Today’s world of work is forcing companies to change their approach to learning. Their talent strategy needs to foster self-directed learning (SDL) as a process. SDL is an instructional process in which people take the primary responsibility in learning situations. To enhance job performance, their talent strategy must also include tools that support effective competence development, such as personal development plans (PDPs). In this study, we consider the effectiveness of talent strategy of this nature, by analysing longitudinal data on 3,661 employees working in 16 countries, extracted from an electronic talent management system. Two path analyses were conducted to study the relationships between SDL exercised within a PDP practice and job performance, and to test the research hypotheses. Results validate the hypotheses, confirming that SDL as a process within PDP practice positively impacts job performance. However, while the results confirm the importance of setting learning goals and including informal learning activities when exercising SDL process within the PDP practice, they do not confirm the need to integrate other components of SDL as a process. It can be concluded that learning strategy is key to job performance, and that informal learning is of particular importance. Value-added recommendations for practice are discussed.