Developing Talent

Developing Talent is about the talent management activities designed to maximise the potential of individual employees to meet current and future demands.

It is fundamental that talent management is driven by the organisation, owned by the executive and is something that managers truly care about, rather than a ‘HR initiative’. The line manager should be supported by HR and its processes to ensure they are able to effectively implement the talent approach.


Talent conversations and performance management

Building talent conversations into the appraisal and performance management process is a means by which to explore the individual’s current performance and their potential to grow both within the current role and beyond.  This process provides the bedrock for the talent management process. Yet talent conversations need to happen continuously throughout the year. It is these conversations that are the most significant step in developing talent.


Holding talent conversations

Talent conversations between line managers and individuals need to be evidence-based and provide constructive feedback to ensure the organisation continues to develop and motivate its people.  These conversations should start before the talent review process and continue on an ongoing basis.

Effective and honest communication is at the heart of the talent conversation. There needs to be a balance of both the individual’s needs and ambitions with the reality of the organisation’s needs, ambitions and possibilities.  This may result in a conversation that is sensitive in nature and can create tension in the conversation. Effective dialogue is a means of managing the tension between these two sets of interests.

The ability to have honest conversations is what holds together the tensions that exist when organisations tackle the issues of potential, development and career progression. In career development conversations, the organisation needs to answer questions, such as what they can offer an individual, how far they think they can go, who the key people are, which jobs are critical and what the organisation’s current and future talent needs will be. It is helpful if individuals are clear about their strengths and development needs, understand what motivates them, what ambitions they have and how they can develop and realise their goals in their current organisation. Authenticity is essential to ensure that honest two-way conversations take place, looking at the perspectives of both the individual and the organisation.

Detailed preparation is vital before holding talent conversations to ensure the conversation is effective and results in action. The NHS Talent Conversation Tool  and Maximising Potential Conversation Tool  will help you prepare for talent conversations. The Conversation Flowchart within the tools will give you a guide of the steps involved in the process.

Once the talent conversation has been completed and documented, it’s important to follow through on the actions agreed. Line managers should work with the individual to create development plans that include specific actions. There are a whole range of development interventions and it is important to choose the ones that are aligned not only with the organisation’s requirements but also the individual’s aspirations and learning styles. The commonly used 70:20:10 model of development activities can be used to select the right actions.

Following the creation of a development plan, continual review progress and actions should take place on an ongoing basis. Note that the Talent Conversation may take place prior to and / or after the Talent Review meetings. See ‘Conducting Talent Reviews’. (insert hyperlink)

Use the Development Planning Tool to explore the 70:20:10 model and create a Personal Development Plan.

Download the Development Planning Tool


Managing employee development and career planning

Development and career planning is a critical aspect of talent management so that individuals are effective in their role and prepared for future roles, as well as engaging and motivating those who have aspirations to progress.


Building a talent pipeline

A one-size-fits all approach to individual development may not always be appropriate and won’t necessarily build the talent you need. Planning development activities that are tailored to the individual and to the role will ensure you have a pipeline for the talent you are looking to grow.


Accelerated development programmes

Organisations that have programmes that focus on the development of individuals they have identified as critical talent or high-potential see a clear return on investment. Accelerated development programmes provide continuous challenge and a variety of on-the-job learning opportunities. This usually comes with the support from a sponsor, most often a line manager or influential person who encourages them to take on bigger challenges.


Career management

A key driver of employee engagement is career management (upwards or sideways) and development plans to support this.  This maximises opportunities for the individual to develop skills that enable career progression, resulting in positive feelings about the organisation and their role and ultimately the performance of the organisation, whilst ensuring engagement with the talent process.

Effective career management requires strong foundations across three types of practices, each of which must be closely integrated:

  1. Know your talent and their potential. Talent segmentation and the talent review will identify the individuals in the organisation who have the potential to reach specific roles
  2. Understand what your talent wants from your organisation and their careers so that you can offer development opportunities that will engage and retain them
  3. Enable talent mobility by having mechanisms in place that will help manage unplanned moves as well as planning development moves. To find out more about talent mobility, go to Deploying Talent section.


Line manager development

The role of the line manager is essential in developing talent as they will support the individuals throughout the process.  It is fundamental that they are able to have effective talent and coaching conversations, and have a good awareness of the development opportunities available. Consequently, line managers will need to be developed and supported to understand talent management and its process.

Back to Talent Management Overview