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Effective Communication Is a Vital Capability for TD Pros

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

The Association for Talent Development (ATD) is making a bold shift with the new Talent Development Capability Model. ATD is shifting from competency to capability and broadening the model’s focus to help talent development professionals build capabilities that will help them perform their work today, communicate the strategic importance of TD, and prepare for challenges they’ll face in the future.

Why the shift from competency to capability? According to Capabilities for Talent Development: Shaping the Future of the Profession, competence refers to a person’s current state and having the knowledge and skills necessary to perform a job. Capability is about integrating knowledge and skills and adapting and flexing to meet future needs. Shifting from a competency model to a capability model signals to talent development professionals that they must be agile and committed to continual development to create, innovate, lead, manage change, and demonstrate impact.

The new Capability Model is divided into three domains of practice: Developing Personal Capabilities, Building Professional Capabilities, and Impacting Organizational Capabilities. Listed under each domain of practice are several capabilities. The first one under the “Developing Personal Capability” domain is communication, a foundational capability that all working professionals should possess to be effective in the business world.

“Good communication is essential to creating a productive and efficient workplace. Effective communication helps to build the working team, boosts employee engagement, increases customer satisfaction, improves productivity, and grows the bottom line. A cost of poor communication exists. SHRM surveyed 400 companies with more than 100,000 employees and found an average loss per company of $62.4 million per year due to inadequate communication,” wrote Pat Galagan, Morgean Hirt, and Courtney Vital, in Capabilities for Talent Development. In ATD’s most recent whitepaper, Bridging the Skills Gap: Workforce Development and the Future of Work, communication is identified as a leading skill gap for most organizations.


The Talent Development Capability Model identifies key attributes for each capability.


Effective communication requires a knowledge of communication principles and techniques that allow a person to articulate the appropriate message for a particular audience. It includes creating messages that are clear, correct, complete, concise, coherent, and courteous; understanding the communication process: selecting appropriate communication media; recognizing and overcoming communication barriers; applying the principles of active listening; and observing and sending nonverbal messages.

According to the model, an effective talent development professional needs to be skilled in:

  • articulating and conveying value propositions to gain agreement, support, and buy-in from stakeholders
  • employing persuasion and influencing techniques to gain agreement, commitment, and buy-in from stakeholders
  • applying principles of active listening (for example, focusing on what someone is saying, deferring judgment, and responding appropriately)
  • expressing thoughts, feelings, and ideas in a clear, concise, and compelling manner
  • using communication strategies that inform and influence audiences
  • applying verbal, written, and nonverbal communication techniques (for example, agenda setting, asking open-ended questions, use of posture and deference, and demonstrating professional presence)
  • conceiving, developing, and delivering information in various formats and media (for example reports, briefings, memorandums, presentations, articles, and emails)
  • facilitating dialogue with individuals and groups to help them identify, articulate, and clarify their thoughts and feelings.

“A look at the list of skills related to communication should make it plain to see why this capability is critical to the success of talent development professionals,” observed Kristen Fyfe-Mills, a veteran communication professional who serves as ATD’s director of marketing and strategic communications. “From designing courses to facilitating learning, effective communication is a cornerstone of success. And beyond that, being able to communicate the value and impact of talent development initiatives to the C-suite is critical for enabling a strategic partnership to form between organization leaders and the talent development function.”

About the Author

Paula Ketter is ATD's content strategist. Previously, she served as editor of ATD's periodicals.

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The #1 communication skill needed is effective oral communication. Yet how many people are competent, confident presenters? See
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