What is a talent management strategy? | 9 tips for success

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In a word, talent management is about hiring talented candidates and nurturing them into life-long employees. But the devil is in the details, which is where the “strategy” piece comes in.

Every action must be structured to move the company forward as one unified brand. Managers and HR place a high premium on team members who add to a business’s “vibe” and who readily embrace company values. That, in turn, affects company culture—nurturing employee growth becomes a vital part of what a business stands for.

A thoughtful talent management strategy can be revolutionary. It's the magic ingredient behind this century’s biggest success stories, driving the rise of Silicon Valley titans like Google and Hewlett Packard. Cutting-edge initiatives like Google’s 20% work program haven’t just attracted better candidates, they’ve completely transformed industries—and changed what it means to be at work.

How can you get inject some of that ingenuity for your business with regards to talent? The answer lies in the nine steps below. We’re not guaranteeing a total cultural shift, but these tips are a jumping-off point to build a talent management strategy that works for your business.

Name your organizational goals

You can’t design a successful talent management strategy without stating your company goals first. These objectives will help when you’re evaluating your existing staff and assessing new roles. And they’ll give you a sense of what matters to your company, and where you’re headed as a business. That alone can help you win executive support for new talent programs—after all, you’re creating a team that aligns with short- and long-term goals. What CEO wouldn’t want that?

Translate goals into human assets

Executives may see growth in terms of abstract objectives, but as HR managers, it’s our job to factor in the human element. You need to view goals as a measurement of human assets. Decide how many people you’ll need to get the job done, including any new roles that need to be created in the process. Naturally, that’s not something you can do on your own. Get current department managers and team members to chime in—talent management should be a company-wide effort.

Identify future obstacles before they become problems

If that sounds way too simple, you’re right. Implementing a well-developed talent management strategy is not without its challenges. That’s why you’ll do yourself a favor if you identify potential stumbling blocks in advance. Maybe that means adjusting your benefits package to attract a certain age group, or looking outside your geographical area if the talent pool is limited. Or perhaps instigating a culture shift, especially if managers favor new hires instead of promoting from within. Addressing these issues head-on (rather than allowing them to fester) is the best way to get a new strategy off the ground.

Fine-tune job descriptions

Job descriptions go way beyond recruiting. The right write-up attracts hires that align with company culture and can also add to it. But managers also use them to gauge performance and assess where training is needed or where there are opportunities for development. However, descriptions are frequently written without deep knowledge of the position and its functions. Use this as a chance to foment support for talent management: ask managers to help write descriptions for new and existing positions.

Keep culture at the forefront

It’s easy to get blinded by a dazzling resume. But when you hire exclusively for skills, company culture suffers. Remember, people can develop new expertise, but you can’t teach personality. Candidates that are uniquely suited for your organization’s culture and bring in unique and interesting perspectives will be much more likely to blossom into star players, which is ultimately what talent management is all about.

Invest in employees and focus on internal hires

Hiring for culture requires an internal shift in management and development. Each employee needs to be viewed as a long-term investment, so you can’t just run to LinkedIn every time a need emerges. The cost-savings introduced by internal hiring may win you the executive buy-in you need for a successful program. Hiring from within costs less, as external candidates expect an average 18 to 20% more in salary. Depending on the size of your staff, that could literally represent millions saved.

Create a barometer to measure success

Positive change rarely ever happens all at once. Talent management strategies require careful monitoring—and often a few tweaks—before they can be counted as a success. But it’s better to measure progress with hard data than potentially biased perceptions. Tracking retention levels, as well as turnover, particularly among high-performing employees, provides a useful measuring stick. There’s plenty of software out there to help you track any number of metrics; a software review site can help you weed through them and identify the best tool for your needs. It’s hard to argue with data!

Gain executive buy-in

Once you get those numbers, be sure to get them in front of your CEO! No matter how passionate you feel about talent management, without executive support your efforts aren’t likely to succeed. Your C-level executives need to see strong, revenue-driven metrics and research to back up your point. Drive the conversation through dollar signs, rather than emotion, to earn backing from the top down.

Don’t be afraid to mix it up

And now we come to our last and favorite step. Your talent management strategy should really be uniquely your own, so put on your thinking cap and get a little creative. Dream up inventive initiatives and programs to draw talented recruits and establish a culture of learning.

For instance, Facebook has ditched tiresome onboarding for a six-week, real-life participation session for new hires. Afterwards, employees can choose the teams and projects they want to work on—how revolutionary is that? Don’t be afraid to break the rules a little bit, offering unusual perks and benefits. At the end of the day, the goal is to get to a place where your competitors are imitating your work culture, not the other way around. Talent management is just the vehicle you take to get there.

Still unclear about the importance of talent management? Watch this webinar and find out how a stellar employee experience strategy can help with retention efforts.

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