4 Keys to Effective Talent Development

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  • Date:

    June 19, 2017

4 Keys to Effective Talent Development


After 15-plus years in human resources, internal communications and training, I’m thrilled to join Wray Ward as talent development director.

This is my first agency experience, but it’s not my first time working in the creative industry. For nine years, I oversaw HR for the creative services division of The Children’s Place, where I grew my love for working with creative professionals. When I work alongside creative people and see the amazing things they produce, I get inspired to think more about fresh approaches to talent development. 

I’m excited to dig in and embrace what we do at Wray Ward. In the meantime, here are four things I’ve learned about the art of talent development.

1.    Talent development isn’t just a fancy name for human resources.

Talent development is about more than identifying great new talent; it’s also about maximizing and growing the talent you have.

Before I joined Wray Ward, I worked as a career coach, helping young and mid-career professionals find their passion and enrich their work experiences. And in a lot of ways, my role here is similar. I’m here to help the agency win the war on talent. I'm here to provide hiring managers with better tools to make the best selection decisions. I’m committed to fostering relationships with colleges and universities as we continue to attract young talent through our incredible FORM internship program.

But I’m also here to help enhance the agency’s already strong culture and values, and to challenge our current team members and help them achieve their greatest potential. I’m here to help inspire them to ask, What if?

Wray Ward is best known for its service to clients in the home and building sectors, but my clients are our employees. That’s why my job, as talent development director, is also about the development, engagement and retention of our amazingly talented workforce.  

2.    A talent development director has no typical day.

Now, I realize I’m not the first person to say this. Ask a copywriter or graphic designer or financial advisor if they have typical workdays, and you’ll likely get the same answer. But in the talent development world, every day is certainly different. We recognize that all of our employees are individuals, and that makes every interaction in each day unique. 

So, how do I successfully manage my own dynamic role?

First, I start every day with a to-do list written in pencil. I love the feeling of accomplishment as I look down at my completed list and know I achieved what I set out to get done. List making allows me to be especially productive each morning; as the day progresses and issues arise, I’m better able to effectively manage through those issues.

Next, I operate with an open mind. This is the single most valuable lesson I’ve learned in my career.

Wray Ward Vice President Patricia Propst says never say never, and that strongly resonates with me. It means maintaining a flexible frame of mind. It means listening and respectfully considering other people’s points of view. And in talent development, it means acknowledging that our people processes will continually evolve. It means taking creative and strategic approaches to talent assessment and selection, performance management and succession planning.

3.    Building a great team requires successful leadership.

Great outcomes begin with effective leaders. We have some pretty incredible leaders here at Wray Ward. Every day, I partner with those who enable, empower and inspire their teams to higher levels of performance and success. They do this through their vision, passion and communication, and through their ability to build loyalty, trust and respect within and across their teams.

Those are just a few of the leadership qualities that are critical to putting together a high-performing team. We operate in a results-driven environment. That’s why it is vital that good leaders solidly understand and value each employee’s role, communicate what is needed to achieve goals, and then select the best talent (who have the knowledge, skills and abilities) to nail it.

4.    Company culture is the most critical component of success for any business.

I’m passionate about talent retention. Great companies get the best talent in the door; then, they develop it and maximize it and give it a reason to stay. When employees are engaged and challenged and appreciated, they do great work and love what they do, and everyone wins. 

Culture is crucial to retention. That’s why effective human resources professionals work to enhance company culture, even when that culture is already really special. From the first time I walked through these doors, it was clear that Wray Ward’s creative, collaborative culture is 100 percent authentic. Even better, its people are rich with amazing talent and personality that match that culture. Its people are boundless in their creative thinking. They are its culture.

But even companies with a thriving culture will always have room to grow. Businesses have to make sure every employee has an opportunity to receive coaching and support. Businesses also need to make smart people decisions to ensure new talent understands the culture and can fit within it. 

I was at a crossroads in my own career when I first learned Wray Ward wanted to add a talent development director position. Right off the bat, I could tell this is an agency built by people committed to creating the change they want to see. People who aren’t afraid to ask, What if? 

And by the end of my own interview process, I knew Wray Ward was where I wanted to be.

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