Operating in the Talent Development Partnership Zone

Operating in the Talent Development Partnership Zone

Mutual satisfaction of interests facilitates engagement.

Ron is the Chief Information Officer (CIO) of a large corporation. One of his most promising and key employees recently left to join another company. This is the third person with a promising future that has left his organization for another company within the past 6 months. He is wondering what he can do to retain talent.

Ron extends a dinner invitation to Jean, the company’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) to solicit talent retention suggestions. Jean has not had a resignation in her organization in 3 years. The employee engagement scores for her organization are among the highest in the company. Jean accepts Ron’s dinner invitation. They meet at a restaurant close to the company’s headquarters where they work.

Ron: I lost another promising employee last week. She was an excellent project manager. She was someone with the potential to be a future leader in my organization.

Jean: Isn’t she the third promising person you have lost in recent months? 

Ron: Yes, she was. Jean, people don’t leave your organization. What are you doing to retain talent?

Jean: Do you remember the employee engagement survey the company conducted 3 years ago?

Ron: I remember the survey. The survey revealed that employees in my organization felt that the organization was not doing enough to support their growth and development. I, along with my leadership team and our human resources partner, initiated measures to address this employee concern.

Jean: What measures did you initiate?

Ron: We initiated a number learning and development courses, offered assessments to help employees understand their strengths and their personal styles, made career ladders and lattices more visible to employees, and started an employee mentoring program. Our human resources partner developed a template to help employees develop their personal development plans.

Jean: My leadership team and HR partner did similar things in my organization. However, we found that most of the employees either did not develop personal development plans or were not making significant progress executing their plans.

Ron: What did you do when you discovered this?

Jean: My leadership team, along with our HR partner, conducted a series of employee meetings to ask employees why they were not focusing on their development. (Jean pulls out a list and shares it with Ron.)

Employees informed us that they:

  • Perceived the personal development planning process as a company process instead of a personal process.
  • Felt the process was a box that managers were required to check once a year to satisfy a company requirement.
  • Appreciated the personal development resources such as the training courses and mentoring. However, the selection of the courses did not include input from them.
  • Found it difficult to sequence what personal development actions or measures they needed to take and when. They wanted a structure for planning and executing their personal development. As one employee stated, “Planning my development is like trying to manage a business project without a project management process”.
  • Told us that our organization’s leaders informed them that employee personal development was a top organizational priority. However, leaders did not recognize that everyone is extremely busy performing their day-to-day job responsibilities and addressing business issues and challenges such as responding to indications that the company may not meet its quarterly earnings expectations. As one employee said, “I am working 50-60 hours per week and trying to balance my workload with my family commitments. I want to take personal responsibility for my development. Tell me how I can find the time.”

Ron: These are eye openers. We initiated measures but did not ask our employees for their opinions on what we did. What did you do based on what you learned from your employees. 

Jean: It was not easy to determine what we needed to do. We were particularly perplexed about the employees need for structure on how to address the challenge of finding the time to devote to their development.

Ron: My leadership team and I would have been like deer in the headlights trying to address these challenges.

Jean: We were also deer in the headlights. We decided to brainstorm for ideas. The leadership team, along with employee volunteers, took on the task. We also included one of the directors from the company’s Product Development organization in our session. We asked him to join because of Product Development had earned the reputation of being very effective developing its people. They continually developed successful products on time and within budget despite losing key people to retirement or having people move to other organizations to take on more responsibility.

Ron: What resulted from your brainstorming?

Jean: The Product Development participant told us that his organization addressed the same challenges, providing a structure and employees finding time to develop and execute their personal development plans. One of the members of the Product Development team reminded his colleagues that their organization was great at developing products. He asked, “Why can’t we apply our product development process to personal development?”

Ron: What a great idea!

Jean: (Jean pulls out another list.) She went on to tell us how to apply the product development process to personal development.

  1. Use assessments to define personal strengths, traits, and preferences.
  2. Review career ladders and lattices to relate strengths, traits, and preferences to career possibilities and opportunities.
  3. Develop personal development goals based the review of career ladders.
  4. Develop a plan, including actions and timing, to achieve personal development goals.
  5. Select a mentor who can provide advice and guidance on executing a personal development plan.

Our team asked ourselves, “Why didn’t we think of that?” The Product Development participant joked saying, “You guys are in the numbers business. Product Development is in the development business.”

Ron: This was great. But, how did you relate this to retaining talent?

Jean: That’s a great question and I have the answer. After mulling over this, our team arrive at thinking about personal behavior and motivation. We came to the point of remembering that people will engage and stick around when they see something in it for them. We knew that we could engage our employees and encourage them to stick around if we married their goals, needs, and interests to the goals and needs of our organization. So, we came up with the Talent Development Partnership Zone. (Jean shares a diagram with Ron.)

Ron: How did your team move from a concept to taking action to retain talent?

Jean: (Jean pulls out another list to share with Ron.) We:

  • Developed and communicated an employee-focused personal development process.
  • Conducted training sessions on how to execute the process.
  • Posted instructions on how to use the process on our internal website.
  • Initiated discussion groups using our collaboration tools to allow employees to share their experiences using the process.
  • Trained Personal Development Subject Matter Experts who employees could query on how to use the process. The experts were employees who participated in the design of the process.

And, we developed metrics to measure effectiveness. These metrics included the number of employees who developed personal development plans, the number of employees who took actions to execute their plans and what actions they took, and employee satisfaction with the process.

Ron: This deer is out of the headlights! Now I understand how you retain talent. May I use the documents to serve as a reference for developing a talent retention initiative in my organization?

Jean: You certainly may. And, I offer the services of my subject matter experts to serve as advisors.

Ron: Thank you. Who said that numbers people can’t be innovative!

Mutual satisfaction of organizational and individual employee interests facilitates talent retention.

For organizational leaders

  • Is your organization operating in the zone, the Talent Development Partnership between the organization and its employees?
  • Is your key talent in the zone with you?
  • Will the people you want to stay say “I can get that here” when they are approached by recruiters?

For individuals

  • Do you have a personal development plan?
  • Will your decisions to stay or leave your company be guided by a personal development plan or by what a recruiter tells you is good for you? (Do you know how green the grass is on your side of the fence?)
  • Are you challenged with finding time to devote to developing and executing a personal development plan?
  • What have you done to advance your career since you took assessments of your personal strengths, preferences, and traits?
  • Have you told your manager where you want to be positioned in your organizations’ talent pool?

I invite you to share your comments, experiences, and suggestions. This helps me provide information that may help you address your career opportunities and challenges.

Fields of Success offers complimentary coaching sessions. Visit the Contact page on the Fields of Success website to schedule a session.


Our careers are our most important economic asset.

To get the most value from your most important economic asset, you must manage The Business of You.

Linwood Bailey is a career coach and the author of The Business of Me: Your Job … Your Career … Your Value. The Business of Me provides a career management process and information designed for today’s business professional. Since 2008, Linwood has enabled business professionals to manage their careers. Linwood, the been there coach, provides innovative career management solutions derived from his 34 years of experience managing functions and people in multiple industries, regions, and corporate cultures.



Founder, Fields of Success, LLC

Enabling professionals to convert career challenges into career success stories.

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