Talent Development Challenges

How Leaders Can Prepare for Talent Development Challenges

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

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: How Can Organizational Leaders Prepare for These Global Talent Development Challenges?

We asked our thought leaders how organizations can prepare for the predicted global talent development challenges. Some of our key takeaways include: 

  • Expert Advice: Be Authentic. Use authentic leadership styles, think in reverse (first who, and then what) to focus on the individual, and create new workers and work environments where agile, adaptable, curious leaders are rewarded for taking calculated risks in environments where they can grow.
  • Expert Advice: Integrate Global Thinking into Strategy. Create change-ready organizations by integrating global organizational needs and overall corporate goals. This can be done by ensuring that the global talent strategy has a place on the agenda whenever discussing overall corporate strategy. Globalism can no longer be discussed in a vacuum, so make it an expected part of all strategy conversations and link global talent development goals with overall corporate goals to move the needle.
  • Expert Advice: Reward Innovative Globalism. Expect, empower, and encourage globalism and global thinking; share knowledge and create environments where workers know the language of data and use it for strategic global thinking. Invest in training as well as technology that will help to link groups and spread a sense of global connection throughout the organization.
  • Expert Advice: Provide Opportunity. Give workers the ability to experience cross-cultural opportunities to open them up to new ways of thinking, acting, and doing. This can include big things, such as supporting global assignments, or more local opportunities, such as encouraging cross-department work teams that give employees the opportunity to develop and practice new skills.
  • Expert Advice: Proving Training. Provide global-supported training and development at all levels of the organization including apprenticeships, coaching, and skills training. This should include everything from diversity sensitivity training to soft skills training focused on the needs of a global workforce to technical training on how to use new technologies and equipment to stay connected.

A second finding from this question included more-specific advice for senior leaders in organizations. Our global thought leaders encourage everyone in the C-suite to support and encourage important global-friendly characteristics in leadership, talent development professionals, and others. To be successful, we provide the following suggestions for the C-Suite: 

  • Suggestion 1: Learn and Embrace Technology. The days of the CEO who prints out emails and dictates responses is so far gone it’s embarrassing to even mention. If you don’t know what the twentysomethings are using technology wise, learn it or hire someone who can do it for you. Technology isn’t going away and it’s time to make it work for you, globally.
  • Suggestion 2: Share Knowledge. Leaders who share knowledge are the most successful, and individuals are now smart enough and savvy enough to figure out what’s happening anyway. Or, they make up a story more harmful than any real truth can ever be. Transparency is king, so embrace it.
  • Suggestion 3: Champion Change. The thinking that got us where we are today will not get us where we need to be tomorrow. Change might be scary, but it is the way of the world, and we need to embrace it and make it work for us. Work to diversify your network and find the partners you need to be an open and successful champion of change. 

To sum up, I would like to quote Lorraine Vaun-Davis, Program Director for Executive Education at London Business School:  

“I think they should develop talent for the future, but the challenge is trying to second-guess what the future is. So, do you just develop the talent against what you do at the moment in the organization, to the current requirements? If so, you’re back to ‘if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.’ So, how does an organization think, ‘This is what we want to do differently in the future’ and decide what competencies and behaviors will take them there? It’s a challenge, and that’s what we’re trying to do. In an ideal world, that’s what we should be doing.” 

And how, exactly, might you get there? 


“I think that it is about how we frame development. If we are going to create an agile workforce, the good news for talent development professionals is that just means what we do is more important. And anytime there is change, somebody is going to have to go through that change, and learning something new is almost always part of that.”

—Aaron Olson
Chief Talent Officer

“I think that HR, and I’m going to use that term generically, needs to take a very strong role in change readiness, and one of the models that I use when I talk about change readiness is do they have a conflict resolution model or methodology that’s in play and fully understood? Do they have a decision-making model? Do they have good communication channels? Those are just some of the things that HR needs to become the steward for in showing that the organization is ready for change, not just participating in change.”

—Jeanette Winters
Igloo Products Corp.

 I, along with my ATD and Rothwell & Associates colleagues, Wei Wang, Jennifer Homer, William J. Rothwell, and Aileen Guerrero Zaballero, would like to thank the 31 thought leaders we spoke with, making the lessons learned from this research possible. We’d also like to thank our team of research assistants, whose tireless transcription of our interview results made the coding I did possible. Thank you! 

Interested in learning more about preparing for talent development challenges? 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!



About the Author

Angela is the Director of Program Innovations at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management (GSM), where she oversees the development and delivery of innovative management and leadership development programming for the School. To do so, she partners with faculty, deans, staff and business leaders to create compelling credit and noncredit curriculum offerings, delivered in both face-to-face and online formats, to differentiate the School in the competitive market. Angela was promoted to this position after spending nearly two years working as a Director in the GSM’s Executive Education unit. Angela holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing and International Business, a Master’s of Science degree in Workforce Education and Development, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Workforce Education and Development, with a concentration in Human Resources and Organization Development.

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