Sam Tews September 22, 2023 7 min read

Build, Bridge, Buy, & Borrow Your Talent Development Strategy

Ensuring we have the right people, at the right time, in the right seats is the most difficult, and most important job an organization’s leadership team has. While HR often steps forward as the project manager of this initiative, a successful talent development strategy involves the whole organization.

Good news, leaders! I’m here to educate you on four brilliant strategies to elevate your talent strategy to the next level, and to ensure your organization is appropriately prepared for the short- and long-term opportunities.

Introducing the 4 B’s – Build, Bridge, Buy and Borrow.


Building talent is a strategy that focuses on growing employees from within. There are a lot of reasons why it’s healthy to promote from within; the most important in my mind, you’re creating a long-term play for your top performers. Your top performers see a clear path forward with increased responsibilities and rewards and may decide to commit long-term to your organization resulting in a healthy retention strategy. An unfortunate reality with Build is that training and developing is a long-term play and doesn’t often produce immediate results.


  • Mentor / Mentee program
  • Internships
  • Stretch Assignments
  • Psychometric Assessments (DISC, MBTI, etc.)
  • Individual Development Plans
  • Advanced Education, Designations, Certificates, etc.
  • Executive Coaching



Similar to build, bridging talent is a strategy that focuses on internal employees with an added emphasis on defining paths for employees to move outward with their careers. As a bridge depicts, you’re moving from one side to the next…often laterally. Bridging is similar in that the focus is for employees to develop and train a wider range skillset, rather than hierarchical. Bridging is a great strategy to deploy to establish necessary task redundancy and phased retirement planning.  


  • Mentor / Mentee program
  • Stretch Assignments
  • Reassignments

As you learned, Build & Bridge are the two internal facing strategies. One is focused on growth upwards and one is focused on opportunities outwards. Two other key words that appropriately align with the Build strategy – Boost, such that you are boosting skills and competencies for your employees, and Buddy-system, such that you’re pairing up people to learn and grow from each other.  


Buying talent is exactly how it sounds; the focus is on purchasing new talent for your team. The external market is going to offer experienced, educated, and diverse talent for your workforce, however, that talent is going to come at a cost.  Your focus might not be on building the skills, but rather sourcing and acclimating the new skills to the organization. Buying talent is extremely competitive in today’s market and requires the organization to think creatively about total rewards, an EVP (employee value proposition), and a long-term strategic vision.


  • Sourcing and Recruitment
  • Referral Program
  • Internships
  • Recruitment Agency partnerships
  • *Technology solutions



Borrowing strategy allows for organizations to tap into a huge ecosystem of strategic resources without making a long-term commitment. Borrowing may take a lot of creative planning to find the best talent alternative for your organization. For organizations that want to be able to scale up and down, or organizations that may be rapidly growing and unsure when the plateau may appear, borrowing may offer a steady, confident talent solution.


  • Temporary staffing solutions
  • Outsource
  • Co-Sourcing
  • Independent Contractors

Buy and Borrow are two external-facing strategies. Another keyword that depicts the buy-and-borrow strategy is Branding. When faced with external options and opportunities, your organizational brand (EVP) is a critical factor in your success. Today, many organizations rely on their social media channels to promote their culture and core values, and to capture a ‘day in the life’ brand promise.   A brand is not developed overnight and may take years and years to refine.

There you have it – the 4 B’s. A relatively simple summary to enhance the complexity of your talent development strategy.   As a closing remark, and a key to all of this becoming a reality, a successful talent development strategy involves the whole organization. BE strategic and BE inclusive of the resources and opportunities around you, and remember the 4 B’s – Build, Buy, Borrow, and Bridge – for your talent development strategy.