Five Ways to Improve Career Development and Talent Planning

Effective career development and talent planning matters to employees and organizations. Ensure your company is set up for success with these practical strategies.

Too many openings. Too few candidates. Roughly one-third of U.S. employers say they are having difficulty filling job vacancies due to talent shortages, according to 2015 research from ManpowerGroup.

How many are overlooking hidden gems within their own organizations? Failing to see high potential individuals who are languishing or disengaging due to the lack of robust career development and talent planning in the workplace culture.

What can be more important than encouraging the talent in your organization to ensure your business success?

Career development matters to employees and organizations. Research shows organizations that provide meaningful career development are six times more likely to engage their employees, 2.5 times more likely to be productive, and – the icing on the cake -- post higher revenue numbers as well. Yet many companies aren’t providing the types of career development resources that enable employees to grow.

Talent planning goes hand in hand with career development and faces a similar problem. Many companies say all the right things about talent/succession planning – how important it is – yet fail to put structure and accountability into their talent planning efforts. So programs fail to deliver meaningful outcomes and wither away.

To get more out of your career development and talent planning efforts, here are five suggestions.


  1. Put senior leadership front and center. Career development and talent planning must be spearheaded and driven by the top of the organization. Unless seen as business initiatives aligned to the goals of the organization, they will not be successful. Thus, senior leaders should be highly visible, making it clear to managers and employees at every level that this signals a cultural shift in how the organization views and is committed to career development.
  2. Build in accountability. Career development and talent planning efforts need structure, definition, and a rhythm of occurrence that ties into the organizational culture. Managers must be held responsible to produce actionable talent development plans, and held accountable for their timely and effective execution. This is critical since the majority of managers (68 percent) are not involved in the career development of their employees. Leaders should be measured on how well they develop talent on their teams and across the enterprise with quantifiable KPIs, such as an improvement in engagement scores or meeting a target for more diversity in leadership roles.
  3. Drive career development down into the organization. Careers are important to people at every level of the organization, but only one in five companies is committed to providing a learning culture that promotes the development of existing staff. In providing career growth resources scaled appropriately to employees at all levels, you will create a developmental ladder that feeds your talent pipeline while driving higher employee engagement.
  4. Empower and support managers. Most managers lack the experience and skills to have robust career conversations with their reports. A recent ManpowerGroup survey indicated that two-thirds of managers need help developing coaching skills. Many fear not knowing what to say, how to say it, or where these development discussions might lead. As a result, they may avoid career discussions or participate only superficially. The employee, in turn, believes her manager, and the company, doesn’t care about her career goals, becomes disengaged, and decides to look for another position. Everyone loses.
  5. Don’t settle for halfway measures. Some companies opt for a partial solution to career development, providing employees with a self-service online portal but little or nothing in the way of one-on-one support. This is usually done in the interest of saving money but, frankly, you may be better off doing nothing at all. We know the number one driver of individual career success is the ability to have meaningful career conversations with a coach/manager or mentor. Having that personal connection is critical. Yes, a program that balances self-service tools with the opportunity for one-on-one coaching IS more expensive; however, when done correctly, the return on investment will always be far greater.


Related Articles:
Brave Career Conversations: Do Your Managers Have the Skills?
Career Development: It’s Not About Money. It’s About Dignity
Careers Matter: How Lack of Career Development May Be Hurting Your Company