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New Capability Model Is a Blueprint for Talent Development Professionals


Mon Dec 09 2019

New Capability Model Is a Blueprint for Talent Development Professionals

Through its competency studies over the last 40 years, ATD has helped define what training, learning, and talent development professionals need to know and do to be successful. Amid a constantly evolving business landscape and a proliferation of new buzz words and trends, success in our field has always been about unleashing workforce potential and harnessing it to generate meaningful business impact.

ATD’s latest research to measure the pulse of the profession culminates with the release of the Talent Development Capability Model. The new model underscores how specialized knowledge about how to create, deliver, foster, and measure learning is essential to TD’s ability to boost the potential of our learners and deliver value to the organizations we serve.


These core capabilities appear in the model’s Developing Professional Capability Domain. ATD defines professional capabilities as those which come from building professional knowledge related to developing people and helping them learn. Truly knowing the art and science of how people learn and develop sets talent development practitioners apart from experts, managers, and leaders, all of whom play a role in fostering employee growth.

Some of the disciplines in this domain are long-standing focus areas for our field, such as training delivery, instructional design, and coaching. Other abilities are new or reimagined to align with how work is being done today. These include career and leadership development, learning sciences, and technology application, to name a few.

While specialized knowledge in core talent development functions is critical, a key feature of the research behind the new model highlights the need for practitioners to also call on our personal capabilities. These enabling competencies, often referred to as “soft skills,” include communication, emotional intelligence, decision making, and cultural awareness, among others. The belief is that how we do the work is equally important to what we do. In other words, being effective at self-management, interacting with others, and modeling ethical and inclusive behavior is essential to elevating our game and maximizing our value. We must be able to couple our technical and TD-specific capabilities with interpersonal skills to build collaborative partnerships and lead up, down, and across our organizations.

The Capability Model also represents the many societal forces that are beginning to fundamentally alter how we work. Innovations in technology, digital transformation in all facets of our lives, and shifting workforce dynamics are disrupting jobs and necessitating the development of new skills. This need to expand our capacity is made more complex by the shear amount of information available to anyone at any time. Learning must be a continuous pursuit, with workers demanding greater immediacy and accessibility of development resources. These forces are profound and, given the role of talent developers in preparing the workforce of the future, it’s no surprise that several areas emerged in the research as important development areas, including the:

  • Science of learning. Discoveries in neuroscience have given us more insight into how the brain processes information and learns. TD professionals must harness this insight and use evidence-based practices to improve the effectiveness of their solutions.

  • Use of technology. As the role of the talent development professional expands, so does the learning environment. Learning is no longer happening solely inside traditional classroom walls, and the tools available to us to deliver development resources are abundant. With this reality comes increased complexity and a need for TD professionals to gain greater technical acumen.

  • Management and curation of knowledge. The endless amount of information online has made it possible for the workforce to access insight on any subject at any time. This presents a wealth of learning opportunities at their fingertips. Talent development professionals play an important role in optimizing accessibility, evaluating and curating resources, and supporting the capturing and sharing of organizational know-how and best practices.

  • Demonstrating impact. We must continue to not only quantify the effect of our programs, but also show how our work is contributing to the achievement of business goals. Further, we must be adept at using data and talent analytics to not just react to requests but to proactively recommend solutions with our stakeholders.

These new skill requirements stem directly from an environment of work that is rapidly changing. The future is already here—we can see the transformations happening every day. Organizations need talent development professionals to have technical knowledge and expertise in how individuals learn, adapt, and grow in their careers so they can align development opportunities to strategic goals and foster a culture of learning that enables engagement, productivity, and innovation. If this is our profession’s raison d’être, then who better than us to help people and organizations navigate change and be future-ready? ATD’s hope is that the new Capability Model will serve as a blueprint for talent development professionals to identify the skills they need to rise to evolving business challenges and provide the leadership their organizations need.


ATD members will get an advance preview of the new model through an interactive site that will debut on Monday, December 16. A webcast on December 17 will provide an overview of the model and a guide to using the interactive site. The study book Capabilities for Talent Development: Shaping the Future of the Profession is available for pre-order now and will be published in December.

More information about each domain of practice and the individual capabilities will be included in this ongoing blog series. Frequently asked questions are included on the Capability Model webpage, and additional questions may be sent to [email protected].

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