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Talent Development

5 Key Elements Of A Successful Talent Development Program

Developing talent is one of the best ways to assure your organization has the leaders it will need for a strong future and pain-free transitions of power. Naturally, to develop talent, first you have to have talent. The good news is that once you have it, developing it is a great way to keep it. Talent development will help your organization stay a step ahead in the talent war.

Developing talent is one of the best ways to assure your organization has the leaders it will need for a strong future and pain-free transitions of power. Naturally, to develop talent, first you have to have talent. The good news is that once you have it, developing it is a great way to keep it. Talent development will help your organization stay a step ahead in the talent war.


1. Clearly defined responsibility

Before you can build a successful talent development plan, you need to know who’s responsible for initiating and keeping up with it. If you’re expecting your employees to identify areas of career growth, you need to communicate that to them. If not, they need to know how you are going to help. One of the main reasons that organizations lose talent is because of a lack of learning opportunities. You don’t want employees leaving because they didn’t understand they were responsible for identifying those opportunities.

2. A Focus on talent not skill

It’s easy to identify skills that people have, but when you’re developing talent, it’s important to focus on, well, talent. Talents are natural; skills come from honing a craft. Someone may be very skilled but still not right for talent development. Success comes from a combination of hard work, dedication, passion and vision. Look for these characteristics in your employees. 


3. Time and priority

Like most things, talent can’t be developed overnight. It takes mentoring, coaching, training. If you don’t carve out time and dedicate it to talent development, chances are employees will be constantly caught up in day-to-day duties and every small crisis that comes up in the normal work day. Consider setting aside time each month for structured talent development. When you come up with a plan, commit to it and don’t let everyday activities take priority over your long-term investment in talent.

4. Real training

Don’t be afraid to offer employees real training and opportunities. Real training doesn’t mean handing your best and brightest a manual to read or video to watch; it means giving them real work experience and structured training to gain skills. If you can’t provide structured training, consider sending them offsite or back to school to get the training they will need. Offering some sort of tuition reimbursement or education benefit shows your talent that you value their education.

Download this Special Report to Understand why it's happening and what to do about it.

5. A culture of talent development

A culture of talent development starts at the top with senior executives. Senior leaders can create a culture that nurtures talent development by:

  • Acting as role models – leaders should share what they too want to learn
  • Reinforcing the value of learning – ask what others see as gaps and what they want to learn
  • Building a process to support development – managers should act as coaches
  • Reinforcing shared values – employees need to understand why what they do is important
  • Using issues that come up as real-world training opportunities

For the best results, your talent development program needs to be agile and include both planned and unplanned learning. Creating a culture and having a viable plan in place for talent development will help you strengthen your organization now and for years to come.

Interested in having XYZ University come to your organization for a presentation or to assist in developing a viable plan? 

We have assembled many tools to assist your organization. Contact us for more information!

Zs came of age in an era of disruption

In many ways, it’s symbolic that Generation Z is named after the last letter in the alphabet because their arrival marks the end of clearly defined roles, traditions, and experiences. After all, Gen Z is coming of age on the heels of what has been referred to as the most disruptive decade of the last century. America has become an increasingly changing and complex place.

For example:

  • ‍Zs were born into a “modern family era” in which highly involved dads help out at home, and the nuclear family model (two parents, married, with children) represent only 46% of American households.
  • ‍Zs are the first generation to be born into a world where everything physical, from people to places to pennies, has a digital equivalent.
  • From the time they were infants, Zs had access to mobile technology. As a result, their brains have been trained to absorb large amounts of information, and Zs are especially adept at shifting between skills and subject matter.
  • Zs tend to have crystal-clear memories of sitting up for the first time at six months old because they can easily and quickly reference the photos and videos their parents shared on social media or saved in the “cloud”. 

Members of this generation have undoubtedly been shaped by crisis and disruption. This generation will largely be responsible for confronting the aftermath of the Great Recession, high youth unemployment, the effects of climate change, terrorism, energy sustainability, and more. These dark events have undoubtedly made this generation more cautious and pragmatic, but they have also provided this generation with the inspiration to change the world – and their grit will likely allow them to do it.

Coming of age during disruption means that most Zs will be comfortable being the disruptors. While Millennials tend to be collaborative and innovative, this generation tends to be sincere, reflective, thick-skinned, and self-directed, and will likely approach work in much the same way.

Zs were raised to be competitive

In the era following World War II, Boomers (1946-1964) were born and eventually became the wealthiest, most prosperous generation in history. Raised to aspire for the American Dream, this very large generation moved into positions of power and influence, and served as the workforce majority for 34 years.

With the American Dream alive and well, Boomers had no reason to teach their children, mostly Millennials, about competition. Instead, they taught them to focus on academic achievement and to be team players because if everyone works hard, everyone can win.

Enter Generation X (1965-1981). In contrast Boomers, Xers came of age during a time when change and economic and political uncertainty began to take root. They have lived through four recessions, struggled with debt and economic decline most of their lives, and watched the best educated and accomplished generation of all time (Millennials) graduate during the Great Recession and become the most debt-ridden generation in history.

Gen Xers can be defined by their independence and anti-status quo approach to life, and they have taught their Gen Z children to be competitive, believing only the best can win. They have encouraged their children to be realists, finding something they are good at and aggressively pursuing it.

Xers have raised their Zs with an intense focus on competitiveness -- in academics, sports, and other activities. This approach to parenting has many implications, but one stands out in terms of business: Gen Z is likely to lead.

Millennials in the workplace created and aggressively advocated for collaborative work environments. In fact, their aversion to leadership has been so strong, some Millennials sought out companies that boasted boss-free or team-managed workplaces.

In contrast, Zs have been raised with an individualistic, realistic, and competitive nature. They have been taught the skills to successfully defy the norm. This means we’re going to see the pendulum shift away from collaborative workplaces towards a widespread demand for, and pursuit of, leadership development.

Zs are career-focused.

While Millennials have been criticized for their “delayed adulthood”, Gen Z is showing signs of “early adulthood”. Educators and parents often describe this generation as being more serious and contemplative about the world. Zs are thinking about their career paths and exposing themselves to career training at an earlier age than Millennials. It’s probable that some of this early onset of adulthood is caused by parents, who are pressuring their children to be competitive and successful and to avoid the debt that plagued both the Gen Xers and Millennials.

The numbers from our global research found 46% of Gen Z said they know what career to pursue and 51% have taken a class at school focused on their career interests. Forty percent joined an extracurricular program (team, club) based on their career interests.

Zs are seeking financial security. 

Zs have been shaped by the aftermath of the Great Recession. They watched Millennials become debt-ridden and are concerned about falling into the same trap. XYZ University’s survey results show 66% of Zs said financial stability is more important than doing work they enjoy, which is the exact opposite of Millennial survey results.  Also, 71% of survey-takers have a paying job.

Zs value leaders who are positive and trustworthy.

When presented a list of leadership traits, Zs ranked positive and trustworthy the highest. While Millennials and Gen Zs both value trust in a leader, Millennials usually cite collaboration and vision as most important. In other words, Millennials focus on the outcomes leaders inspire, whereas Zs are more likely to consider leaders’ attitudes and personalities. To Z, what leaders encourage others to do isn’t as valuable as how they make them feel.


Zs want to be challenged.

Both Millennials and Gen Zs place a very high value on feeling challenged and appreciated in the workplace. However, according to our survey results Millennials rank appreciation slightly higher than challenge, whereas Zs rank feeling challenged slightly higher than appreciation.

Time will tell how Zs go down in history, but we know this generation’s influence on history will be unlike any other.


Does your organization have what it takes to engage the next generation? Take this quiz to find out.


Sarah Sladek is CEO of XYZ University. Our generational intelligence can assist you with engaging and retaining young talent and members.

Sarah Sladek

Concerned about declining engagement in our nation’s membership associations, non-profits, and workplaces, Sarah Sladek founded XYZ University, the nation’s first and only generations-focused training and engagement strategy company, in 2002.

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