Future Trends in Talent Development

Human talent is the basic building block for everything an organization does, produces, and delivers; these things, in turn, create the value the company offers to every stakeholder. Yet, forecasting talent requirements can be daunting for human resources executives. The best talent management plan is closely aligned with the company’s strategic plan and overall business needs. Strategically minded organizations are able to change ahead of the curve when it comes to planning and developing a workforce with the right competencies.

According to Lewis Garrad, Business Lead for Employee Experience Research at Mercer, 62% of organizations rate themselves as ineffective at workforce planning.(1)

“Figuring out the business needs of the company and how that will evolve, and then linking that back to your talent and development strategy – most organizations struggle with this. A huge component of doing this well is looking at human capital data: valid data that allows you to determine which talent investments are paying off and where you should be focusing for the future. Very few organizations approach workforce planning in a data-driven manner and it’s not an easy thing to achieve.”


1. Global Talent Trends 2018 Study, Mercer

Most organizations offer training in a variety of areas without really helping people understand the kind of opportunities that open up if you build those skills.

Self-directed continuous learning

Another trend that is emerging according to Garrad is that organizations are becoming smart platforms for matching skill supply with work demand. “The question is how do we track capabilities and help employees find the next opportunity. What many people want is a career framework, a framework of potential jobs that they could move into as they progress their capabilities so that they have a clear line of sight of the future. Most organizations offer training in a variety of areas without really helping people understand the kind of opportunities that open up if you build those skills. The connection between the capabilities we are building through learning and development and the opportunities that arise, very rarely overlap.”


Effective companies will bring training and career progression together. “It comes down to enabling individual employees to be able to get advice through online tools, or creating careers for people where they can see the potential futures for themselves based on their current position and be guided by the organization in a more proactive way. Mostly, we base training on shoring up skills for short-term needs.” Garrad says that there are only a small number of businesses that have really moved forward with technology to visualize the current job and career landscape in their organization, and the skills and competencies that are associated with that, so that people can get a good sense of their future.


But individuals need to take ownership of their career progression and development. “Organizations are in a new ‘learn or die’ environment where everyone must accelerate their learning to remain accessible,” explains Garrad. “We’re starting to see some reward programs being linked to employee learning now, which is pretty interesting. So, if you can glean a certain amount of learning during the course of the year – in addition, obviously, to your performance targets – then you’ll be given a small extra bonus for achieving that.”

Data informing succession planning

Another emerging trend is that succession and promotion will be much less about a random set of intuitions and opinions and much more about data. “We’ll see a more strategic approach to succession planning and building and developing the skills that are required based on profiling what makes a good leader, and strategically creating those leaders. Organizations have woken up to the subjective nature of succession planning and are starting to look at the data surrounding the potential for someone to be an effective leader so that they can, without being deterministic, start to use that data to shape that person’s career and start to look at the way that he or she, for example, builds an internal network, enables the success of others, and so on, in order to make more informed and accurate decisions about who should be a successor versus just the typical line manager opinion.”

If you think of a leader as somebody who leads and manages an exceptional team – a team that is able to achieve exceptional results – you start to think differently about, well, what does that person look like?

Changing definition of leader

This is indicative of a change in definition of what it means to be a leader. “Companies have started looking at data internally within their own organizations and more broadly, looking at what constitutes an effective leader. If you think of a leader as somebody who leads and manages an exceptional team – a team that is able to achieve exceptional results – you start to think differently about, well, what does that person look like?

“It used to be bold, charismatic, out in front, but actually we’ve started to realize that that person isn’t always the right leader for all, and so any data about whether or not someone is actually able to get great results from a team is being analyzed. For example, is this person actually good at coordinating a group of people to deliver exceptional results? And that data is now coming to the fore through analytics.”

Succession decisions will be therefore be less prone to bias and opinion. “Internally, companies are starting to look at their own data about the people they have, and not just basing them on line managers saying: ‘These are my successors.’ Instead, they are asking difficult questions like: ‘Are they the right people to actually lead in future? Do they have, not just the right technical skills, but the kind of leadership capabilities that we need?’”

With the right talent analytics identifying potential can be a science. Human talent is the key factor linking innovation, competitiveness and growth. In order to thrive, organisations need their employees to be lifelong learners, who grow with the business, master new technologies and build skills for the future.

Analytics That Matter


  • Individual and team productivity dashboards: Calculate the ratio of actual time versus perceived value of time spent on activities
  • Movement metrics rather than retention metrics, for high potentials: Analyze whether the right people are being assigned to "acceleration roles" to gain experiences for the future
  • Automated feedback graphs: Aggregate kudos ratings and peer feedback to pinpoint best-fit roles and growth opportunities
  • Network analysis: Showcase the true connectors of talent – individuals who might fill linchpin roles and/or add value in a process capacity

Source: 2018 Global Talent Trends Survey: Unlocking Growth in the Human Age, Mercer