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Talent Development

2.1 The role of development

Although talented individuals have been assessed as having the capacity to move into roles of greater complexity, ambiguity and scale in the future, they may not yet have the full capability required for those roles. For example, an individual may have highly developed technical skills but require stronger
leadership and management skills.

As such, an important element in a talent management process is working with a high potential individual to pinpoint areas for targeted development and finding the right development option.

The notion of accelerated growth is an important consideration in high potential development. Offering opportunities that stretch the individual may get them ready for a future role faster. This can be beneficial for the agency and attractive to high potential individuals who are fast and agile learners.
However, speed of development needs to be weighed against the depth and breadth of experience required to be successful and thrive in a more senior and more complex role.

2.2 Types of development

An integrated approach to development based on the 70:20:10 model is likely to achieve the best developmental outcomes13:

  • 70% of learning is gained from experience (e.g. on the job experience, tasks and problem solving)
  • 20% of learning is gained through relationships (e.g. feedback and interpersonal learning)
  • 10% of learning is gained through formal learning programs.

Effective development activities should be challenging and take the individual outside their comfort zone. Those identified as high potential are likely to gain real benefits from this; as keen learners, high potentials should respond well to intensive development.

To maximise learning gains, development should incorporate elements from each of these types:

Description of 70,20, 10 principle of development
On the job learning
Learning through others
Formal learning
  • Being part of a working group, committee, or taskforce
  • Taking on new responsibilities or a new project
  • Secondments outside the APS or with another APS agency
  • Representational activities
  • Mentoring
  • Coaching
  • Career counselling
  • Manager feedback
  • Academic study
  • APS learning programs (e.g. leadership & talent development programs)
  • External learning programs
  • eLearning

2.3 Planning for development

Career and development conversations with high potential individuals are important to understand:

  • Aspirations and how these relate to business need and critical roles
  • Motivators, strengths & weaknesses
  • Learning needs
  • Development options
  • Timelines, including those for monitoring and review.

These conversations should take into account development needs identified through formal or informal assessments.

Managers are best placed to conduct these conversations. Manager guides for career conversations with high potential talent can be found in the Guide to Career Conversations.

Drawing on the career conversation, an individual development plan can be constructed. The plan should build useful skills and experience based on future critical roles and the individual's aspirations. This plan is usually fed into senior management discussions about talent so that there is clarity
about an individual's development goals and agreement to the investment being made.

More detail on development planning can be found in A guide to learning on the job in the APS.

2.4 Mobility: placements and secondments

The planned movement of employees within, across and outside agencies to gain varied job experiences is an effective strategy in career and capability development. For high potential talent, this is particularly effective, as these individuals are often looking for 'an experience' which provides new
opportunities for career growth. Indeed, recent research indicates that high potential employees will find opportunities outside the agency if such opportunities are not provided from within14.

When done well, the planned use of employee mobility is a cost effective means of diversifying and enhancing a high potential employee's knowledge, experience, and skills through 'immersion' and 'learning by doing'. Developmental mobility includes:

  • Internal movement within an agency
  • External movement between agencies
  • External movement to the private sector
  • External movement to a state or territory government.

Movements can be unilateral or bilateral (exchanges), however the focus of the movement should be on developing the high potential individuals' breadth and depth of skills in areas likely to be relevant in future roles.

Agencies using mobility as part of their talent development strategy should undertake pre-assignment planning. This activity ensures that mobility placements will provide the targeted capability development identified in the individual's development plan. It is also important to provide on-assignment support to ensure the required development is taking


13 Lombardo, M; Eichinger, R (1996). The Career Architect Development Planner (1st ed.) Minneapolis: Liminger.p.iv.

14 Bersin, Josh (2015). Predictions for 2015. Redesigning the Organization for a Rapidly Changing World. Research Report

Last reviewed: 
29 March 2018