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Future Challenges for Talent Development


Tue Apr 19 2016

Future Challenges for Talent Development

As part of a recent research project with the Association for Talent Development (ATD), I worked with a team of researchers from Rothwell & Associates, including William J. Rothwell and Aileen Guerrero Zaballero, to gather some information on global talent development. Over six months, we spoke with 31 thought leaders from all over the world to capture their thinking on talent development on a global scale. We posed 20 questions, gathering 413 pages of transcriptions, which were then transformed into more than 500 pages of theme tables.

The results of the study were captured in the ATD Research report Building a Talent Development Structure Without Borders. This three-part blog series is dedicated to sharing some of the information we gained from those interviews.


Question: What Future Challenges Do You See That Are Going to Affect Global Talent Development?

When asked what challenges our thought leaders foresaw in the future, 10 theme areas emerged.

Challenge 1: Creating a New Normal 

As global talent needs grow and change, organizations will need to establish a new normal for areas such as gender roles, age, language, and worker loyalty. These issues can have significantly different meaning around the world, and global organizations will need to work to first define and then share what each norm means to them, holding their workforce accountable for upholding those new norms.

“There are different kinds of challenges. For example, if women express their opinion in important meetings, they can be perceived as verbose or overly opinionated. Men’s opinions tend to be taken more seriously. We also tend to look at younger employees as less knowledgeable than older, more senior ones. That may not always be true. I think being aware of and sensitive to these stereotypes and nuances will be a key factor in creating a new normal.

Ultimately, to me, talent development and talent management means nothing if it does not speak to culture and work on changing mindsets. Otherwise, it just becomes a checklist. So everything that we do around talent development, because it’s about people, has to be seated in the cultural and social-emotional context and has to consider how the human brain works and how a human being thinks. We have to ensure that the best contributors get a seat at the table and to do that we need to be free of biases and baggage. Only then can we realize the true potential of talent. I would focus on how to make organizations safe and motivating for all employees, not just those who are considered mainstream.” 


—Asiya Shervani

Chief People Officer

People Combine Educational Initiatives

Challenge 2: Global Agility

As the future unfolds, our thought leaders believed it would be increasingly important for organizations to be built in a way that allows both the business and the workforce the ability to adapt to an increasingly global world, act with “follow the sun” agility, and operate in a continually developing world market while remaining relevant.


Challenge 3: Global Strategy

In this new global market, business strategy and global talent development will need to be linked in a way we’ve never seen before. Talent development will need to be involved in business strategy discussions to ensure that business strategy and global talent development are aligned and social global technology is embedded into business strategy.

Challenge 4: Redefining Talent

While many organizations now look at talent development as a just-in-time function or a perk for high performers, this new world will increase the need for talent development to be truly global, strategic, and predictive of future corporate global needs, all to ensure that we are creating global talent development initiatives that are filling future talent gaps.

Challenge 5: Redefining Worker Engagement

Building techniques for engaging new workers, be it through offering diverse work assignments, meeting workers where they are, or other measures to engage everyone (not just top performers), will become increasingly essential for organizations. As employee choice continues to increase, companies will need to figure out how to be seen as an “employer of choice” to an increasingly fickle employee market.

Challenge 6: Redefining Funding

All of these changes will cost money, and dealing with the costs associated with having a fully integrated global talent development plan, finding corporate financial support, and establishing return on investment measures will be a challenge that many will not be prepared for. Analytical tools will need to be purchased and put into use to ensure that the massive investment in these areas is properly (and usefully) tracked and reported. Challenge 7: Digital Social Learning

Global training and development initiatives will continue to move to include not only the face-to-face classroom, but strong virtual learning environments. Creating effective digital learning strategies and programs that are globally adaptable, easy to update, and accessible to learners all over the world regardless of government restrictions will become a new challenge for corporations who still haven’t figured out a corporate-wide social media strategy.

“There is going to continue to be new and emerging technologies that will better enable us to establish communities of practice in a more cost-effective business manner. Corporations will need to answer the question ‘How do I let people build those communities of practice in a virtual media?’” 

—Mark L. Heinlein

Senior Director, Talent Management

Cleveland Clinic

Challenge 8: Volatility

As the working world becomes more global, organizations will need to build plans to deal with the economic and cultural volatility they must overcome. You only need to watch the markets these days to see how a change in one economy can affect the rest of the world. This will become even more linked as we move forward.

Challenge 9: Engaging Everyone

Regardless of your industry, location, size, or future strategy, global trends and challenges are going to have an impact on your business. The conversation will need to change to ensure that we are engaging all industries and countries in this new, global focus.

Challenge 10: Lifelong Learning

There is an old saying in business: “That which made us successful in the past will not make us successful in the future.” Developing mechanisms to provide lifelong learning journeys for workers will become imperative, as companies work to stay relevant in this new, fast-moving, global space.

“Talent development is something that never ceases. So, employees that think that it’s a one-time process, ‘once and done you know, you bulk up early in your career and then that’s it,’ that’s past tense.” 

—Gregory J. Smith


Executive Human Resource Solutions, LLC

Interested in learning more about future challenges in talent development? Join us at the 2016 ATD International Conference & Exposition in Denver for a session on Tuesday, May 24: Build Your Own Talent Development Framework. Read more about the session here!

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