A guide to working with talent development through leadership.

The mobility on the jobmarket is rising, employees are quitting without having a new job ready at hand. Employees take personal development and career into their own hands. Here you will get advice, as to how you can spot whether an employee is on their way out, and what you can do to prevent it.


Leadership of talent development

Reading time 6 min.

Flexibility, hybrid workplace and home office are some of the terms that are connected with working today. The employees wish to be productive in a new way. Those who have the opportunity for it wish to be free of the industrial way of defining work – set time and set place. And you can understand why.

The future way of working is created on the basis of opinions and viewpoints, as opposed to technology and limits as it has been earlier. Availability of information and digital tools to add value to the job role is already implemented and is used daily. When the drive is the individuals wishes of their own future, we should look for leadership and development tools that are based on the same thing.

The individual employee wishes to set the agenda for their own life. If there are no possibilities for this in the current organization, then there is an increased risk of the employee moving away from what doesn’t work.

Employees are searching for new paths to focus on what gives them purpose. Read more here from a blog about how I find more meaning in the work.

Leadership of talents

In our daily work with talents and talent development, we experience employees that are frustrated and unsure. Are their demands too high for their work? Do they have too high expectations for the nearest leader? Have they not understood the playing rules in the organizations? When we hear their stories and experiences we have to agree, it is not their expectations that are wrongly casted. Often times, it’s about very talented employees, that aren’t feeling seen or acknowledged. As an employee, ones proactive behaviour to create meaning will also have an expiration date. It is not enough to be listened to, there also needs to be a certain action from your leader.

In a situation where it is difficult to attract new employees, it can be a good idea to focus on retaining the ones you have. Development often starts through a dialogue and honest interest for each other.

As a proactive leader you must take initiative – your employee will not always do this.

Leadership of the talent potential

It must be part of your leadership responsibility to take initiative and open up a mutual understanding. The employees can have many reasons for not being outgoing:

  • They have a fear of affecting career opportunities, and would rather wait until others have spotted them
  • The trust and security is too unreasonable to start the conversation
  • They are unclear as to whether they should express their wishes and needs
  • They think that their wishes won’t be met anyway

It is our recommendation that this work should be on-going in the daily life through conversation and dialogue, and the most effective way that we use this in our consulting work is by asking the following questions:

  • Did you use your talents/knowledge/experience in this task?
  • Did you have the tools that you needed?
  • Was there anyone that noticed what you did?
  • Did you share your frustrations and experiences with others?

All 4 questions are centered around whether or not the individual employee experienced meaning and was acknowledged in the value of their work – but without naming these leadership words. It is in the daily life that development through tasks come to life, and it is important to be present there as a leader. If you lose competent employees, it is expensive for the organization in the form of lost productivity in the period where you are unsatisifed, until you quit and then naturally in the process that follows with finding a replacement – the recruiting- and on-boarding-process.

Why are the employees leaving the organization?

Can we as leaders learn something by analyzing why the employee is quitting? Yes, we think that we can.

A study with 36.000 employees that is found in it’s full length here: Why Employees Leave & How To Spot It – Report | Heartbeat by Workday (peakon.com), concludes these 4 reasons:

  • They aren’t leaving their place of work because they have too much to do, but because their tasks aren’t bringing them meaning and challenges.
  • They quit when they don’t have the trust to talk about salary and other conditions with their boss – not because they are feeling underpaid.
  • They are leaving bad leaders; not colleagues, the culture or the workplace.
  • They quit when they can’t see their development potential or a future place in the organization.

Can one of your employees put a cross in one or multiple of these points? In that case, now is the time to talk with the person, if you want to prevent him or her from quitting.

Remember the “silent” talents

It is not only spotted talented employees that quit. In your organization you will typically have a large group of “silent” talents. It is those employees that get in on time, know their assignments, say something if they can’t deliver as expected and attempt to deliver before deadlines. It is those employees that make up the foundation of your organization and are part of creating stability.

With a starting point in the general work place dynamic, we can see that 16% are switching jobs within a year. If the employer loses 16% and we assume status quo, then I am also about to employ another 16%. This means that in praksis, around 1/3 of the workforce is in movement withing the year, and the other way around that the silent talents make up 2/3. The core and stability in the organization.

Leadership in practice

  • Start the conversation with those you are on-boarding, those who produce, and those who are on their way out. The good thing about leadership, is the fact that you can’t seperate your employees unless you know their good and bad. You have to think preventively and attempt to lead through creating work satisfaction for every category. They have different needs, and set different demands to your resources. Use the most time, where it gives the most meaning in relation to leadership.

The experience says that it very rarely makes sense to invest alot in retaining employees that are on their way out/has quit – then it is already too late.

Our experience from talent development courses in many different types of organizations gives you this list as inspiration when you are speaking with your employees (your talents),

  • What work tasks are the easiest for you?
  • What tasks give you energy?
  • What tasks would you rather solve by yourself?
  • What tasks would you rather solve in collaboration with others?
  • What do you do when you need help/inspiration/sharing an experience?
  • Acknowledge the employees results and abilities and highlight the contribution to the organization
  • Describe what an attractive work place is – as you see it and as they see it.
  • What needs do you have in relation to work time, home work and flexibility as a whole?
  • Ask how they get the daily life to work in relation to the rest of the family
  • What tasks can you see yourself working with more?
  • What tasks can you think of more; more focus on leadership, projekt management, mentor assignments or more or less customer contact etc..?

Try to think how you can ask the questions as active and concrete as possible. For example ir could be formulated as

  • What tasks were the easiest for you in your latest project?
  • What tasks were easiest for you in the previous month?

It is important that the questions become as concret in relation to the individual employees situation. Generalizing, passively formulated and hypothetical talk does not have it’s place here.

The personal leadership

A case could be: Here in the company we know that we have 4 directions of development for you as a lawyer, you can take the partner road, you can go the specialist road, you can get customer contact or you can focus on business development and innovation.

Where do you see yourself?

If the 4 possibilities cover the employees needs and wishes, it indicates whether or not you are a fit in the company’s way of developing employees and the business.

Employee potential or performance?

One thing is what I can do as an employee, another thing is what I can turn it into with the right prerequisites and opportunities. Whatch out with focusing too much on that, which is already achieved. Create an understanding as to how the results are achieved, and focus on how the personal development can fit into the development of the business strategy.

If you do not have a clear picture of your employees talent potential, it is good to start with creating an overview through dialogue with the employee. Development comes naturally when the talents are put into play to solve the relevant tasks.

Read the case about how Kilroy developed their talents and brought the leadership into play.


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