Blog Post

Talent Development by "Any" Other Name?

Published: Tuesday, April 21, 2020
Updated: Thursday, April 23, 2020

The process and profession associated with developing employees has been referenced in many ways by practitioners and the public alike. In 2014, the Association for Talent Development renamed the work that had previously been referenced as "training and development" to talent development via it's name change from Association for Training and Development (Bingham, 2014). However, do all of the terms have the same meaning, realizing that this could vary by country? Let's take a closer look at some commonly used terms and definitions curated from a variety of sources that largely capture the meanings of the terms in brief.

  • Career development is "the lifelong process of managing learning, work, leisure, and transitions in order to move toward a personally determined and evolving preferred future" ("Career Development," 2020).
  • Employee development is "a joint initiative of the employee as well as the employer to upgrade the existing skills and knowledge of an individual" (Management Study Guide, n.d.).
  • Human resource development includes "such opportunities as employee training, employee career development, performance management and development, coaching, mentoring, succession planning, key employee identification, tuition assistance, and organization development" (Heathfield, 2020).
  • Learning and development is "a way of accruing value in employees that involves evaluating staff for potential and then developing it, on-boarding new staff and honing the skills of current employees. This is accomplished using appropriate curriculum and techniques such as coaching, individual and team trainings, and staff assessments. The term learning often applies to immediate teaching, and development has a longer-term connotation" (Human Resources MBA, n.d.).
  • Organizational development is "a critical and science-based process that helps organizations build their capacity to change and achieve greater effectiveness by developing, improving, and reinforcing strategies, structures, and processes" (AIHR Digital, n.d.) .
  • Professional development refers to "the continued training and education of an individual in regards to his or her career. The goal of professional development is to keep you up-to-date on current trends as well as help you develop new skills for the purpose of advancement in the field. Some professions actually require professional development in order to renew certification or licensure and ensure employees are up to standard. However, you can typically pursue professional development on your own through programs offered by educational institutions, professional organizations, or even your own employer" (
  • Staff development is defined as "growth in an individual's knowledge, skill, and personal effectiveness" (University of Michigan - Human Resources, 2020).
  • Talent development means "building the knowledge, skills, and abilities of others and helping them develop and achieve their potential so that the organizations they work for can succeed and grow" (Bingham, 2014, para 15).
  • Workforce development is "an essential component of community economic development in any economic climate, and certainly even more critical during the financial crises we’re experiencing today. Generally speaking, the term has come to describe a relatively wide range of activities, policies and programs employed by geographies to create, sustain and retain a viable workforce that can support current and future business and industry" (Haralson, 2010).

Of the prior list, the terms that could appear to be interchangeable include:

  • employee development
  • learning and development
  • staff development
  • talent development

Talent development is the more recently adopted term by ATD (Bingham, 2014).  All other terms besides these four have uniquely defining characteristics. For example, HR development includes organizational development. Yet, in my organization the function is called Professional Development given that my team's work not only focuses on talent development, but promoting and coordinating opportunities that promote licensure and certification as a large community-based behavioral health care provider. Talent development on its own is not usually focused on licensure and certification, but "building the knowledge, skills, and abilities of others and helping them develop and achieve their potential so that the organizations they work for can succeed and grow" (Bingham, 2014, para. 15). Furthermore, some talent development and related functions may have a wider or narrower scope than others based upon an organization's needs. Lastly, there is not always a neat definition that fits, but some terms do have more well-defined meanings than others, so using the wrong term to reference  your function could result in confused employees or a misrepresentation of your department's work.


AIHR Digital. (n.d.). What is Organizational Development? A Complete Guide. Retrieved from

Bingham, T. (2014). Press Release: Talent Development. Retrieved from


Career Development. (2020). Retrieved from

Haralson, L.E. (2010). What is Workforce Development? Retrieved from

Heathfield, S.M. (2020). What is Human Resource Development - HRD? Retrieved from

Human Resources MBA. (n.d.). What is Learning and Development? Retrieved from

Management Study Guide. (n.d.). What is Employee Development? - An Overview. Retrieved from (n.d.). What is Professional Development? Retrieved from

University of Michigan - Human Resources. (2020). Staff Development Philosophy. Retrieved from

Workforce Development. (2020). Retrieved from

About the Author

Dr. Treca Stark is strategic and entrepreneurial with a distinct ability to conceptualize and execute. She is an authentic leader who is savvy at articulating vision, championing new initiatives, and directing programs for global, regional, and local organizations. Additionally, she is skilled at strategic planning and transforming plans into pragmatic objectives.

She has served as an essential partner in the creation of products and services that have met defined requirements and needs at public and private organizations. Treca is also masterful at training, motivating, and coaching people to high levels of performance and encouraging collaboration among diverse people to form powerful high-performance teams.

Dr. Stark attained a doctorate from Morgan State University, a master’s degree from University of New Orleans, and a bachelor’s degree from Loyola University New Orleans. She is also a Certified Professional in Talent Development.

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Great clarification of the terms. Thank you.
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Very insightful and useful. Thank you!
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Thank you all, and I’m glad that you found the information valuable.
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