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Secrets to Developing Emerging Talent


Wed Jan 23 2019

Secrets to Developing Emerging Talent

Developing employees isn’t easy, and that job can be even harder when it comes to developing those who have recently entered the workforce. This group—known as emerging talent—can be tricky to develop because they lack not only work experience, but also experience receiving and applying training in a workplace setting.

Emerging talent are those in the workforce with less than five years of full-time work experience in any workplace. ATD Research recently conducted a study, Emerging Talent: Developing Early Career Employees, sponsored by AACSB, which surveyed 215 participants about training needs for emerging talent, how needs of this group are assessed, and the delivery methods most commonly used.



Study findings revealed that organizations certainly still have room for improvement when it comes to developing emerging talent. In fact, 20 percent of participants said their organizations were highly effective at developing specific skills in emerging talent to meet immediate needs, while just 12 percent indicated that their organizations were highly effective at career development for emerging talent.

The study also found that organizations face a number of challenges when developing this group. In fact, approximately one-third of respondents reported that a key challenge was a lack of resources, followed closely by a lack of metrics to track the success of development and managers who do not view development of emerging talent as a priority. Taken together, the low effectiveness in developing this group as well as the primary challenges organizations struggle with paint a grim picture for developing emerging talent.


In light of these challenges, the report offers several recommendations for talent development professionals to increase their effectiveness in developing emerging talent based on research findings and interviews with subject matter experts. Two of these recommendations are offered below.

Talk directly to emerging talent. Research shows that organizations that used interviews with emerging talent to assess their needs were significantly more effective than those that did not use interviews. These interviews could be done formally or informally, and could also be combined with other methods to ensure you’re getting the whole picture. For example, consider collecting data through several sources—known as triangulating data—such as interviews, surveys, and focus groups. It may take more time and effort, but the data collected will be much richer than if only a single source were used.

Involve mentors and leaders. Organizations that offered any of the top five career development opportunities—on-the-job learning, mentoring, regular performance feedback, stretch assignments, or learning from senior leaders—were found to be significantly more effective in developing emerging talent. Mentoring programs in particular stand out as an effective tool for developing this group of employees. A mentoring program allows for emerging talent to learn from more experienced mentors, but the opposite can happen, too: mentors can learn from mentees. Moreover, emerging talent can also benefit from learning directly from senior leaders. In Leaders as Teachers: Engaging Employees in High-Performance Learning, ATD Research (2015) found that when leaders are teachers, it increases engagement and exposes them to senior leaders in the organization.


Learn More

Members can purchase the full report for $199 ($499 for nonmembers) here. There is also a whitepaper, which is complimentary for ATD members and $19.99 for nonmembers. Join us for our free webcast on February 7 at 2 p.m. to discuss the report. To sign up, click here.

Visit the ATD Research page to learn more.

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