Talent Development Glossary Terms
Section Map

What Is Talent Management?

Talent management, sometimes referred to as human capital management, is the strategic practice of acquiring, onboarding, developing, retaining, and transitioning employees to help build an organization's culture, engagement, capability, and capacity.

The talent manager must ensure these processes are aligned to organizational goals and remain consistent throughout the employees’ lifecycles. Depending on organizational context and structure, broad partnerships with HR professionals and line leaders might be needed.


  • The Value of Talent Management
    TD professionals should have a broad understanding of all talent management functions and how they are integrated so they can align TD goals with those of other talent management functions.

Learning and Development

Skills Required for Talent Management

Talent strategy and management is one of the Talent Development Capability Model’s 23 capabilities and resides in the Impacting Organizational Capability domain.

A talent development (TD) professional with capability in talent strategy and management will need knowledge of:

  • how an organization’s strategic business goals inform workforce planning activities
  • the critical requirements of tasks, jobs, and roles
  • talent acquisition strategies and concepts
  • how effective performance management experiences can drive growth, engagement, and retention
  • learning and development strategies
  • succession planning and talent review processes.

According to Capabilities for Talent Development (ATD Press), to fulfill organizational talent capability requirements, talent development professionals need to be skilled at:

  • creating and aligning the talent development vision and strategy with the organizational and business vision and strategy
  • designing and implementing strategic plans for talent development projects, programs, or functions
  • identifying anticipated constraints or problems affecting talent development initiatives (for example, resource deficiencies or lack of support)
  • establishing and executing a marketing strategy to promote talent development
  • communicating how talent development strategies and solutions support the achievement of targeted business and organizational results
  • communicating the value of learning and professional development
  • developing workforce plans that articulate current and future talent and skill requirements designing and implementing a performance management strategy.

The Value of Talent Management

TD professionals should have a broad understanding of all talent management functions and how they are integrated so they can align TD goals with those of other talent management functions. Strategic workforce planning—the process an organization uses to analyze the current workforce and plan for future staffing needs—is the first step in developing a talent management strategy. It refers to the practice of forecasting all types of talent that will be needed to meet organizational business goals and assessing those needs against current capabilities.

Talent management and talent strategy also can strengthen a company’s culture and lead to a more engaged workforce. Research supports that if an organization has an engaged workforce, the workforce is more productive and loyal to the organization, leading to better productivity and less turnover.

Without proper talent management processes and strategies in place, an organization will have a very tough time getting its workforce to become engaged and productive. From the beginning steps of onboarding talent to the offboarding of talent, studies show that organizational performance is linked to strong talent management and learning and development strategies.

For example, we know a strong onboarding process can increase employee retention by up to 82 percent; a workforce that has professional development opportunities feels cared for and becomes more loyal; and positive offboarding helps to build the brand and create brand ambassadors.

Having long term and positive talent management processes in place can create a positive work environment, attract and retain employees, and increase the bottom line for the organization as a whole.

Talent Management vs Talent Acquisition

Talent acquisition is one step in the talent management framework. Talent acquisition means to hire an employee to work at an organization, which can be broken down into four main categories: recruit and attract, interview and assess, hire, and onboard. A talent acquisition approach should always be guided by the current and future needs of the organization.

Many people will confuse talent management with recruitment alone, but just as talent acquisition is a portion of talent management, recruitment is only a portion of the full acquisition process. And effective talent acquisition also looks beyond employee selection to influence how employers are integrating, equipping, and educating employees to ensure an effective and sustainable experience for the employee on the job.

Attracting and recruiting top talent takes long-term strategies of positioning the employer brand, building a candidate pipeline, nurturing current talent to fill future roles, and forecasting those future roles. Talent acquisition professionals also must create relevant candidate assessment and evaluate the candidate before referring them to hiring managers.

Talent Management Models

People come and go in organizations. Rarely, especially these days, do you find employees who stay for longer than a few years. In this ever-revolving cycle of talent, the talent management process plays a key role in keeping the organization running smoothly.

Many talent management models exist and most start with the planning and acquisition process. In the ATD Integrated Talent Management model, the planning and acquisition phase is aligned to organizational strategy and business objectives.

The six phases of the ATD model include:

Workforce Planning and Talent Acquisition. This phase determines key competencies, skills, and capabilities needed for different roles in the organization and aligns those with predictive short-term forecasting and future scenario planning. It also includes attracting and acquiring that talent through internal or external candidates and portals.

Performance management: This phase refers to developing goals and expectations for employees; supporting the employees, evaluating their performance; giving them feedback; and addressing or rewarding performance outcomes.

Employee Development: This is a joint process of the employee and organization to upskill and reskill an employee to either improve skills needed for their current or a new role.

Succession planning: This phase is about developing and identifying key candidates and employees for key positions within the organization to meet short and long-term talent challenges or goals.

Compensation and rewards: This phase includes payment given to an employee in exchange for the work they perform at an organization. Compensation can equate to the salary and other bonus money, vacation, and other paid time off as well as benefits like healthcare and dental or 401(k) participation.

Engagement and retention: Engagement and retention are the direct results of employee satisfaction in their work and satisfaction in the talent management processes above. Employee engagement is the emotional connection an employee feels to the organization and/or their work within the organization. Retention is ability of talent management professionals to prevent employees—especially high performers, from leaving the organization.

By incorporating the steps in this model and building them out to form an integrated talent management strategy, talent management professionals can create an organization-wide system that aligns talent needs to business objectives and goals.

Talent Management Strategy

A talent management strategy defines how talent will be used to support the organization’s goals. Talent management functions should not operate independently.

The key areas of an integrated talent management strategy incorporate talent management systems, such as those in the model above, with career development theories and approaches; change management models; individual and organizational assessment tools; talent management analytics; new and emerging talent management software solutions and tools; diversity, equity, and inclusion practices; and legal and ethical compliance topics.

If an organization is small, a talent development professional might be developing the talent and TD strategy on his own or with line managers. In a large organization, the TD professional must work with other talent management professionals to ensure their strategies are aligned and integrate to support the organization’s talent needs.

The same tools organizations use to build strategic plans can be leveraged to create a talent strategy, including:

  • SWOT analysis on talent, which examines strengths and weaknesses (internal to the organization) and opportunities and threats (external to the organization).
  • Scenario planning looks to the future and imagines what events are more likely to happen, what would happen if these events occurred, and how to respond or benefit from them. These scenario plans form the basis of strategic objectives.
  • Environmental scans are a broad examination of the impacts to the future success that are outside the organization, including economic, sociological, political, and technological considerations and forecasted changes.
  • Industry scans are a broad examination of the impacts to the industry the organization is in and how those might affect future success.
  • Senior leader interviews may be used to validate the analysis conducted using the aforementioned tools, or to gain insights about the organization’s strategic objectives.
  • Employee interviews or surveys may be used to inform the talent objectives based on performance gaps or career development needs.

The talent management requirements resulting from strategically analyzing internal and external factors and scenarios create a picture of how talent can help the organization meet its objectives. Those requirements are further refined through the strategic workforce planning process.

Free Job Aid

Career Progression Framework Guide

Your organization’s talent pipeline depends, in part, on people knowing they can progress in their career within the company. This career progression framework outlines milestones you can expect at each leadership level and requirements for advancement to the next level.

How ATD Can Support Your Talent Management Efforts

Since our founding in 1943, ATD’s focus has been to help talent development professionals succeed in their roles, applying best practices and improving organizational outcomes. With instructional design, ATD curates the best content from the world’s leading experts in the field, providing opportunities for designers to learn the latest techniques using the latest technologies.

Because we look at talent development holistically, we understand how instructional design fits with evaluation, training, evaluation, and other aspects of workplace learning. In addition, we are the leading organization that defines standards for the field in instructional design and talent development.

  • Sign up for our talent management and organization development newsletter to stay up to date on the latest content.