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A lot of people ask us what the difference is between talent management and learning and development (L&D). 

In reality, they’re closely related as L&D should be a core component of your talent management strategy.

In this article, we’ll explain the difference, and link, between the two and how they contribute to your organization's development.

Talent management vs learning and development

What is talent management? 

Talent management is the term used to describe the attraction, recruitment, development, and retention of employees over their life-cycle.

It’s predicated on a close working relationship between HR and managers to ensure that the right talent is in the right place at the right time. It's a combination of hiring new talent and then providing them the means to grow into future leaders... 

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Download our 2024 Workplace Trends Report to stay ahead in a transforming HR landscape. Get insights from leaders on trends that will define your strategies in AI, talent dynamics, and DEI.

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What is learning and development? 

Once you’ve spent time and resources hiring talent, it pays dividends to invest resources into developing them. Learning and development covers courses, training programs, coaching, certifications, and eLearning. Sometimes it can be simply providing time and budget to let employees learn new skills.

I remember when we were hiring for a new office manager at a previous company, I said to the HR Lead at some point during the interview process, “We’re not hiring a new CEO,” to which she quickly replied, “How do you know?”

Case in point, Walmart’s current CEO, Doug McMillon, joined the company aged 18 as a summer associate. Our podcast guest, Melanie Pump, worked her way up from receptionist to CFO. A future C-suite executive could have just joined as a barista, and a proper learning and development program will help them develop into a leader.

So, really, L&D or talent development or whatever you want to call it, is a core component of your talent management strategy.

Who is in charge of talent management at a company? 

Your HR lead should oversee your talent management with help from management. Recruiting, training, and retention fall under the human resources umbrella. 

Large organizations will likely have dedicated departments focusing solely on one aspect of talent management, such as talent acquisition or people ops. In a smaller organization, a single HR manager might take on all of these responsibilities. 

Related Read: Best Enterprise Learning Management Systems

Who is in charge of L&D at a company?

Again, organizationally, L&D falls within the realm of HR and whoever is responsible for that. In larger companies, there’ll likely be an L&D department dedicated to identifying training needs and then enabling team members to upskill accordingly. In smaller companies, L&D is likely to be more ad hoc.

Today, coordinated L&D in a formal sense is giving way to training initiatives led by the workers themselves. After all, they’re normally aware of their personal skill gaps, so it becomes L&D’s role to support and guide them in their learning.

The overlap between talent development and L&D

If you’re still unsure, it’s best to think of it this way: 

  • Talent management covers the acquisition, development, and retention of talent
  • Learning and development focuses specifically on the growth and upskilling of current talent.

Both the management and development of your employees play into your workforce planning and succession planning. It pays to evolve existing talent into managers or help them transition into a role that suits them best. However, sometimes it’s beneficial to source new talent from the market.

Related Read: 10 Best Workforce Management Software

Which is more important: talent acquisition or L&D? 

Talent acquisition is, of course, a crucial component of the talent management process.

Your workforce planning strategy identifies your current and future staffing needs. Once you identify the positions you need to fill, you can acquire skilled employees or promote from within.

In general, it is more cost-effective to promote from within and this also helps with staff engagement and retention. 

Related Read: 10 Best Talent Management Systems For HR

Talent management, L&D, and organizational development

The key to linking organizational development to talent management and L&D starts with a long-term approach. Your overall business strategy should prioritize your employees as much as your customers. 

Some key areas of focus are:

It helps to think of each team member’s relationship with your organization as a journey and they’re the hero. You can entice them with an attractive benefits package and lots of cool perks, but giving them real opportunities to grow and develop is what will help retain them in the long run.

When you appropriately train and motivate your staff, they feel appreciated. They develop pride in their work and more interest in the company’s success.

Zooming out, your talent management strategy should focus on creating a great employee experience. For example, when you hire a new team member, it pays to invest with them from the off, beginning with a 30, 60, 90 day plan as part of their onboarding.

Related Read: 10 Best Talent Acquisition Software for Recruitment Pros

Next steps

Now you have a clear understanding of talent management vs learning and development, we encourage you to explore the topics in more depth.

Some further reading/listening:

We’d love to hear your opinion, too. Leave us a comment below or join the conversation in the People Managing People forum—a community of HR and business leaders supporting each other and sharing knowledge.

By Finn Bartram

Finn is an editor at People Managing People. He's passionate about growing organizations where people are empowered to continuously improve and genuinely enjoy coming to work. If not at his desk, you can find him playing sports or enjoying the great outdoors.