MIAMI - A firm’s profitability and growth is directly correlated to the company’s talent, said Maria A. Taylor, Director of Learning Solutions, Smeal College of Business, Penn State University, at the ABA Conference in Miami Beach on Sunday afternoon.

That means developing talent should be as important to executives as developing strategy. “In many organizations strategy and talent are split, when they should be thought of together,” she said.

Talent development is critical, research shows, to both profitability and client retention. Yet the most talented individuals plan to leave their jobs, while those who are not engaged plan to stay. In fact Taylor points out that in most organizations 65% of disengaged workers plan to stay in their positions, while 25% of the organization’s high-potential employees, who have the ability, the desire, and the attributes to perform higher than average and advance within the organization, plan to leave. The challenge for employees is that most report weak training and weak succession planning. The way firms can overcome this is to outline: What do you want to accomplish? What are your goals? How are you going to measure success? What are your values?

While over 75% of leaders believe that a high-potential employee is more than 50%-100% more valuable than an average employee, on average only 30% of executives have written development plans for their high-potential employees.

The reality is that many high-potentials don’t feel they are rewarded for their effort. The most important employment motivators, said Taylor are, the success and reputation of employers, the engagement of senior management, the ability to advance skills and careers, and flexibility and worklife balance, with flexibility and worklife balance being a top priority especially for younger employees and a good way to compensate high-potentials without giving a raise or a promotion.

Taylor also outlined how to identify high-potentials: Those who deliver results and are driven to excel; Those who have a catalytic learning capability; Those who have an enterprising spirit; Those who have dynamic sensors; Those who are collaborators, role models, and teachers.

Two other critical points Taylor mentioned: Learning cannot be just in a classroom and create a culture of coaching.