New Research on Preparing Future Talent Development Leadership

Monday, August 28, 2017

As talent development leaders’ roles evolve, it’s important to understand how they are changing and what must be done to keep pace with industry needs. In fact, 89 percent of talent development professionals admitted that talent development leader’s scope of responsibilities was increasing. This is often due to shifting strategic plans or organizational restructuring.

ATD’s newest research report, Chief Talent Development Officers: Driving Strategy and Performance, explored what this means for organizations and talent development leaders. ATD Research and the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) surveyed 543 talent development professionals across the globe. Sixty-two percent of participants came from organizations with 1,000 or more employees.

ATD and i4cp found that most organizations (79 percent) have a designated talent development leader or leaders. As talent leader’s roles become greater and the organization becomes more dependent on their work, the need for a succession plan becomes more pertinent for this position, especially to avoid organizational culture deterioration and the loss of institutional knowledge. Yet, only 20 percent of organizations have formal succession plans in place for their talent leaders.


Where can talent development professionals look to fill their bench with talent? According to ATD and i4cp, nearly half of survey respondents said their organization would most likely promote internal talent—that is employees who already work in the organization—to replace a leader. Within their organization, 85 percent would look in the talent development or learning function for future leadership candidates; 70 percent would look to the human resources department for new talent.

Once potential leaders are identified, they need to be groomed for the promotion. Eighty-five percent of talent development professionals agreed the most critical competency for talent development leaders in coming years was leadership development. Strong leadership is needed to manage the changing roles of talent development leaders especially as they become a more strategic organizational partner in developing business performance and strategic capabilities.

To be successful in managing your talent development pipeline the importance of understanding the dynamic and shifting role of talent development leaders cannot be understated. Recognize that roles are shifting as quickly as the business world and so are the characteristics of this leadership position. Prioritize learning for your current and future talent development leaders to keep pace with their expanding roles and formalize a succession plan for talent development leaders to give your organization a competitive edge.

For a deeper dive into the data, check out Chief Talent Development Officers: Driving Strategy and Performance, which includes CTDO profiles and interviews.

About the Author

Ryann K. Ellis is an editor for the Association of Talent Development (ATD). She has been covering workplace learning and performance for ATD (formerly the American Society for Training & Development) since 1995. She currently manages ATD's Community of Practice blogs, as well as ATD's government-focused magazine, The Public Manager. Contact her at 

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