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

Most employers will agree that talent management is a key element of a successful business strategy. But when asked, they would be hard pressed to give a clear and common definition of what an effective strategy entails. Is talent management really that much of a complex beast? At Let’s Talk Talent, we don’t think so. Put simply, talent management is about getting great people, and keeping great people. Because without the right team behind you, how are you going to achieve your business goals? So with such a clear goal in sight, why are businesses struggling to devise, implement and bring to life good talent management initiatives?

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 you need to address. Are you considering implementing a talent management strategy because your staff retention rates are poor? Or do you think your next leaders are not being given 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 influenced by the big question you are trying to answer.

Know your audience

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 purpose:

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

It’s easy to see how those would have varied, sometimes even conflicting, sets of requirements. But how do you go about finding out what each of those groups needs and wants from their employer? A company-wide staff survey was used by The Said Business School, which allowed the organisation to truly focus on bringing to life its employees’ vision of what constitutes a great place to work.

Set up your KPIs

Determining how you will measure the success of your talent management strategy is one of the first things to lay down. So before you get going, ask yourself: ‘How will we know it worked?’ Are you looking for a lower turnaround rate? Or better retention amongst new starters? How can you measure staff wellbeing? Because putting down measurable goals should be one of the first steps you take when considering a revamp of your talent management efforts. Whilst this may sound obvious, facing the results of your hard work can sometimes be difficult to do. But no talent management strategy can be effective without regular review points and adjustments along the way, even if it means you got it wrong to start with. The important thing is to just keep going and adapt along the way, based on the data and insight gathered.

Establish your channels

A great policy never lives in a drawer. It needs to be implemented, road-tested, tweaked and sometimes completely reviewed. After all, your business and management strategy are adjusted regularly, so why shouldn’t your HR efforts?  So before rolling out any new processes, take a moment to audit the communications channels available to staff, as well as the most efficient ways to feedback on and bring to life any changes to your talent management efforts.

The talent management model choice overload

Now that the foundations are set, you should be in a clear position to start your journey; with an established start point, finish line and several checkpoints along the way. Here, the real work begins: mapping out the route to get to your goal. And it’s your queue to get creative and find new ways to get and keep amazing 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 framework, these all have value. But whilst useful, models are just that: models. They are helpful guides 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? Realistically, it can’t. Which is why we believe the best framework to follow is the one that puts your organisation at its core and goes from there. Because in the talent management marathon, nobody is leaving from the same starting point, with the same route and goal, and the same runner line up. Customisation is key. 

The Building Blocks needed to achieve your goals

It’s not to say you’re on your own. For those looking for guidance, there are established building blocks in the Let’s Talk Talent framework, designed to help you customise your strategy for impactful results in each of the areas of the talent management umbrella, including:

  • 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 transparent about what their employees can expect from them. Be clear on 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 of course a huge part of ensuring their induction into the organisation will be 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 induction stage, with expectations of employees, their roles and their colleagues’ being clearly set up. 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 front line 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 and breathing organisms and require employee contributions to help build the right company culture.

But, it doesn’t have to be perfect

Whilst the above sets out a clear recipe for a successful talent management strategy implementation, it’s clear that variations are needed from one organisation to the next. But overall, the main steps remain: Audit your talent pool, identify your biggest question, lay down KPIs and set up the building blocks needed to become a great place to work. Just remember: it’s not about following a rigid framework, but about adapting the framework for your unique business, culture and talent pool. And it’s about getting started. Somewhere. Anywhere. Because waiting for the time to be right just means missing the boat. So make your organisation a great place to work. Start tomorrow. One marathon step at a time. Just get shit done. 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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