Talent development basics

Get the most out of people. Attract, retain and develop top talent. Give people the ability to identify what’s holding them back, and help them address those issues regularly and methodically.

“You don’t build a business. You build people, and people build the business.” - Zig Ziglar

"The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay." - Henry Ford

"You are not a leader until you have produced another leader who can produce another leader." - Dr Stephen Brown

Kopier til din organisasjon

Flere ressurser som denne?

Sjekk ut disse utviklingsprogrammene: Modern leadership , Organisasjonsfungering , Scaling an organization

I understand what is meant by talent development

Talent development is the process by which an organization equips employees with the skills, knowledge, and attitudes they need to reach business goals. 

I can distinguish talent development from closely related concepts

Education, onboarding, training and talent development are all crucial concepts in the context of workforce development, but they refer to different aspects and stages of the process. Here's how they differ:


Education is braod in scope and usually refers to a formal process of learning, which might include the acquisition of theoretical knowledge, conceptual understanding, and broad competencies. Education is not always directly linked to a specific job but provides a foundation for understanding a field or profession. It is often provided in schools, colleges, and universities. For instance, a person may receive an education in business management that covers a wide array of topics related to managing a business.


Onboarding is the process of integrating a new employee into the organization and its culture. It includes providing them with the necessary information, tools, connections, and resources to become a productive member of the team. Onboarding is not just about a specific skill or knowledge; it’s about helping the new employee understand their role in the larger scheme of the company, its values, and its people. It's about ensuring they have a good start, which can extend from their first day to several months into their employment.


Training is a program that focuses on the development of specific skills and knowledge that are necessary for a particular job or task. It is often practical and directly related to employees' current jobs. Training is typically short-term and job-specific, aimed at improving performance and productivity in a specific area. For example, a barista may be trained to operate an espresso machine efficiently.

Talent Development

Talent development refers to a more holistic approach that aims to nurture and grow the skills and capabilities of employees over the long term. It is not limited to the initial stages of employment but is an ongoing process that helps individuals to realize their potential. Talent development includes identifying and fostering potential leadership, encouraging career development, and ensuring that employees have opportunities to learn new skills that will help them—and the organization—succeed in the future. It's about creating a workforce that can adapt to changes and grow with the company.


In summary, education is about the foundation, onboarding is about the introduction to the company, training is about the here and now, and talent development is about the ongoing growth and future potential of the employees.

I understand the primary motivations for investing in talent development

Different teams, leaders and organizations might have different motivations for investing in talent development.

The most common motivations for investing in talent development include:

  • Operational motivations
    • Quality: Ensure that the work produced holds a consistent and predictable of level of quality 
    • Productivity: Spend less time, effort and resources to complete work
    • Risk: Reduce the probability of bad or costly things happening 
  • Workforce motivations
    • Workplace attractiveness: Make it easier to attract and retain top talent *
    • Workload distribution: Facilitate delegation of responsibiliities, role succession or role transitions
    • Workload resilience: Increase the number of people who can perform certain tasks, thereby removing bottlenecks and improving the bus factor
  • Individual motivations
    • Career: Prepare people for the jobs and roles they aspire to
    • Mastery: Ensure that people feel equipped and capable to do their job
    • Potential: Enable people to grow and meet their true potential
  • Sociatal motivations
    • Life enablement: Prepare people for the journey and navigation of life (aka schooling and parenting)
    • Incubation: Be an incubator for human growth
    • Sharing: Distribute and instill people with modern, societal knowledge

* Studies show that whereas only 8% of people attribute their job change to a higher salery, 30% attribute their job change to a lack of professional and personal development. These numbers were repeated as recent as in 2023 by PwC Norway, where 48% of respondents consider personal development the most impactful factor in their career motivation, 43% attribute it to making a difference, and 9% to financial incentives.

I know the most common justifications given by leaders for why they don't prioritize the development of their people
  • Priority: I don't have the time
    • I am concerned it will take up too much of my time
    • I haven't gotten around to it yet
  • Know-how: I don't know how to do it/where to start
  • Value: I don't think it's neccessary
    • People automatically improve over time, right?
    • It's people's own responsibility to improve themselves, right?
    • The stuff people have mentioned they want to improve in seems unrelated to improving their contribution to the organization
  • Fair of failure: I don't know how to make it a part of my day-to-day routine (ensuring that it actually gets done)
  • Accountability: No one expects it of me/holds me accountable to it
I am familiar with the trends that impact the motivation for developing people 4
The War for Talent refers to the increasing competition between recruiters in the search for 'top talent' – a term given to highly skilled, educated or otherwise desirable workers who will aid to the future success of a company.

Psychological safety is the belief that you won't be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes.

Explore this concept in the survey How psychologically safe is my team?

Individuals who believe their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others) have a growth mindset.

A growth mindset means that you thrive on challenge, and don’t see failure as a way to describe yourself but as a springboard for growth and developing your abilities. Your intelligence and talents are all susceptible to growth.

Read more

I am familiar with concepts relevant for developing people 13

"In a growth culture, people build their capacity to see through blind spots; acknowledge insecurities and shortcomings rather than unconsciously acting them out; and spend less energy defending their personal value so they have more energy available to create external value. How people feel — and make other people feel — becomes as important as how much they know.


By contrast, a performance-driven culture often exacerbates people’s fears by creating up a zero-sum game in which people are either succeeding or failing and “winners” quickly get weeded out from “losers.” "


The knowing-doing gap is the disconnect between knowledge and action.

It's the difference between what people know they could or should be doing, and what they actually do.

To which extent a team or organization faciliates the development of its members can vary greatly, from a "do it yourself"-attitude, to close and customized follow-up of both professional and personal development.

The infographic below marks four levels on the development enablement spectrum.

Talent development orientation is what you orient talent development efforts around.

Here are some examples of talent development orientations:

Assignment orientation

Assignment orientation means that talent development is oriented around the purpose of assigning someone a particular type of assignment, or ensuring that they carry out that assignment with sufficient speed and quality.

Assignment oriented talent development is common among junior and/or short-lived roles where an investment in deep talent development can not be justified.

Risk orientation

Risk orientation means talent development is oriented around avoiding that bad stuff happen.

Risk oriented talent development is common in environments where bad things happening significantly impacts peoples health, financial loss or reputation.

Role orientation

Role orientation means that talent development is oriented around the purpose of assigning someone a particular role, or ensuring that they carry out that role in an effective, efficient and purposeful manner.

Role oriented talent development is common among more senior and long-lived roles where we have a stake in the person being able to produce stragic value autonomously.

Goal orientation

Goal orientation means that talent development is oriented around the purpose of assigning someone a particular goal, or ensuring that they are enabled to reach the key results of those goals effectively and efficiently.

Goal oriented talent development is useful in performance-driven cultures where goals are the primary indicators of success.

Skillset orientation

Skillset orientation means that talent development is oriented around the knowledge and capabilities required by individuals in certain situations, proceses or roles.

Skillset oriented talent development is useful when we want to maintain a holistic view of the capabilities that allow us to navigate and solve certain types of problems, possibly across different domains.

Mastery orientation

Mastery orientation means that talent development is oriented around what people struggle or feel uncomfortable with.

Mastery oriented talent development is useful when people experience emotional or cognitive pains when executing or preparing for certain things.

Team orientation

Team orientation means that talent development is oriented around a person's ability to communicate, collaborate and align with others.

Team orientation is useful when certain individuals struggle to work effectively as a part of a team.

Self awareness orientation

Self awareness orientation means talent developemnt that is oriented around a person's understanding of themselves, their inner life and how they are perceived.

Self awareness oriented talent development is useful when someomne are struggling to maintain a sense of meaning, happiness and energy for prolonged periods of time.

"Time to behavior" describes the time it takes to form a certain behavior in a person.

As a talent developer, the end goal of talent development is more often than not to produce a certain behaviour in an individual or a group of people.

The faster we can produce that behavior, the more quickly we can benefit from that behavior.

The concept of familiarity describes the steps involved in turning insight into behavior.

Deliberately Developmental Organizations (DDO) are organizations that are committed to developing every one of their people by weaving personal growth into daily work.

Think of a DDO as an incubator for people’s development.

From My experience with a Deliberately Developmental Organization:

DDOs share some traits with the Management 3.0 approach, such as an emphasis on company culture, personal growth, self-organization and transparency. But the resemblance stops there. Management 3.0 aims to create happiness and self-realization in the workplace. DDOs aim to make a badass out of you, going further and faster than you thought possible.

Read more about companies who have adopted a DDO mindset in the Harvard Business Review article Making Business Personal.

An everyone culture is a culture focused on developing every employee, regardless of position and seniority.

Read more in the book An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization

Servant leadership is a leadership philosophy in which the goal of the leader is to serve. This is different from traditional leadership where the leader's main focus is the thriving of their company or organization.

The Pygmalion effect is the theory that people will rise or fall based on the expectations that authority figures have of them – and has been proven in settings ranging from classrooms to corporations.

All leaders have tremendous power simply by being in a position of authority, and can use their words to influence how others view themselves. The act of expressing belief in your employees and focusing on setting high, but achievable standards for them has real repercussions.

People analytics is defined as the deeply data-driven and goal-focused method of studying all people processes, functions, challenges, and opportunities at work to elevate these systems and achieve sustainable business success.

People analytics is often referred to as talent analytics or HR analytics.

Internal mobility is the movement of employees (vertically and laterally) to new career and development opportunities within the same organization. This includes promotions, demotions, new positions, mentorships, cross-team or additional projects, job shadowing, and job swaps.

The nine-box grid, often referred to as a "nine-box matrix" or "nine-box model," is a popular tool used in talent management and human resources to assess and visualize the performance and potential of employees within an organization. It is typically used for succession planning, talent development, and workforce planning purposes.

The nine-box grid consists of a 3x3 matrix, where one axis represents an employee's current performance, and the other axis represents their potential for future growth and development. The axes are typically labeled as follows:

  1. Performance: This axis typically ranges from low to high, indicating an employee's current job performance. Employees are usually assessed based on their recent accomplishments, contributions, and job-related behaviors. Ratings can vary from "low" to "exceptional."

  2. Potential: This axis typically ranges from low to high, indicating an employee's potential for future growth and advancement within the organization. Potential is often assessed based on an employee's leadership skills, ability to learn and adapt, and their capacity for taking on more significant responsibilities.

The placement of an employee within the nine-box grid is determined by their performance rating and potential rating. Here's a brief overview of the nine boxes and what they typically represent:

  • High Performance, High Potential (Top Right): Employees in this category are considered top talent within the organization. They are high performers and have the potential to take on leadership roles or advance significantly in their careers.

  • High Performance, Medium Potential (Top Middle): These employees are strong performers in their current roles but may have limitations in terms of their potential for advancement beyond their current roles.

  • High Performance, Low Potential (Top Left): These employees excel in their current positions but may not have significant growth potential within the organization. They may be best suited for specialized or senior-level roles.

  • Medium Performance, High Potential (Middle Right): These employees may be good performers in their current roles, but they are seen as having the potential to develop and take on more significant responsibilities in the future.

  • Medium Performance, Medium Potential (Middle Middle): This category often represents solid, reliable employees who are performing adequately in their current roles but may not have a clear path for significant advancement.

  • Medium Performance, Low Potential (Middle Left): Employees in this category may perform adequately in their current roles but are not seen as having substantial potential for growth or advancement within the organization.

  • Low Performance, High Potential (Bottom Right): These employees may be struggling in their current roles, but they are identified as having high potential for development and improvement. They may benefit from coaching and development efforts.

  • Low Performance, Medium Potential (Bottom Middle): Employees in this category may be struggling in their current roles and may have limited potential for significant growth within the organization.

  • Low Performance, Low Potential (Bottom Left): Employees in this category are typically struggling in their current roles and may not have the potential or motivation to improve or advance within the organization.

The nine-box grid is a valuable tool for organizations to identify and nurture their top talent, make informed decisions about promotions, transfers, and development opportunities, and address performance and potential gaps within their workforce. It can guide talent management strategies and help organizations align their talent with their long-term business goals.

The 9 Box Grid: A Practitioner’s Guide

I am familiar with concepts relevant for managing skills 8

A competence strategy includes all the skills that an organization needs to master and continuously develop in order to achieve organizational objectives and realize strategies.

Skills gap refers to the disparity between the skills an employer expects their employees to have and the actual skills employees possess. 

The skills gap can be broken down into:

  • Skills current employees are lacking
  • Skills the organization is lacking
  • Skills required for the future

Upskilling is a workplace trend that facilitates continuous learning by providing training programs and development opportunities that expand an employee's abilities and minimize skill gaps.

Upskilling focuses on improving current employees' skill sets, usually through training, so they can advance in their jobs and find different roles and opportunities within the company.

A skills inventory is a comprehensive list of all the experiences, professional skills, and educational qualifications of employees in an organization.

Explore the concept of skills inventory

A skills taxonomy is a structured list of skills defined at the organization level that identifies the capabilities of a business in a quantifiable way.

Essentially, it is a system that classifies skills within an organization into groups and clusters. Having a skills taxonomy for your organization creates a unified understanding and language that can be used to deliver effective workforce strategies and drive operational efficiency. It is at the heart of a skills-based approach.

Explore the concept of a skills taxonomy

I can help people develop themselves 4

In order to get the best out of someone, you need to know:

  • What you want from them (the roles they are expected to hold and the goals they are expected to contribute to)
  • The ambitions you have for them, and the ambitions they have for themselves
  • What's holding them back

Examples of things that might be holding people back include:

  • Skills or competence they lack (or do not feel sufficiently comfortable with)
  • Expectations with which they are insufficiently familiar
  • Expectations which they find unclear
  • Fears, weaknesses, insecurities or opinons keeping people from improving their level of mastery or adjusting their behaviour

There’s a natural tendency for us to gravitate toward what we’re good at doing. Then we get stuck there because we’ve gotten comfortable.

This kind of stasis can be too much of a good thing and inhibit growth. Good leaders push people to try things they have potential for and give them the opportunity to take a risk. They actively look for ways their employees can practice the exact thing they need to do, but might be uncomfortable trying.


Management Organizational development Leadership stages Team management Organizational health Leadership support and enablement Leadership development

Executive roles Leadership stages Leadership support and enablement Leadership development

Insight management People development Organizational development Organizational health