A talent strategy is a business strategy

Many professionals believe that articulating an organisation’s talent strategy is more like a list of talent programs, processes, and practices. While these components enable a talent strategy, they are not a talent strategy by themselves. A talent strategy is a business strategy. It should be informed by (and inform) your organisational strategy. Organisations create a talent strategy by focusing most on critical talent outcomes deemed critical to executing the organisation’s strategy. 

Ideally, the talent strategy will address why and in what ways the organisation must attract, develop, and retain talents. A more progressive strategy might also address the importance of mobilizing and empowering talent, optimising the employee experience, and improving diversity, equity & inclusion. Business leaders expect a talent strategy capable of maximising the relevance and impact of “all we do to build organisational talent” on fueling the competitive performance of the organisation and addressing its future challenges.

In 2022, I have developed (The Context Model of Talent Strategies), and it presents a business context- approach to developing talent strategies to enable the organisations to execute their business strategies with distinction. Consider the following key 4 tips.

  1. Identify the Business Context of the Talent Strategy

A best-in-class talent strategy builds upon clear understanding of the organisation’s maturity, the current talent landscape and the organisation’s competitive environment. Executives need to know the “why” behind how a talent strategy can move the business forward. As a talent leader, you need to plan for an executive-level talent discussion, through which you can identify the organisation’s business context that shall drive the talent strategy. To do so, your talent discussion must end with clear understanding and identification of three elements: organisation’s priorities, key business drivers, and the key organisational capabilities. Key questions that can inspire your executive- level talent discussion might include the following.

  • What are the strategic objectives and aspirations of the organisation? Where is the organisation placing its strategic bets for future success? How will the organisation differentiate itself from its competitors? 
  • From a talent perspective, what must be true for the organisation to achieve its objectives? Which challenges are significantly slowing achievement of goals or degrading the organisation’s ability to execute its strategy? What, if put in place, would significantly accelerate achievement of goals, or enhance the organisation’s ability to execute its strategy? 

Your executive- talent discussion must end with clear strategic alignment with the organisation’s business context, and an agreement on the key talent promises or outcomes the talent strategy shall deliver.

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  1. Build-up  the talent strategy’s themes & initiatives 

While the determined strategic drivers and promises will serve as the cornerstone of the strategy, defining the functional themes, goals, and initiatives is still strategically critical to ensure the delivery of the strategy’s promises. 

Tip two is to link the key drivers/promises with specific talent themes/initiatives. It is advisable here to run internal talent- team meetings to discuss the key promises, how to link them to the talent practices, and the functional activities. Start with diagnosis of the whole situation, understanding the full landscape, challenges, and ends with a proposal of the most convenient initiatives. Think of prioritizing the potential initiatives by considering the following three-dimensions approach:

  • Organisational impact — The extent to which the initiative will positively impact the organisation and create value 
  • Complexity — The extent to which the initiative requires coordination and buy-in
  • Investment — The extent to which the initiative requires resources or adjustments to team responsibilities.

Then, you can analytically separate the potential initiatives into four categories:

a. Actionable initiatives — Initiatives that should be prioritized for execution and given preference for resource allocation. (You always need to focus on this type of initiatives).

b. Priority initiatives — Initiatives that should be prioritized based on availability of resources (people, money, time). 

c. Initiatives for careful consideration — Initiatives that require careful consideration for timing and sequencing based on capacity to complete the work.

d. Initiatives to be parked — Initiatives that should be deprioritized or shelved for future consideration.

  1. Define the strategy’s resources, ownership, and success measures

If you have a strategy to deliver, then you need resources to accomplish its promises.  We cannot neglect resources planning in establishing an impactful talent strategy. Imagine you are presenting the final draft of your talent strategy to the business executives, and they ask what type of resources needed to deliver it. A talent strategy needs various types of resources including the following:

  • People – think of the additional team-members needed within the strategy’ timeframe, and consider such investment needed.
  • Financial investment – all the type of investments needed to deliver the strategy’s promises. This should cover consultation services, solutions providers, systems, and platforms.
  • Timeframe– time is a key resource you need t consider in your strategy and highlight it in alignment to the strategy phases and planned promises & deliverables.

Additionally, the talent strategy should determine the owners for the key deliverables, and the success measures for all the initiatives. This approach will drive clarity and accountability. 

  1. Communicate the Strategy and get they buy-in

Ideally, you need to implement this step from the start till you end with the approved version of your talent strategy. Your role to communicate and educate the business leaders on the talent strategy, its strategic promises, the key themes and initiatives, and the deliverables & resources. Communicating each step within the strategy formulation till you produce the final draft will ensure getting the full understanding and sponsorship needed from the business leaders’ side. It is advisable to ensuring running a series of the strategy meeting to present the strategy components, gather the business leaders’ thoughts and concerns and then reflect them. Adopting such approach will ensure getting the buy-in, presenting the talent strategy as a business-value driven area, and socializing the delivery of the talent strategy across the business units.