The essential building blocks of talent management

A comprehensive guide to getting the most out of your talent management strategy

Most employers will agree that talent management is a key component of a successful business strategy. But when asked, they would be hard pressed to give a clear summary of what an effective talent strategy entails. Is talent management that much of a complex beast? At Let’s Talk Talent, we don’t think so. Put simply, it is about getting great people, and keeping great people. Organisations need the right team in order to deliver on their business objectives. With such a clear goal in sight, why are so many businesses struggling to design and roll out effective talent management initiatives?

What is a talent management strategy?

It’s important to understand that this area of HR covers the entire employee lifecycle, from the first time people hear of you as a potential employer all the way to the day they leave. Talent management includes your onboarding programme, your employee’s career development opportunities, performance review processes, succession planning, leadership assessment, coaching, and everything else to ensure your business has the right people in the right place, doing the right thing. 

Whilst it could seem easy to tackle your entire talent strategy in one fell swoop, it can also feel overwhelming. Managing one area of talent management at a time is one thing. Trying to create and maintain joined-up programmes for all staff, no matter where they are on their journey with you is another. Here is a checklist to help you achieve just that.

It’s important to understand that this area of HR covers the entire employee lifecycle. Whilst this seems obvious and much easier to manage when viewed as a whole, it can also be overwhelming for those with more limited resources. Planning and managing one area of the talent management umbrella at a time is one thing. Trying to devise and maintain policies for staff’s career development, onboarding and inducting, performance coaching, succession planning and executive assessment at all once, and as a consistent joined up experience, is slightly more daunting.

How do you get started with talent management?

Before you even begin and just like with any other business priority, the key is to take a step back and ensure you have a true understanding of the most important issue to address. Are you considering implementing a talent management strategy due to poor staff retention rates? Or do you think your next leaders do not have the tools needed to step up? Perhaps your staff feels diversity and inclusion needs a bigger focus? Your first steps into the talent management world will definitely be determined by the big question you are trying to answer.

The audiences to consider in your talent management strategy

For those who cannot say with absolute clarity what the big question is, an audit may be required. Just like any other strategy, having a good understanding of the situation starts with identifying and surveying your main stakeholders. The Said Business School did just that and started with categorising its key players into six key categories, each with different skills, needs and purposes:

  • The C-suite
  • The leadership team
  • The people managers
  • The talented many
  • The future talents
  • The wider community

It’s easy to see how each group would have varied, sometimes even conflicting, sets of requirements. But how do you go about finding out what each of these groups needs and wants from their employer? A great example is The Said Business School, whose HR team conducted a company-wide staff survey, which allowed the organisation to truly understand its employees’ views of what constitutes a great place to work.

Setting up talent management KPIs

Before setting anything in motion, it’s important to determine how you will measure the success of your talent management strategy. Before you get going, ask yourself: ‘How will we know it worked?’ Are you hoping to see lower churn rates? Or better retention amongst new starters? How can you measure staff wellbeing? Establishing measurable goals should be one of the first steps when considering a revamp of your talent management approach. No talent management initiative can be effective without regular review points and small, incremental adjustments along the way.

The important thing is to keep going and course correct along the way, using the data and insights gathered.For more information on the right KPIs to use, have a look at our ultimate list of HR metrics.

Choosing the right communication channels

A great policy never lives in a drawer. Before rolling out any new initiatives, take a moment to audit the communications channels available to you. Which will have the most impact? How can you reach each of the audiences you’ve identified previously? Make sure you also determine the most efficient ways for employees to provide feedback on the changes you are implementing as part of your talent management efforts.

Picking the right talent management model

Now that the foundations are set, you should be in a great position to start your journey. Now, all that’s left is to find the best way to reach your goal. Don’t hesitate to be creative, and find new innovative methods to attract great people, and keep great people. Because when it comes to talent management, life is too short for beige.

The Internet is full of helpful frameworks and models to help organisations plan their approach to talent management. From the HR Agile methodology to the more traditional 9-box grid, these all have value. Whilst useful, models are just that: models. They exist to structure the thought process. But the real thinking needs to be uniquely yours. No one organisation is the same, so how could one winning framework possibly apply to all businesses? Realistically, it can’t. Which is why we believe the best framework to use is the one that puts your organisation at its core. When it comes to talent management, nobody is leaving from the same place, and with the same people. Let’s Talk Talent’s top tip? Customisation is key.

Using all the talent management building blocks at your disposal

For those looking for guidance, there are established building blocks in the Let’s Talk Talent framework. This framework was designed to help you make your strategy your own, and cover each area of talent management, including:

The essential building blocks of a winning talent management strategy

  • Employer value proposition
  • Talent Acquisition
  • Onboarding and induction
  • Operating structures
  • Talent and succession management
  • Career development

Whilst the above are fairly standard across the industry, our building blocks are where the difference is. The Let’s Talk Talent model is about being creative, both in the way you devise your policies and later on implement them.

  1. Clear proposition for people
    Whilst it’s hard to be perfect, the organisations that tend to attract and keep great employees have one thing in common: they are clear about what employees can expect from them. Be honest about what you can offer, don’t overpromise, and talk about the things that really do matter to your company.
  2. Bringing people up to speed
    Bringing new starters up to scratch with your company’s culture, mission and vision is key to ensuring their induction is a success. But this principle also applies to existing staff. Don’t wait to bring them into the fold and make sure they are on board and can contribute to the implementation of your talent strategy.
  3. Clear ways of working and structure
    Again, this can start at the onboarding stage, when clear expectations should be communicated to employees. But it shouldn’t stop there. Staff should be clear on the organisational structure, their support system, and their options in terms of career development.
  4. Inspired and informed managers
    Managers are on the frontline, and they will be instrumental in helping you achieve your goals. Ensuring you have the right line-up to foster a culture of transparency and encourage honest feedback and discussions, as well as draw out key staff’s skills and coaching needs is key when it comes to attracting and retaining the right talent.
  5. Consistent developmental feedback
    Of course, regular feedback will help your talent pool evolve within your organisation. At Let’s Talk Talent, we believe everyone has talent, and talent has to be nurtured. But development feedback can also apply to your HR efforts. Policies shouldn’t be derived from books, models and theories. They should be living, breathing organisms and require employee contributions to help build the right company culture.

Talent management as part of your HR strategy

Whilst the above sets out a clear recipe for a successful talent management strategy, it’s clear that variations are needed from one organisation to the next. Overall, the key steps remain the same: audit your talent pool, identify your biggest problem, establish the metrics you need to monitor, and put the right building blocks in place. 

Just remember that it’s not about following a set framework. It’s about adapting that framework to fit your unique business, culture and talent pool. And it’s about getting started somewhere, anywhere. Waiting for the time to be right may mean missing the boat and losing staff to your competitors, so start taking small, incremental steps towards making your organisation a great place to work. As we always say, just get shit done! And if you need additional tools to get going, don’t hesitate to book a call with us, or have a look at our talent management page for free resources.

And if you need additional tools to get going, have a look at our ‘Top 5 ways to improve your talent management strategy’ article.

For your business to realise your ambitions, will depend on you identifying and developing your future leaders.

World class companies are obsessed by Predictive Succession Planning. Seeing it not just as a notion or a fad, but as an essential part of their talent strategy, giving it the energy it requires.

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