Creating a talent management strategy

Written by
Changeboard Team

25 Jan 2011

25 Jan 2011 • by Changeboard Team

Best practice talent management

Talent management includes recruitment, induction, goal-setting, performance management, assessment, compensation management, learning, career planning and succession planning processes. These processes aim to retain employees and foster their continuing development of skills and competencies to achieve the organisation’s immediate performance goals and long-term strategic objectives.

Its champions claim that talent management processes give organisations valuable measurements, performance motivators and insights into workforce skills, competencies and emerging leaders. This vision empowers organisations to become more strategic in how they select, train, develop, retain, reward and help employees.

Organisations may recognise the need, and ROI, of implementing talent management but it can be daunting to develop a talent management strategy and implement the supporting processes and technologies.

The task can be simplified, using a competency-based approach to define and compare the organisation’s desired state with its current state in terms of skills, knowledge, behaviours, performance - and the measurement and motivational processes associated with them. The competency-based approach is also key to building the talent management record system comprising jobs, employee and company competencies and skills, as well as broader employee information, often called the ‘talent profile’.

According to Paul Sparta, CEO of Plateau Systems, a leading provider of enterprise-class SaaS solutions for talent management: “As the pace of change accelerates, organisations are balancing recruitment with an investment not just in training but in comprehensive talent management strategies. By focusing resources on growing ‘new talent’ from existing employees, a good talent management strategy sharpens an organisation’s competitive position, reduces recruitment costs, drives higher performance and boosts retention rates.”

1) Building a talent strategy

1. Start from where you are now and have the end in mind

Involve the HR team, C-level executives, business unit heads and managers. Answer key questions about the organisation’s culture, current and desired states. These might cover:

  • Organisation statements
  • Mission statement: why the company exists
  • Corporate values: beliefs and how the company behaves
  • Vision: what the company wants to be
  • Strategy: business goals/objectives and competitive advantage
  • Balanced scorecard: how the company executes and monitors the plan
  • How these statements and goals cascade through business units, divisions, market segments and departments
  • Which jobs/roles and skills are needed to support company statements, performance and encourage innovation
  • Which criteria the organisation can use to measure performance and to identify both high performers and underachievers

Then, decide what the organisation should look like - in terms of leadership, capabilities and structure – to achieve these aims and goals. This defines the desired state for performance, competitive position and profitability.

Next, examine any talent management components already in place. Analyse how well each component is working. Document your organisation’s talent management priorities based on organisation goals, related talent requirements and the analysis of existing talent management processes and systems.

2) Employee competencies

Define the competencies your organisation needs:

  • Core competencies: qualities and behaviours required of all employees
  • Leadership competencies: qualities and behaviours desired for supervisors, managers and executives 
  • Job-specific competencies: skills, knowledge, abilities and behaviours

Associate these competencies with specific roles and job positions. Establish the proficiency levels required for each competency. Use this to create a competency profile for each job.

3) Gap analysis how do we get there from here?

Conduct a skills inventory and gap analysis. The focus should be on the key competency/skill areas. This gathers information about the current state and provides a baseline for assessing and measuring progress. This enables organisations to identify qualified candidates for special projects or new assignments. It also allows employees to manage their career because they can see where they are and where they need to be.

The organisation’s performance appraisal process provides a means for collecting details on the current state of employee skills. Apply the same process used to evaluate an individual to the organisation. Tools can include:

  • Self-assessments
  • Annual performance appraisals 
  • 360-degree assessments

Other useful information can be found in an employee’s ‘talent profile’ including: awards; colleges/universities attended; membership of communities and associations; current goals; interests; language skills; past goals; professional qualifications, and work history.

This information is aggregated to show the organisation’s inventory of job roles, skills and leadership. Record strengths and weaknesses - since a talent management strategy should address both. The combined company and employee information becomes the organisation’s job profile and talent profile record system.

4. Define the annual talent management timeline

4) Culture shock managing change

Employees may resist talent management processes because it makes their performance more visible - and establishes a direct link between their performance and their career path and compensation. To prevent any undermining of the speed, success and value of the initiative, introduce communication and learning experiences that can ease the ‘culture shock’ and encourage employees to embrace the new system.

Once an organisation has a solid talent management strategy in place, the next issue is how to translate that strategy into a system. The objective is to build a multiyear plan for taking talent management from where it is today to a fully integrated system tailored to the organisation’s unique culture, business processes and strategic goals.

It's important to realise that the end goal is neither the system nor the software. It isn’t even about automating the talent management process, although the savings in terms of time and paperwork from doing this are often substantial.

The real goal of creating a talent management system lies in giving people more time, information and the power to make a difference. With clear visibility of skills, competencies and talent readiness across the enterprise, the HR team and line managers have the strategic information they need to make better decisions. The result is higher performance for the organisation and more vibrant career development, and satisfaction, for employees.

Best practice strategy is to start from what is in place, assess whether these systems are meeting your goals and if they can be integrated and maintained with your planned talent management processes and systems. If not, you need a replacement and migration plan in your talent management strategy. In deciding where to begin, consider:

  • What are the talent management business priorities?
  • Where is the organisation in the calendar-year talent management timeline?
  • What current manual processes or systems are in place, and what is the ‘competency’ level of these processes or systems?