Leadership development is now the number one priority for HR professionals and senior leaders in the UK, according to a new report which suggests that business cycles and training cycles must be aligned for maximum effectiveness.

In a Right Management study entitled 'Talent Management: Accelerating Business Performance' more than than 2,200 HR professionals and SME owners were polled, with 46 per cent identifying leadership development as the top priority for 2014, rising to 54 per cent in the UK.

At the moment, 14 per cent have confidence in the strength of their leadership pipelines to fill critical openings, with nearly half consequently reporting that 2014 will be a year of growth marked by increased spending on talent management initiatives, in order to help develop leaders and build talent pipelines.

A key finding was that organisations are understanding that key talent is the primary source of accelerated business performance, with organisations facing talent shortages, skills mismatches and weak leadership pipelines now concentrating on investing in talent and seeing a positive ROI.

Right Management principal consultant Sue Roffey-Jones commented: "If you align the learning and talent cycles to the cycles of your business strategy, you have a much better chance.

"Leaders want to see the impact of learning on the business performance. Making sure your training more closely meets the needs of the business at any given time will make this much more likely."

Ian Symes, Right Management general manager for UK & Ireland, added that a "one-size-fits-all" approach to talent management is unlikely to deliver return on investment.

Businesses should instead take time to assess the talent they have, identify the talent they need and - from the resulting analysis - create a roadmap for talent management that supports individuals and the overall business direction, he concluded.

Hosting training at a facility that enables staff and leaders alike to enhance their skills and understanding can prove to be an effective way of building the pipelines for success.