Summer 2020
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CTDO Magazine

Align Talent Development With Business Strategies

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Board-level discussions and a structured talent development department lead to high levels of business alignment.

Only about four in 10 talent development professionals believe their organization’s talent development and business strategies are aligned to a high or very high extent, according to the new ATD Research report Strategic Alignment: Orchestrating Organizational Success. But the report identifies some practices associated with positive, statistically significant connections to higher levels of alignment—and they are practices that any organization can engage in.


Reporting talent development performance

More than half (56 percent) of companies with boards of directors discuss talent development performance during board meetings. Even more (78 percent) discuss talent development in senior or executive team meetings.

This practice is associated with high levels of alignment. In each case, the connection was so strong that there was a less than a 1 percent probability that the relationship was a result of chance.

Reviewing talent development performance with those leadership groups makes talent development accountable for the organization’s business strategy and helps the organization treat talent development as a business strategy unto itself. As Kimberly Currier, senior director of talent development for Americas at AECOM, notes in an interview for the report, this practice “spreads the responsibility to execute those strategies to everyone.”

If talent development leaders want to begin reporting on their teams’ performance to the board of directors or senior leader team, Currier recommends making sure reports focus on “agreed-upon key performance indicators (KPIs) that show talent development’s progress against its goals and strategies.” Talent development leaders should work with the appropriate leaders to identify the necessary KPIs ahead of time, as well as how frequently to report them.

SOTD3_Figure1_Summer 2020
Source: Strategic Alignment: Orchestrating Organizational Success, Association for Talent Development, 2020

Structuring a talent development department

A majority of organizations (61 percent) use a centralized reporting structure for talent development, in which all talent development team members ultimately report to one person, such as a chief talent development officer or vice president of training.

The remaining 39 percent use a decentralized structure, in which individual talent development professionals or working groups are assigned and report to individual business units.


The report found that using a centralized structure had a strong association with high levels of alignment; there was less than a one in 100 probability that the relationship occurred because of chance.

Another expert interviewed for the report, Suzanne Frawley, director of talent management at Plains All American Pipeline, identifies three benefits of a centralized structure:

  • Clearer points of contact for talent development within the organization
  • Reduced duplication of effort
  • Improved knowledge sharing within talent development.

SOTD3_Figure2_Summer 2020
Source: Strategic Alignment: Orchestrating Organizational Success, Association for Talent Development, 2020

Companies have strong incentives to implement centralized reporting structures for talent development whenever possible. Likewise, those that have firmly rooted decentralized structures should implement policies that help replicate the benefits of a centralized structure. One measure Frawley recommends is establishing a formal body to facilitate communication among talent development professionals embedded in different business units. The group “should meet frequently to discuss what they’re working on, what their challenges are, opportunities to work together, and best practices,” she says.

Read more from CTDO magazine: Essential talent development content for C-suite leaders.

About the Author

Alex Moore is a research analyst for the Association for Talent Development. Alex returned to ATD in 2019 after spending a year living and working in Chile. Prior to moving abroad, Alex was a writer/editor for ATD working on TD magazine, a research coordinator at ATD, and a customer care advocate at ATD. He graduated from Virginia Tech in 2015 with a B.A. in English.

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