Tips to help you attract and retain the best talent out there

There used to be a time where employers could sit back and wait for candidates to prove their skills and potential for a chance to join our company. That time has truly gone. Societal shifts now mean employees are more comfortable switching jobs if the experience they encounter doesn’t match their expectations. Whilst most employers do recognise the need to adapt their talent strategy accordingly, very few have actually taken steps to change and ensure they offer employees a simple joined up experience.

So how can you help truly engage your workforce? More specifically, how do you ensure you get great people, and keep great people? Well a killer talent management strategy is an essential part of that.

What is talent management?

Talent management is about understanding the skills, experiences and behaviours that will help unlock employee potential. Sounds simple? Well it is. And it isn’t. Ensuring you have thought through the touch-points in your experience from on-boarding and induction to career development is often a given. However those companies that offer a rich, fulfilling and more importantly, joined up experience is definitely a gap that few companies manage to achieve.

With many elements under the talent management umbrella, it can be overwhelming to try and excel at everything. This is why we have put a few tips together to help you find the most effective way to put your employees experience at the heart of your efforts and treat people as you would external customers, with a cracking sales pitch and retention strategy.

Tip 1: Get practical with your career development

Most employers will have heard of the 70-20-10 model. When it comes to career development, we believe 70% should be led by the employee, 20% supported by the manager and 10% is backed by your organisation. But what does that look like in practice? What if your employees struggle to articulate their goals or lack the time to take a step back and figure out what they really want out of their career? How can you support them as an organisation if they haven’t been able to tell you where they’d like to be in five years’ time? Models are great in a perfect theoretical world, but most of us find it tricky to apply them to real-life situations. That’s where practical tools and strong frameworks can support management teams and help employees figure out their career goals, how to reach them and the timeframe they’d like to aim for. So when it comes to career development, pick up a sharpie and some post-it notes and use practical exercises to extract the information you need.

Managers are key in this process; they will help join the dots between desired outcomes and opportunities available. King’s College London understands this and got to work by asking us to

devise specific guidance on career development for employees and their managers. This has led to the creation of the Manager’s Workbook, a series of tools to help them define employees’ expectations and draw out their strengths, purpose and key values. The pack also contains a Career Navigator, an extremely valuable tool in guiding staff to map out their future career journey.

Tip 2: Regular and often works best when it comes to performance coaching 

Performance coaching is an agile process. It should prioritise responding to change over following a plan, and focus on how you would both measure results against objectives and take corrective steps based on those readings. It is not just about setting a training schedule; gone are the days where sending someone on a training course to help them improve their leadership skills was sufficient. Performance coaching needs to lead to tangible behavioural changes and performance improvements.

The ultimate goal of performance coaching is to help future leaders come up with solutions to their own challenges. It involves getting to know them to determine their key strengths and drivers, as well as potential deraillers. Once again, this requires more than a few sparse conversations during annual reviews. Regular check-ins, as well as scenario planning exercises will allow coaches to determine the next best course of action based on the behaviours you want to see happen in your next rock star. This process requires time, dedication, expertise and a high-level of self-awareness, from the employee, their manager and coach. But done right, it can lead to increased talent retention for the whole organisation. After all, by closely supporting the next leaders and helping them cope with difficult situations, you are also taking care of the employees they will in turn manage.

Tip 3: Treat your succession planning strategy as if you were running a football team

Futureproofing your organisation should be a key focus in your talent management arsenal. However, based on our Talent Diagnostic Survey, it is one of the areas organisations struggle with the most. Whether it is simply due to a lack of time from the leadership team, or whether it is relegated to the bottom of the never-ending to-do list, neglecting to plan for the years ahead is a risky strategy.

So where does the football team come in? Succession planning is about truly understanding who you have on your bench and determining if your current line-up can take you all the way to the Premiership. Once you’ve done an audit of your team, you will need to determine if some roles are more crucial than others to the wellbeing of your organisation, whether the players currently in place require any trainings additional tools to be able to step up, and what your recruitment needs are for the future in order to plug the gaps in your talent pool.

Whilst this may seem like a long-term vision, Origin Housing is a great example of going through this exercise successfully. They got the ball rolling by identifying key roles in their leadership team with the simple ‘CEO minus two levels’ equation. Once those senior roles were mapped out, they were matched with a set of expected skills and behaviours, as well as an adapted leadership coaching programme for those candidates identified as having the required abilities and potential to move up. Like them, you may discover that your first steps will immediately inform your next course of actions in putting your succession planning strategy in place; the important thing is just to get started.

Tip 4: Onboarding: think beyond the first week

Research shows that the first 100 days are a pivotal point for new starters as they rule on whether what they were sold at the time of the interview matches reality. So if you thought you were done with onboarding after planning your new starter’s first week of meetings and fire safety briefings, think again!

Onboarding is more about setting clear expectations than filling in forms, so any new starter knows what’s expected of them, their new role and their colleagues. This process starts before they’ve even stepped through the doors and will continue over the next few months whilst they determine if your organisation is one that delivers the experience they anticipated.

OilTanking GMBH is a great example of a successful and innovative onboarding strategy. The company helps employees get over the undeniable fear of the unknown that comes with a new position by providing all new starter stepping through the doors with a customised 90-day plan. The checklist clearly sets the tone for the three months to come and ensures new joiners are clear on the desired behaviours they should display, the values the company holds dear and, importantly, the level of support they can expect from their managers and colleagues. Documenting and communicating those elements from the start is the best way to ensure there are no surprises along the way when it comes to the employee’s journey.

Tip 5: Make your talent management strategy greater than the sum of its parts 

Many organisations have processes in place for each area of talent development, from onboarding policies to career development tools, coaching programmes and succession planning strategies. But very few manage to join those up into a coherent experience, starting from the first interview and spanning the entire employee lifecycle. Having a joined-up approach that speaks to both the head and the heart of your employees is the best way to ensure you hire, but mostly keep, great people.  

Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from your employees about their recent experiences of your talent management efforts. Focusing on making your strategy an experience rather than a policy is the only way to find and plug the gaps between each stage. It will help understand staff expectations towards your as an employer during those key milestones, no matter their seniority within your organisation. Regular check points and reviews, feedback, and small improvements will ensure your talent management strategy keeps evolving in line with both your staff and the market. Despite the advice, some may still feel a bit overwhelmed with the amount of work involved with developing a great talent management strategy. It’s true that it’s hard to be good at everything. In fact, it’s hard to think of one company that does everything perfectly. But the organisations we know of who do this successfully tend to do one thing right: being transparent about what their employees can expect from them. By not overpromising, being clear on what you stand for and talking about the things that really do matter to your company, chances are you’ll be in good stead. But overall, the best advice is to just get started. Get shit done. And focus on people and innovation over processes and policies that will remain in a drawer gathering dust.