limited by who you can attract to your organisation. Developing a purpose designed talent development strategy will differentiate your small or medium enterprise from the many talent competitors you are up against.

Your talent development strategy needs to focus on acquisition, development and retention. The “development” component needs to be bespoke. Every person on your team will have very different personal goals. Of course, their development program has to match the organisational capability and strategy of your business, but it also needs to match the aspirations and goals of the individual.

For each of your people ask them where they would like to be in the mid-term; maybe 3 ~ 5 years out, or whatever your average tenure happens to be. Start with this goal and work back at the same time weaving in the business strategy and requirements. It’s no point developing someone in the IT app development space if your business priority is marketing skills.

If your talent development strategy is an integral part of a small business that is growing quickly, you will need to review the changing conditions in your business regularly and ensure that the talent program direction and priorities accurately reflect the current business requirements.

Ready et al. found that the most talented individuals were drawn to organisations which were constantly evolving and refreshing. If your origination has plateaued or stagnated, then the best talent will not be attracted to join or stay. This is where a refreshed strategy becomes an integral component of talent acquisition and development strategy. Of course, the strategy will be simple and clear. It will lay out the values and the culture so that the high performers in your group can immediately understand why they have been selected to be part of the team.

The talent strategies and business strategies must be aligned, regularly reviewed and then communicated. In this way, you can ensure that the smart people you have hired understand clearly the journey you want to take them on. Just as importantly, your key talent will be cognizant of their role in the journey. They will be engaged and excited to be part of your journey and vision.


KPMG Talent Development Programs – Malta

Building a Game-Changing Talent Strategy – HBR – January 2014 Ready, Hill & Thomas