“How do you actually create a culture of talent development?” is a question that many of you struggle with in your organizations and on your teams. While many organizations and leaders understand the importance and benefits of creating a culture of talent development, it can be difficult to make that an organizational reality.

culture of talent development exists when the organization encourages and supports employees seeking knowledge and developing skills that enhance organizational and individual performance and effectiveness. When organizations prioritize continuous learning and invest in their people, they tend to attract and retain higher quality talent, develop new and innovative products and services, strengthen their overall talent pipeline, and build competitive advantage.

As culture and leadership development experts, the WLH Team has supported many pharmaceutical and life sciences companies seeking to create and sustain a culture of talent development. There is one common oversight that threatens these efforts… neglecting to acknowledge that culture change must be intentional, with clear actions and practices at three levels: organizational/enterprise, team, and individual.

The elusive culture of talent development requires commitment, investment, and execution at all levels. So, what happens when one or more of the levels is not up to par?


Traditional command-and-control cultures may be a thing of the past, however, setting the tone at the top still holds weight. When organizational actions consistently reinforce a culture of talent development, the positive outcomes include higher levels of engagement, better retention, and stronger performance.

But what does this look like?

Commitment to creating a culture of talent development at the organizational/enterprise level includes:

  1. Clearly articulating, practicing, and reinforcing values that support ongoing learning such as inclusion, excellence, and agility
  2. Ensuring learning opportunities and investments align with business goals
  3. Establishing effective development planning processes and tools with clear guidelines for creating Individual Development Plans
  4. Practicing and reinforcing the 70-20-10 Development Model that places a higher emphasis on learning on-the-job and learning from others, with less focus on formal learning programs/events
  5. Investing in programs and technology that enable self-paced learning and development with progress tracking


When a culture of talent development is prioritized at the organizational level without considerations for team or individual support, good intentions may fall flat during execution without adequate support from leaders.


The team level (i.e., the Manager-Employee Dyad) is potentially the most crucial level for ongoing development and the lynch pin for success. Why? Well intended plans (organizational) and a thirst (individual) for a culture of talent development fall apart if people leaders do not interpret, facilitate, and reinforce the culture appropriately.

Leaders need to prioritize development for their team. The key questions: “Are your managers making time to adequately support and coach development?” “Do your managers know how to coach to development?” and “Do your managers understand that they are 100 percent accountable for supporting development?” It is our belief that managers play the most critical role in enabling, supporting, and sustaining team and individual development.

The most effective managers:

  1. Establish a regular cadence in conducting development discussions
  2. Are intentional about creating on-the-job experiences for team members to grow in role and prepare for other career opportunities
  3. Share group learning needs with leadership, HR, L&D, and other key stakeholders
  4. Direct team members to available resources for self-development and focus on activities and opportunities that strengthen the team’s overall performance and engagement


Without organizational commitment, managers may find creating a culture of talent development overly challenging. Their efforts to prioritize development are easily undermined by competing priorities. If individual interest is not there, managers can become disillusioned by presenting development opportunities to a team of uninterested players.


The individual lens is often the most overlooked and misunderstood. From this perspective, focusing on development is the individual’s responsibility. And yet, if there is little organizational commitment or leadership support for that development, the individual drive for development is dampened.

While their manager should provide support, advice, perspective, and resources, the individual should proactively seek out development opportunities or craft and discuss with their manager a specialized development path that fits their unique needs and motivation.

When this philosophy is clearly articulated at the organizational level and reinforced by their manager, individuals are able to:

  1. Identify individual learning gaps and confirm with their manager
  2. Seek out opportunities (on-the-job and outside-the-job) that address individual learning gaps
  3. Develop an individual learning plan with clear actions and goals
  4. Execute on individual learning plans and regularly follow-up with their manager for confirmation, calibration, or adjustment


Individuals committed to their professional and personal development, without organizational or leadership support are a high retention risk. This is where many organizations lose the loyalty of their top-performing talent. Highly skilled individuals may leave for organizations that offer greater developmental opportunities and who demonstrate more respect and value for their work.

Final Thoughts & Next Steps to Create a Culture of talent development

No one leader or function can independently create a culture of talent development or a learning organization. Executives must create and cast the vision and reinforce the importance of ongoing learning and development. When Human Resources, Learning and Development, and Organizational Development professionals work together in a coordinated manner, leaders and employees throughout the organization better understand their responsibilities and the resources available to support continuous improvement.

At WLH, we have over 30 years of experience helping clients navigate the white space between strategy development and successful change execution. We also have extensive expertise in understanding companies’ needs and in designing targeted interventions that help create and sustain cultures where people like where they work, feel valued, and believe there are future growth opportunities. Our learning strategists have extensive, practical, real-world experience and understand the unique needs of the pharmaceutical and life sciences industry.

We work with clients to:

  1. Assess current organizational culture and leadership development practices
  2. Help leadership teams and leaders shift their approach and commitment to ongoing development
  3. Provide learning and development strategy support
  4. Design development planning processes and tools specific to the life sciences industry
  5. Design comprehensive leadership development solutions for all levels of the talent pipeline (individual contributors, emerging leaders, first line leaders, leaders of leaders, executive leaders)
Is your culture of talent development at risk? Lagging behind poses a risk to your company’s reputation and ability to recruit and retain talent.

If you feel you are lagging behind, we can help.

We will share insights on Creating a Culture of Talent Development in this month’s upcoming webinar. Join us on Wednesday, Oct. 26th at 12 pm ET for our complimentary, 60 minute webinar entitled, “What It Really Takes to Create & Sustain a Culture of Talent Development in the Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences Industry“.

Register today and reserve your spot!

Even if you cannot join us live, please register for the event. We’ll share the webinar recording afterwards.

The 5C’s of Transition Leadership
Wendy L. Heckelman, Ph.D.

Dr. Wendy Heckelman, president and founder of WLH Consulting, Inc. has over 30 years of experience working with Fortune 100 industry clients. These include pharmaceutical, biotech, health care, animal health medicines, and consumer products, as well as international non-profit organizations and growing entrepreneurial companies.

LeadershipChange AgilityLeadership Agilitytransition leadership