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ATD Blog

Talent Development—Let’s Get These Myths Out of the Way!

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

There’s never been a more important or difficult time to focus on talent development than today. The challenges seem almost insurmountable, as organizations search for and attempt to retain a talented workforce.

There are three myths that TD professionals should be aware of while navigating today’s perplexing landscape:

Myth 1. Let go of them; they won’t be here forever.

It is fair to say that the days of 30- or 40-year careers in one organization are far rarer than in the past. Previous generations fondly recall the days of consistent employment under the umbrella of one company—a company embedded in the community and part of everyday life. This is no longer the case. According to one study, 20 percent of the American workforce expects to work at different entities in the next eight years. A recent study by McKinsey found that 48 percent of people are leaving their current jobs and moving to an entirely new industry, and across the globe, 65 percent of workers who left their jobs in the last two years found new positions in completely different sectors.

But the news isn’t all bad. Reskilling, cross-training, upskilling, and development can alter these trends. According to the 2022 Workplace Learning Report, there’s hope through workplace engagement. For organizations that create and maintain learning cultures and offer upward mobility and development opportunities, the chances that employees will stick around are much higher. The report notes that 94 percent of employees will stay at a job if their professional development needs are met. The cost of replacing an employee is up to two times more than an employee’s annual salary, so refocusing on engagement is paramount.


Myth 2. Millennials and Gen Zers are too hard to figure out.

Millennials and Gen Zers are unquestionably different populations with different needs but so were the Gen Xers and boomers in their days. Despite similarities among the generations, there are unique aspects to working with millennials and Gen Zers in today’s workforce. Members of both generations generally do not like staying in one place for too long and job hop at a rate that is dizzying to people that have been in the workforce for a longer time. Younger workers also seek to understand more clearly how their work contributes to the overall mission of the organization. They want to be part of something that is bigger than themselves and their job, and they are willing to change jobs until they find it.

Senior leadership across the country find themselves scratching their heads and wondering how to connect with these young professionals. It’s not that difficult. When companies express a legitimate interest in what their younger employees are looking for, they are far more likely to keep them on the payroll longer. TD professionals can help by educating workforces on the importance of organizational cultures that focus on collaboration. The connections and relationships coupled with a flexible work schedule and use of technology will keep younger professionals interested and in place.


Myth 3. Senior leaders are hard to convince.

In practice, we know that senior executives in our organizations can be barriers. This is because they have responsibilities that draw their attention away from items their TD professionals find most pressing. This is not an excuse for poor decision making or poor planning, but it does create an opportunity for a TD expert to educate senior leaders on why recruiting, development, succession planning, mentoring, and employee care should be priorities.

To capture the imagination of senior leadership within an organization, point to the data. Research proves that when our workplaces are diverse and rich in psychological safety, have clear missions, operate by their values, and care for their human resources, a competitive advantage emerges. Introduce leaders to the data that addresses talent flow (entry, learning, development, compensation, analysis and evaluation, and exit). The numbers won’t lie.

Organizations are living, breathing organisms that need to be nurtured and have no greater asset than their people. Tend to the professional, social, and psychological needs of staff, and every minute spent doing so will pay dividends down the road.

About the Author

Patrick Malone is director of Key Executive Leadership Programs at American University in Washington, D.C. He is a frequent guest lecturer on leadership and organizational dynamics and has extensive experience working with government leaders. Patrick’s research, teaching, and scholarship include work in public sector leadership, executive problem solving, organizational analysis, ethics, and public administration and policy. He is a retired navy captain, having spent 22 years in a number of senior leadership and policy roles.

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