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ATD Blog

Talent Development Capabilities Are Getting Personal

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

As the pace of technological and societal change grows ever more rapid, organizations and industries have been investigating the meaning of the future of work. ATD too has been sifting through the research and predictions as part of its own investigation into what talent development professionals will need to know and do to be successful today and tomorrow.

The most recent competency model study, which began in early 2019, is the first to be conducted under the talent development banner and is designed to create a model of the necessary knowledge and skills for the industry. What emerged was an increasing importance of interpersonal skills that are often considered foundational or enabling. In fact, the current ATD Competency Model includes proficiencies such as business skills, interpersonal skills, and a global mindset as the solid base on which more technical, professional skills are grounded.

As trends from the research surfaced, however, it has become clear that the types of knowledge and tasks viewed as soft skills or enabling competencies are equally important as professional expertise. The new ATD Capability Model elevates these interpersonal skills and other core areas of personal aptitude as key domains of practice. Indeed, there is no hierarchy among the three domains around which the model is organized: personal, professional, and organizational.

But how much attention do any of us really pay to developing those skills? Communication skills, for example, are essential to success in just about every field, but many of us rarely work on building them. Learning to speak the language of your audience, whether that is the sales professional you may be training or the CEO whom you are asking to invest considerable resources in a performance solution, requires work and attention to make you fully capable of a persuasive argument. You must be armed with the information each group needs to hear to get them to buy in to your approach. How much more effective could each of us be if we devoted some of our professional development time to enhancing our skills in this area? What stronger partnerships and bridges could we build across our organization if we listened more to what others need and were proactive in identifying solutions responsive to those needs?


Most of what talent development professionals do is around developing people. In 2014, ATD added the area of “Global Mindset” to its competency model to help TD professionals focus on the challenges around developing leaders in an increasingly global world. Fast forward five years and our research reveals that issues related to inclusion and diversity in the workplace have expanded in meaning. Having a solid understanding of how to invite diversity and create an open and inclusive environment that enables employees to unleash their full potential is more critical to an organization’s success. This means talent development professionals will have to rely on their emotional intelligence and ability to collaborate across all kinds of cultural and generational divides to create a learning culture that fosters innovation and growth.


To be ready for the change that is already here, and for changes that are coming even faster in the future, TD professionals will need to harness their personal capabilities to demonstrate the value of their expertise so their function can be an important partner for organizational success. The ATD Capability Model will assist TD professionals in identifying which skills are needed and how to focus on them.

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 ATD at [email protected].

About the Author

As director of credentialing for the Association of Talent Development (ATD), Morgean Hirt has more than 25 years of experience in personnel certification and accreditation across a variety of professions. She provides strategic leadership and technical expertise in developing and implementing credentialing programs, focusing on test development, policy and standards development, program audits, strategic planning, and ANSI/ISO 17024 and NCCA accreditation. Believing that standards and certification enhance professionalism and credibility, Hirt has led a number of organizations through establishing industry standards for emerging professions, including clinical research, massage therapy, and mortgage brokering.

Prior to joining ATD, she served as an account executive at MetaCred, a boutique association management firm specializing in managing credentialing programs, and spent 12 years as president and CEO of Certified Fund Raising Executives International Credentialing Board, where she was responsible for establishing international support across six continents for a unified standard of fundraising practice. Hirt is also active with the Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE) and recently earned the Institute for Credentialing Excellence Certified Credentialing Professional (ICE-CCP) designation.

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Glad the new model is out, Morgan. Congratulations to the team!
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