2016 Trends and To-Dos in Talent Management and Development

talent management theory and practice

As I tour the world (last year I gave talks in 15 countries), I am often asked for my opinion about trends in talent management and development. Allow me to give you my thoughts and to-do’s on that issue about the beginning of 2016.

Trend 1 – Talent Will Have Multiple Meanings

What does the word talent mean? Answering that question is more than a game of playing with definitions.

Talent will have any of these ten meanings and more. Is talent:

  1. People who are good performers?
  2. People who are the top performers within their job categories—that is, exemplary or best-in-class performers?
  3. People who have potential for promotion?
  4. People who have both potential for promotion and good performance?
  5. Individual strategic strengths?
  6. Individual strategic strengths within a global or local cultural context?
  7. Individuals who embody organizational values?
  8. Individuals who embody organizational ethics?
  9. Individuals who have the most knowledge about issues of strategic importance to the organization?
  10. Individuals who have special relationships with key stakeholder groups—such as customers, suppliers, distributors, union representatives, and so forth?

The nature of a talent management and development strategy hinges on how the organization’s leaders define the term and have a shared understanding of it. The appropriate definition of the term depends on a shared understanding by senior management of organizational needs.

In the future, organizational leaders will be more aware of the range of possible definitions of talent and will act accordingly to shape their talent programs.

To Do:

1. Expand your definition of talent as you create your talent development programs.

2. Target your population according to their unique characteristics, competencies, ethics, values, work output and purpose in the organization.

Thinking critically about different definitions of talent will enable us to see the myriad of possibilities.

Trend 2 – Talent Management and Development Will Have Multiple Meanings

Just as talent may have multiple meanings, so will talent management and development. Traditionally, many people agree that talent management and development includes acquiring/sourcing, developing and retaining talent.

But what else can it include? For instance, does it include engagement? Deploying/positioning people? Monitoring development in place? Transferring specialized knowledge and institutional memory? Transferring special relationships of value to the organization?

It could be that it means all of these—and more—and senior leaders will increasingly understand that in the future.


1. Expand your definition of talent management to include more transformational methods such as engagement, deploying/positioning people, monitoring development, and transferring knowledge and relationships of value to the organization.

Trend 3 – Talent Management and Development Will Be Managed Tactically and Strategically

A 2016 trend is to push talent management and development into daily management.

A common complaint I hear in many organizations is that operating managers expect HR professionals to singlehandedly handle all recruitment, onboarding, training, development, appraisal, potential assessment, and much more.

Managers do not want to devote their daily attention to talent issues and would love to delegate that to HR. Of course, that is not possible—or even practical—because HR people do not necessarily see or interact with all employees every day.


1. Make Talent Management  a part of the daily fabric of your organizations

2. All employees should take part in the various aspects of TM: recruitment, on boarding, training, development, appraisal, and so on. These activities should be transferred to all employees by giving them the power and authority to help spread the knowledge within the organization.


Trend 4 – Employers Will Look Beyond Traditional Labor Markets to Nontraditional Markets

There are several labor markets emerging in 2016 that are gaining attention and investment.

1. Employers will get better at working with people who are at or beyond traditional retirement age. Already some employers have special programs to recruit retirees.

Most managers know that Baby Boomers are followed by a much smaller group. Birthrates have fallen in all countries, and that will likely mean that talent shortages will exist for many worker groups. As a direct consequence, employers will need to look to labor groups that have traditionally been overlooked because there will not be enough young people to recruit or promote for many jobs.

2. Employers will get better at working with people with disabilities. While disabled workers are often associated with people whose disabilities can be seen, a much larger group consists of those whose disabilities are invisible. About 5 percent of the entire world’s population has some form of disability, and there is a high correlation between disability and unemployment rates. Employers of the future will get better at working with disabled workers.

3. Employers will get better at hiring and working with veterans. There are already programs that exist to help define the “military crosswalk” for veterans transitioning into the private sector. Employers will get smarter about how to help veterans define the skills they excelled at in the military and apply them to the private sector. And, they will have more programs to help with the on-boarding and development processes for veterans.



1. Have an employee alumni society to stay in touch with the organization’s own retirees.

2. Take proactive steps to recruit and develop people who are beyond the traditional retirement age.

3. Create a plan to recruit, on-board, and develop people with disabilities. Working with organizations who provide research and peer groups for people with disabilities will help you in this process.

4. Create a talent plan for veterans and pay attention to the skills they have excelled at in the military – and how they will naturally fit within your organization. Focus on respect as a key value for veterans to help them in their transition. Utilize career counseling and coaching to help in this transition.

Summary and Conclusion

Based on the trends above, consider how your organization is addressing the following questions:

  • What is talent, and how does that definition shape organizational efforts?
  • What is talent management and development, and how does that definition shape organizational programs?
  • How is the organization managing talent strategically and tactically? What steps are being taken to drive talent thinking into daily management practice?
  • What is the organization doing to tap nontraditional labor markets to meet talent needs and address talent shortages?


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William Rothwell
William J. Rothwell, Ph.D., SPHR, SHRM-SCP, CPLP Fellow is President of Rothwell & Associates, Inc.  and also a Professor at Penn State University/University Park. A frequent speaker and author, his recent books include Mastering the instructional design process, 5th ed. (Wiley, 2016), OD in Practice (ODNetwork, 2016), Practicing OD, 4th ed. (Wiley, 2015), Effective succession planning, 5th ed. (AMACOM, 2015), The leader’s daily role in talent management (McGraw-Hill, 2015), Career planning and succession management (Praeger, 2015), Beyond training and development, 3rd ed. (HRD Press, 2015), Organization development fundamentals: Managing strategic change (ATD Press, 2015), and The competency toolkit, 2 vols., 2nd ed. (HRD Press, 2015).