Old School vs. New School Talent Development: Which One Reigns Supreme?

Posted by Trakstar • December 20, 2022 • 6 min read

If you’re involved in talent development, you know it’s a battle of old school vs. new school at many companies. Often, these competing factions want the best for the company and its people; they just want to go about it differently.
The good news is that you can choose a little bit of one and some of the other. The old-school talent development method can complement the new-school approach in many cases.

Talent Development: It’s All About Origins

It’s essential to know each method and where it comes from – both have a place.

Old School: The traditional approach to talent development has been top-down, based on a carefully crafted set of rules that are meant to be followed by everyone. It’s focused on hard skills—the kind you can measure by looking at someone’s performance or seeing how well they do in a specific role. This approach has been around for a long time and is still very common. It’s based on the idea that talent development is about teaching people new skills they can use in their current roles.

New School: The new school approach is bottom-up, based on what people are actually doing and how they’re feeling. It’s also focused on soft skills—the kind that a test or an interview can’t measure. The new school approach is about engaging people on deeper levels, tapping into their motivations and beliefs. This can help you find the best performers and build a culture that attracts them.

Differences and Similarities Between Talent Development Methodologies

Both schools of thought have their merits. However, the new school approach is gaining popularity and taking over from the old school.

The differences between these two approaches are significant:

Who Is In Charge of Development?

In the traditional school of thought, leaders are the people in charge of all talent development. They schedule development courses for employees, determine all the details, and even create the courses.

In a new school of talent development, employees and leaders work together to build courses that teach new skills or share information, determine the best path forward, and even make suggestions about each other’s performance so that everyone can grow holistically together. In the traditional school of thought, courses are static. They have a start date and end date, and once the course is over, it’s done. In the new approach to talent development, courses can be updated as needed when employees learn something new or need to refresh their knowledge base.

Old school is more likely to stick to what they know works and only teach that. There isn’t anything wrong with sticking to what works, but it can lead to burnout if people think they can’t make suggestions or grow within the company.

What Does Potential Mean?

How do you define potential in a business sense? This is one of the key differences between old-school talent development and new-school talent development. 

Old-school talent development sees potential as how an employee can benefit the company in the position they are in right now. How will their work increase numbers, increase profits, or improve the company?

While this is still a factor for new school development, it’s a little different. New school people leaders see potential as what employees can achieve today, tomorrow, and in a few years. It means charting a path for stellar performances, coachable employees, and enthusiastic teams. Sometimes, it means using performance reviews and upskilling to build up employees who are high achievers but still need to be polished, and other times, hiring top talent to fill in some of the skills gaps that exist.

How Often Do You Talk To Your Employees?

Are you regularly talking to your employees? Checking in with them on weekly manager meetings? One of the most significant differences between new-school and old-school talent development is employee communication.

Old-school talent development checks in on a yearly or bi-annual basis with performance reviews. The rest of the year, employees are left to wonder what people think about their performances and what they’re doing. New school talent development uses weekly 1:1s, quarterly performance reviews, engagement surveys, and impromptu conversations to check on how employees are doing, how happy they are, and whether they feel fulfilled. It isn’t always structured, but there is a way to take notes or make recommendations.

There’s a better option here: the new school methodology. We’re not talking about sending out a monthly newsletter or an annual review. We’re talking about regular, open communication with your employees. You need to check in with them regularly to get a pulse on what they want and how they feel about their job.

Why Do People Stay?

Another key differentiator between old-school talent management and new school is why people choose to stay at your company. What is the main reason they don’t look for another job, particularly if there are plenty of other opportunities?

With old-school talent management, it usually all ties back to one big reason: money. If they are doing a good job, people get raises at annual performance reviews. That raise keeps them at the company for another year.

At least it did.

The problem with this is that fewer people stay at their jobs because of money. Instead, they stay because of company values and purpose. Companies like Google have been able to attract some of the best talent globally because they prioritize values. They know that if they can provide people with a great work environment, benefits and perks, and intellectually challenge them, people will stay.

Instead, new-school talent management focuses on creating a good ecosystem for employees. Companies need to create an inclusive and welcoming culture with opportunities for growth and development. This means providing employees with the tools they need to succeed, giving them access to the right mentors and coaches, and helping them navigate their careers.

Dare To See Your Workforce Differently

Do you dare to look at talent development differently? Are you hoping to revitalize your workplace and make it a career destination, not just a layover on the way to the next thing? At Trakstar, we help you invest in your employees and create a place where they want to not only stay but thrive and succeed. We help bring together the worlds of old-school talent management and new-school talent management so that every employee gets what they need, the HR department feels confident and empowered in the work they’re doing, and managers have the tools they need to develop high-achieving teams.

If you are ready to supercharge your talent development and get started, schedule a demo of Trakstar today.

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